Volleyball: Brazil beats China, will play US

Aug. 21, 2008, 11:01 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The Brazilian women's volleyball team defeated China in three sets Thursday to advance to the Olympic gold medal match against the United States.

Brazil remained undefeated with the 27-25, 25-22 25-14 victory. The top-ranked team has yet to drop a set in seven matches in Beijing.

China, which won the gold in Athens in 2004, will face Cuba in the bronze medal match on Saturday. Cuba fell to the U.S. in three sets earlier Thursday.

The Brazilians won bronze medals in both the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. Although considered one of the favorites in Athens, they finished fourth.

Since then the team has won the 2006 world championships and the 2007 World Cup, a win that put it into the Olympic games. And again, they were considered the favorites going into Beijing.

"We want to win the gold," said Sheilla Castro, who is one of the team's biggest stars and known simply as Sheilla. "We're going to forget about this game and think about the U.S.A."

Spurred by the enthusiastic crowd at Capital Indoor Stadium, China took an early 12-9 lead in the first set on Zhou Suhong's ace. Brazil silenced the fans by moving ahead 20-18 on Sheilla's block.

China went up 25-24 on Zhou's spike, but Brazil scored the next three points to win it. Sheilla spiked for set point.

The Chinese kept it close in the second, evening at 17 on Wang Yimei's spike and going ahead on Ma Yunwen's block. But the taller and faster Brazilians quickly retook control and won it when Zhuo served into the net.

The third set was all Brazil's. Paula Pequeno's spike put the Brazilians up 19-10 and they won the match when Ma Yunwen could not control a return for set point.

Sheilla finished with 17 points and four blocks for Brazil. Li Juan had 10 points for China.

Afterward, the Brazilian players mugged for television cameras. The Chinese fans filed quietly from the arena.

"I didn't play well," Zhou said sadly. "I hope my fans understand and forgive me. We have been working hard for the past four years."

Like Sheilla, who watched the U.S. match on television earlier in the day, libero Fabiana de Oliveira was already looking ahead.

"The U.S.A is a very good team. They defend very well," she said. "It's surprising to have the U.S. and Brazil in the final. I'm thinking it will be a very difficult game."

Brazil defeated Japan in three sets to advance to the semifinals.

The Chinese went 3-2 in the preliminary rounds, with losses to Cuba and the United States, but a three-set victory over Russia put them in the semis.

The Chinese players, in the meantime, have to put away disappointment and prepare for Cuba.

"I'm confident we can adjust our frame of mind and fight our best in the final game," Ma Yunwen said.