BEIJING Brazilians Marcio Araujo and Fabio Luiz Magalhaes refound their mood and form on Thursday, pushing past Russia in the last pool game of the Olympic beach volleyball and proving they could be in the running for a medal.
The 2005 world champions started the Games strongly but lost to Austria in a scrappy game during which Fabio Luiz missed several blocks he usually reaches easily.
"We watched the video afterwards and it just wasn't us. We looked so sad," Marcio said. "We decided to be really happy today and Fabio played like a gladiator."
For the last-16 round, they were drawn against Japan, who fought doggedly to take U.S. team Sean Rosenthal and Jake Gibb to their first three-set match on Thursday.
"We needed that kind of match right now. We haven't had any close matches so far and we need to be tested," Gibb said. The second U.S pair will now meet Pablo Herrera, 2004 silver medalist, and Raul Mesa of Spain.
Fellow Americans, world champions and Olympic favorites Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser, were drawn against a low-ranked Swiss team and defending champions Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil will play the fast-serving Russians.
In the women's draw, U.S. favorites and defending champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh were drawn against Belgium and will kick off the last-16 matches at 9 am (0100 GMT) on Friday.
That is prime evening television viewing time in the United States but gives Belgium little time to recover from their "lucky loser" match that only ended at 10 pm on Thursday.
May-Treanor and Walsh, who turns 30 on Friday, have taken no more than 40 minutes to beat their opponents so far in Beijing and have not lost a match in almost a year.
The three-times world champions have suggested they could break up after the Olympics to focus on having families.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)