LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The loser won't necessarily lose today in the Olympic volleyball matchup between Peru and Japan, the two undefeated women's Group B teams.
Since both squads are 1-0 going into the second of the three preliminary matches, a berth in the medal round isn't on the line. The top two finishers in Groups A and B will qualify for the medal round beginning Tuesday.
Japan is heavily favored to defeat Peru, which defeated Canada and would have to knock off South Korea to reach the medal round. Canada plays South Korea today with the winner holding on to a slim medal chance in Group B.
In Group A today, the United States plays Brazil and China goes against West Germany. A second victory by the U.S. women would set a record, breaking the mark of the 1964 Olympic team, which won once.
'You're always worried you're going to trip on the way up the steps going to get your diploma,' Julie Vollertsen of the U.S. team said.
'Schooling is over now,' said U.S. coach Arie Selinger, 'and now it is exam time.'
The U.S. men's team sharpened up Tuesday night against outgunned Tunisia, 15-3, 15-2, 15-3, in Group A to improve to 2-0. Coach Doug Beal rested 6-foot-8 blocking star Craig Buck but denied he was hurt.
'We just wanted to play some different people,' Beal said. 'We wanted to mess around.'
Brazil defeated Argentina, 15-8, 15-8, 16-18, 15-13, in another Group A match.In Group B, Italy established itself as a darkhorse contender with a 15-5, 16-14, 15-13 victory over China and Canada kept its medal hopes alive with a 15-10, 15-9, 15-3 win over Egypt.
Brazil and Argentina engaged in the best match of the tournament to date. Mario Xando celebrate his 23rd birthday with an exceptional spiking day and bailed out favored Brazil in the battle for South American supremacy.
Brazil was a shot away from a three-set victory when the Argentines rattled off eight straight points to forge a 14-14 tie. But Xando, who had 33 kills in the game, served the last three points and wound up with an ace.
'I agree with you that a team that is going to win the gold medal should not let that happen,' Brazil coach Paulo Frietas said.
Italy, which got a last-minute invitation to replace boycotting countries, was assembled in the last month and played in only six matches before the Olympics.
'Why should you be surprised?' coach Silvano Prandi asked when queried about his team's success. 'We have a good national championship. This is great preparation for international competitions.'
Franco Bertoli and Giovanni Errichiello each had 21 kills to pace the Italians. Meanwhile, inexperience hurt China, which recently replaced six veterans with youngsters.
'Our players are quite young,' China coach Zhihua Zou said. 'Our team has been together only two months. I do think in this game we improved quite a bit over our last match with Japan. The main purpose we came here for was to learn.'
Canada almost has to win its other two games to retain a chance at the medal round.
'It's possible,' 6-foot-7 blocker-hitter Don Saxton said. 'But I don't think we should go out on a limb and predict it. It's realistic to go out and try to win every match. We have enough experience to know there is no team we can't beat.'