Brazil favourites in Japan

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TOKYO, October 27- Beijing Olympic gold medallists Brazil are heavy favourites to double up on their titles at the world women's volleyball championship starting in Tokyo this weekend.Brazil’s men had an uninterrupted run of victories in the sport’s three premier global tournaments — the Olympics, the World Cup and the world championship — from 2002 until they missed out on gold in Beijing.

Consistency has since been restored with the men taking their third consecutive world championship in Italy earlier this month, beating Cuba in the final.

In contrast the Brazilian women finished second in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups and the 2006 world championships, before finally taking the winners’ podium at the 2008 Olympics.

Ahead of the world championship their coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes appeared confident, saying: "We’ve worked hard and had a good preparation for the competition."

The team had done "everything we could" at a training camp in Brazil, he said, but added: "The world championship is a competition that does not allow mistakes. All the matches are difficult. We have to play well all of the time."

Captain Fabiana Claudino feels the pressure of expectations, but said her team was comfortable.

"For everything that we’ve already won, Brazil start off as one of the favourites in this competition, The pressure to win is there but that’s part of the routine for a player in the Brazil team," she said.

Brazil will start the competition with a match against Kenya in Hamamatsu in the Pool B round robin, which also includes the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico and Italy.

Defending champions Russia will play the Dominican Republic in the opener in Pool D in Osaka, and then meet Canada, South Korea, Turkey and China, the Athens Olympic champions.

The hosts Japan play in Pool A in Tokyo, along with Peru, Algeria, Serbia, Costa Rica, Poland, while Germany, Kazakhstan, the United States, Thailand, Croatia and Cuba are in Pool C in Matsumoto.

The top four teams from each group will advance to a two-group stage in Nagoya and Tokyo, with the top two teams from each contesting the semi-finals in Tokyo.

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