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China Takes on S. Korea in Men's Volleyball Final
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Both China and South Korea stunned their opponents respectively on Wednesday to set up their fourth final clash in the men's volleyball tournament at the Asian Games.

China have won all three head-to-head finals in 1986, 1990 and 1998.

Zhou Jian'an, newly appointed head coach of China, explained the Doha journey as if climbing over three high mountains before the championship.

China tramped over Kazakhstan 25-21, 25-20, 24-26, 25-20 on Monday. And their semifinal win over Saudi Arabia proved to be even tougher as China, second seed of the tournament, had to spend one hour and 39 minutes to tame their high-spirit rivals 25-20, 25-11, 23-25, 22-25 and 15-13.

With the cheering of more than 100 fans who danced and sung with drumbeats at the stands, the Saudi players, despite the loss of the first two sets, fought bravely to win back the following two sets.

However, China, who had a jinx of losing game after early ascendancy, released themselves from the curse with sound defense and strong will, taking the decider 15-13.

The spikes of Saudi hitters Al Bakhet Ahmed A and Al Makawni Yassir M, who contributed their team 15 and 13 points respectively, have posed a great challenge to China's defense, but their shine were overshadowed by China's Shen Qiong and captain Sui Shengsheng, who scored 20 and 17 points respectively.

"This is a very tough match and I'm glad my players finally win under high pressure," said coach Zhou Jian'an, "We were making preparations to play Japan all the time and we didn't expect Saudi Arabia will win the semifinal."

In another semifinal, defending champion South Korea beat host Qatar 25-27, 25-21, 25-22 and 25-16 in front of more than 2,000 local fans.

The hosts are expected to win their first Asian Games volleyball medal on their own soil when they face Saudi Arabia on Thursday in the third-place playoff.

In other two matches of the day, Japan stormed for a straight-set victory over Kazakhstan and will compete for the fifth place on Thursday against Iran, the silver medallist of 2002 Busan Asiad, who downed Bahrain 3-1 on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain entered the quarterfinals as top finishers of Pool A and Pool B in preliminaries, while hosts Qatar directly made the last eight with five world championship participants, namely China, Japan, South Korea, Iran and Kazakhstan.

The final will be held on Thursday at the Al-Rayyan Indoor Hallin northwestern suburb of Doha.

(Xinhua News Agency December 14, 2006)

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