RIO DE JANEIRO (REUTERS) - China's women volleyball team upset favourites Brazil in a five-set battle on Tuesday that dashed the host nation's hopes of winning a third consecutive Olympic gold medal.
The younger Chinese team outplayed their more experienced opponents 15-25, 25-23, 25-22, 22-25, 15-13 and went through to the semi-finals, where they will face the Netherlands.
Brazil, with eight players who competed in the 2012 London Games and four of them veterans from Beijing in 2008, had not dropped a single set until their quarter-final shocker.
China won their second gold medal in 2004 in Athens and are now on a path to a third under head coach "Jenny" Lang Ping, a former Chinese volleyball player who captained their 1984 gold-winning team in Los Angeles and coached the United States to a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"Today we proved our ability as a team after making mistakes in a shaky start in the Games," she told reporters.
"Now we do not fear anything.
"Except for the first set, it was a spectacular performance by our team that never gave up," said Lang, nicknamed the "Iron Hammer" one of the sport's greatest players of the 20th century, according to the International Volleyball Federation.
Unnerved by the loud cheering and booing of Brazilian supporters in Rio's packed Maracanazinho stadium, China took the lead in the third set with a succession of unstoppable spikes by their top scorer Zhu Ting.
Brazil fought back in the fourth but China prevailed in the fifth.
The United States crushed Japan in straight sets 25-16, 25-23, 25-22 to stay undefeated and boost their hopes of a first Olympic gold medal.
The Americans will meet a surprisingly strong Serbian team in the last four on Thursday. The latter ousted Russia 25-9, 25-22, 25-21 to become the first Serbian volleyball team to reach an Olympic semi-final.
"We played extremely strong in attack and service, causing the Russian receivers a lot of problems," said Serbian coach Zoran Terzic.
Serbia will have to prepare for a very different game against the United States, who play much faster and more as a team than a Russian side that relies on two main attackers, Terzic told reporters.
Earlier, Netherlands beat South Korea 3-1 and will go on to play China on Thursday before Saturday's final and third-place play-off.