Tokyo 2020: South Korea Fights to Win First Women's Volleyball Olympic Medal in 45 Years

South Korea is currently playing against Brazil in the Tokyo 2020 women's semifinal taking place on Friday. The Brazilian team is the current world no. 2, according to the FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) Senior World Ranking.

South Korea has not won an Olympic medal in women's volleyball in nearly half a century since the 1976 Summer Olympics, where they won a bronze medal.

If the South Korean team beats the Brazilians in this match, they secure a place in the final where they'll be up against the U.S. women's volleyball team, the current world no. 1, according to the FIVB ranking.

The women's volleyball final takes place on Sunday, August 8.

Should South Korea manage to secure a spot in the final, it would be a welcome entry after three failed attempts to reach the final round at the Olympics.

South Korea and Brazil Volleyball History

South Korea, who are in 11th place in the FIVB ranking, faced Brazil earlier in June at the Volleyball Nations League competition as well as in the group stage at the Tokyo Olympics. Brazil defeated South Korea in straight sets for both events.

However, South Korea has overtaken Brazil in other previous matches. Back in 2019 at the FIVB World Cup, South Korea won three sets, while Brazil bagged one. Korea also beat Brazil in straight sets during the preliminaries at the 2012 London Olympics.

The South Korea-Brazil connection also extends between the captains of both teams, who have reportedly been close friends since their days playing for the Turkish women's volleyball league, according to the Dong-A Ilbo.

South Korean team captain Kim Yeon-koung had a hard time adjusting to the team after joining the Turkish league during the 2018-2019 season. But she managed to make a better transition after current Brazilian captain Natalia Pereira was transferred to the league, according to Dong-A Ilbo.

The pair reportedly encouraged each through difficult times while they were playing in Turkey, miles away from their respective native countries, and enjoyed sharing Korean food together, the South Korean daily newspaper reported.

According to Dong-A Ilbo, asked who would be her pick of the world's seven best volleyball players to have if she were a head coach, Kim cited Pereira as well as Zhu Ting of China women's team as the best left-sided players.

Ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, South Korea's head coach Stefano Lavarini told KBS Sports: "Kim Yeon-koung is one of the greatest players in the history of volleyball, maybe even the best," South Korea's Yonhap reported.

"For me, [she is] an impressive example of a leader, of a charismatic person," Lavarini said.

South Korean women's volleyball team.
Players from the South Korean women's volleyball team line up before the women's quarter-final match between South Korea and Turkey at Tokyo 2020 on August 4. Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images