China eased past Argentina 3-0 at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Cup in Osaka, Japan, on Sunday to finish its campaign with a perfect 11-0 record, having already being crowned the winner a day earlier.
Despite the 3-0 win over Serbia on Saturday that secured the title, China, the 2015 World Cup winner and the 2016 Olympic champion, retained its regular starters, with Gong Xiangyu scoring a game-high 15 points. Yuan Xinyue added 13 in the 25-17, 25-14, 25-12 victory, followed by Zhu Ting with 12 points. Lucia Fresco had a team-high 13 points for Argentina.
“Every one in our team has made progress and we have greater teamwork. It’s better for us when we have more than one strong attacking points,” the team’s leading scorer Zhu told Xinhua.
Fresco and Elina Rodriguez were red-hot from the beginning and helped Argentina head into the second technical timeout 16-14 ahead. China shook off a sluggish start and tied the game 16-16 with an ace from Ding Xia and wrapped up the set 25-17 with 8-0 run after 17-17.
The sequence was repeated after China led the South American side 17-14 in the second set as Yuan, Gong and Zhang Changning spurred another 8-0 run in the closing minutes for a 25-14 win.
Zhu contributed three kill blocks to put China 7-5 ahead in the third set and the solid blocking by Yan Ni and Gong crashed the Argentine attackers as China won 12 consecutive points for a 19-5 lead before the starters were substituted one after another to huge cheers from the audience and later dived into the court to celebrate as China claimed the final victory.
Even coach Lang Ping, who had maintained a perfect composure throughout the tournament, couldn’t hold back her tears while facing the cameras in the mixed zone.
“This is our last match this year, and I am too excited thinking about the holidays,” the former United States head coach joked.
In the aftermath of China’s victory, International Federation de Volleyball president Ary S Graca predicted that the newly-crowned World Cup champion will be “a big favorite” to win the women’s volleyball gold medal at next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
“China will be in the final for sure,” he told Xinhua on Sunday. “Each day is another day, a lot of things could happen, but I can say 70 percent the big favorite is China.”
Graca attributed China’s success to the new training regime Lang brought to the team when she took the helm in 2013.
“Lang Ping was an excellent player and now she is an excellent coach. Before coming back to China, she spent 10 years in the US. So she brought with her some assistants, many for physical preparations, and completely changed the way preparations are done in Asia, not only China,” Graca said.
Graca revealed that the FIVB was considering changing the formula for the women’s and men’s World Cup, the 12-team round-robin tournaments which have been held in Japan since 1977.
“We are starting to discuss with Fuji TV another way to run this competition to make it more interesting and continue to bring people here,” said Graca. “Probably we will do a new contract with a new format, maybe with less teams.”
It is also possible that the FIVB will allocate some Olympic tickets through the World Cup, just like it did in the past.
“Maybe we can use a formula like we did in the past. Maybe we will give one ticket to Asian countries, and two for the others. It depends on the number of teams. We will study that. I had a very good meeting with the president of Fuji and we’ll see what will be the best formula.”
Graca believed the sport of volleyball will be a huge success at next year’s Tokyo Games.
“At the London Olympic Games, beach volleyball was a huge success in a country that doesn’t have a tradition of beach volleyball. In Rio de Janeiro, 99 percent tickets of volleyball and beach volleyball were sold out. In Japan, this is the land of volleyball. I have heard that more than 60 percent of the tickets have already been sold. It’s going to be a huge success.”