China far from ready after shock defeat to Poland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am

Beijing's motto for next year's Olympics is 'We Are Ready' but this was clearly not the case with the China women's volleyball team as the Olympic champions suffered a rare defeat in Hong Kong yesterday.

The crowd favourites blew a 2-0 lead before losing to Poland 3-2 in the HK Health Check FIVB World Grand Prix played before a crowd of 11,000 fans at Hong Kong Coliseum.

Hong Kong has always been a happy hunting ground and defeats here have been rare. The last time China lost in Hong Kong was in the same tournament in 2004.

And China's inadequacies were exposed again as coach Marco Bonitta guided the Poles to an unlikely win while exacting revenge for losing 3-2 to the same team on home soil in Rzeszow in the first leg last week.

Poland roared back from two sets down to clinch a closely-fought 16-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-16, 15-10 victory.

'We have prepared well for this tournament and this result is a very good one for us,' said coach Bonitta. 'It's the first time Poland have beaten China and we won because of our better strategy and better play. It was a good team effort.'

China, who began their Hong Kong campaign by powering past the Dominican Republic 3-0 on Friday, were clearly troubled throughout the match. They lacked cohesion and their defence began to fall apart after the third set as Poland began playing stronger at the net.

China coach Chen Zhonghe has his work cut out if he is to get his team in peak physical condition with the Olympics less than a year away.

'Our defence wasn't good,' he lamented. 'We couldn't control things like we usually do. We played too passively, especially in the fifth set. We had our chances but couldn't capitalise on them.'

Poland are expected to win the tournament as they play the Dominican Republic in their final match this afternoon, while China will be looking to pick themselves up by defeating Italy in the final match.

The Italians defeated the Dominican Republic yesterday and should pose a major problem to the Chinese.