Fight on for remaining Olympic volleyball spots

Eight men's volleyball teams will fight it out for two of the remaining spots at the London Olympics in a round robin qualifying tournament starting in Japan on Friday.

The winning team -- out of Australia, China, Iran, Japan, Puerto Rico, Serbia, South Korea and Venezuela -- will book a place at the Games, along with the top-placed Asian side among the rest.

The competition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium runs until June 10.

Similar qualifying tournaments with four competitors apiece are also taking place in the Bulgarian and German capitals, Sofia and Berlin, from June 8-10 to decide who will grab the other two remaining Olympic berths.

"We all know that we face tough battles ahead," Japan coach Tatsuya Ueta said.

"We will go full out and win the opening match to pump ourselves up."

But the hosts, ranked 15th in the world, face Serbia in their opener on Friday, who are in 7th place on the world list and the top-ranked side in the tournament.

Serbia beat Japan at the 2011 World Cup and in the World League last May.

Other top contenders include China, ranked 10th in the world, and 12th-listed Iran, who won the Asian Championship last year at home.

Of the other competing countries, Venezuela are ranked 16th in the world, Puerto Rico 17th, South Korea 20th and Australia 22nd.

Already qualified for London are hosts Britain, the top three teams at the 2011 World Cup -- Russia, Poland and Brazil -- and continental qualifiers Tunisia, the United States, Italy and Argentina.

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