China, Croatia Win Last Tickets for Sydney Olympic Games

Published June 25th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

China clinched their fifth straight ticket for the Olympics and Croatia their first on the last day of the women's volleyball final qualifying round on Sunday in Tokyo. 

The Atlanta Olympic silver medallists China outgunned Argentina 25-17, 25-11, 25-17, while Croatia defeated Italy 19-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-22 for five wins against two defeats each in the eight-nation round robin. 

China and Croatia lined up the last four places in the Sydney Olympic Games with Italy and South Korea, who had already booked their places in Sydney earlier. 

"It was really a difficult tournament," said Chinese coach Hu Jin, who finally smiled after winning China's fifth ticket to the Olympics since the 1984 Los Angeles Games, where they won the gold medal. 

"It was mainly because European teams were very strong. We lost to Italy and the Netherlands. Although we played at a very high level, it was not enough to beat them." 

Hu admitted that the Chinese women, who dominated the world in the 1980s, winning the 1982 and 1986 world championships as well as the 1981 and 1985 World Cup, are at a disadvantage against the Europeans in terms of height and power.  

"It was apparent that Italy and the Netherlands are a bit better than us because of their height and power. From now on, we have to improve our blocking and quick attacks to cope with them. 

Meanwhile, Croatia's coach Ivica Jelic said: "This is my favorite victory in my coaching career.  

"All of us showed great will to win, because we knew that if we win today, we are going to the Olympics. Everybody tried her maximum today and that's why I'm happy." 

His daughter Barbara Jelic, who is being hailed as the best attacker in the world, led Croatia to the historic victory, hitting 44 unstoppable attacks for a total of 46 points to become the best scorer of the game. 

Since breaking away from former Yugoslavia, Croatia took part in the 1998 world championships and the 1995 and 1998 World Cup in the three major events. 

The four countries will join the top three World Cup finishers Cuba, Russia, Brazil and continental winners Germany, the United States, Peru and Kenya as well as hosts Australia in the Olympics - (AFP)

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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