September 01, 2003 - Despite being hosts of the European Men's Championship, German national coach Stelian Moculescu has kept his team's goals for the tournament, which runs from September 5-14, realistic, aiming to qualify for the final round in Berlin.
"Germany has never yet won a European medal, neither the former East nor West Germany, nor the united team," he said. "Thus you cannot demand more than making the final round, which means the eight best teams."
Despite the absence of team captain Stefan Hübner, who Moculescu rates as "one of the best middle blockers in the
World," the national coach and his team did not change their aim. "Berlin has been and will be our aim for
the Europeans," Moculescu stressed. Hübner was forced to withdraw from the European Championships two years ago due to a stress fracture in his right shinbone.
How difficult it will be to achieve that aim is proven by the current World Rankings of the FIVB: Ten of the best twelve teams have qualified for the European Championship in Germany with only the World champions Brazil and Argentina, sixth at the last World Championship, missing.
Germany are currently in 22nd position with only Slovakia ranked lower in 38th spot.
In the preliminary round, Germany will meet Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Spain in Karlsruhe, and the medal favourites France and Italy in Leipzig.
The favourites are the Olympic champions and title holders, Serbia & Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia), record champions Russia, Italy as the dominating team of the nineties, and the World bronze medalists France; all these teams are in second to fifth positions behind Brazil on the World Rankings.
Besides record champions Russia (twelve titles) and Serbia & Montenegro, Italy (four wins), the Czech Republic (three wins), Romania and the Netherlands have achieved European titles in the past.