Atlanta Olympic silver medallists China and South Korea kept their hopes of competing in the Sydney Olympics alive, at the women's volleyball final qualifying round on Thursday in Tokyo.
The Chinese women, who suffered early setbacks losing to Italy and the Netherlands, edged past Croatia 23-25, 25-16, 21-25, 25-19, 15-10 for their third win against two defeats in the eight-nation round robin.
Asian silver medallists South Korea, whose only defeat was handed out by Italy, breezed past the Netherlands 25-19, 25-22, 16-25, 25-20 to have a 4-1 win-loss record.
The country that finishes first will take the first ticket for Sydney. Then the top Asian country will qualify as Asian qualifiers, and the best two teams among the remaining six countries will get the last two places for the Olympics.
Italy, South Korea, China, Japan and Croatia kept themselves in contention, while the Netherlands stood with one win against four defeats to see their hopes for the Olympics almost fizzle out.
"It was a very difficult match, because Barbara Jelic and Natasa Leto attacked very well. We lost the first set, but we managed to recover from the setback," said China's head coach Hu Jin.
China, who were the silver medallists at the 1998 world championships, now take on their Asian rivals South Korea Saturday.
Japan, who will play Croatia Saturday, will challenge South Korea on the final day at the Tokyo Metropolitan gymnasium Sunday.
Earlier on, Argentina edged past Canada 25-20, 28-30, 25-22, 22-25, 15-13 as the two teams battled for the seventh place - (AFP)
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