PRESS RELEASE 04.09.2003


Men's Senior European Championships 2003 - Serbia and Montenegro and Russia prepare to face off

KARLSRUHE, LEIPZIG, Germany, September 4, 2003 - Defending European champion and Olympic gold medallist Serbia & Montenegro and vice-World Champion Russia are the favorites for the Men's European Championship title, which starts on Friday.

The best twelve teams from Europe, split into two groups of six, will playoff for the European crown from until Sunday September 14 in the German cities of Karlsruhe, Leipzig and Berlin.

Only the two best sides from each pool will earn a ticket for the semifinal stage where the participants are not only fighting for the European gold medal but for the two finalist spots, which earn automatic qualification to the World Cup, the first Olympic Qualification tournament, to be played in Japan in November. Furthermore, teams can also earn a place in the European Olympic qualification tournament, to be played in Germany in January 2004.

Favorites Serbia & Montenegro and Russia have been drawn in Pool I where they will face Poland, Greece, the Netherlands and Bulgaria. The World League runner's up arrived in Germany with all their top stars, including setter Nikola Grbic and opposite attacker Ivan Miljkovic.

'It will be very tough to defend our title," Ljubomir Travica, the new coach of Serbia & Montenegro, said. "Of course we want to reach the final, but Russia and Italy are very strong teams too."

"We are here with a better team as we played with in the World League,'"the Russian head coach Guennadi Chipouline said. "But this doesn't mean that we are the real favorites, although my goal is to reach at least the final."

Hosts Germany are hoping to make it to the final round. The team of head coach Stelian Moculescu is allocated in Pool II, together with the strong team of Italy and the dangerous outsider France. The surprise package of the World League after finishing fourth, the Czech Republic, Spain and Slovakia are the other teams playing in the group that starts in Karlsruhe.

The problem for Germany is that they are missing two stars Stefan Hubner and Bjorn Andrae, both injured. "I hope the home crowd will play a key role," Moculescu said. "Of course it is a pity that I will miss two players, but we have to concentrate on the players who are here. It will be a very important tournament for us, as we hope to increase the popularity of Volleyball in Germany, which is on a roll."

Italy's coach Gian Pablo Montali, who is coaching in the European Championship for the first time, stated that this event is almost a World Championship. "Last year, six of the best eight teams at the World Championship were European formations,'"he said. "This championship here in Germany will be a high class tournament."

Philippe Blain, coach of France, gives Russia the best chances for the title. "If they play like they did over the last few months, it will be tough to beat them," he said. "But all teams are very strong, so in my opinion two or three points will make the difference. France had a different preparation as the other teams. I gave my players rest after the World League, while most teams trained and played a lot."

Spain and France will play the opening match in Karlsruhe, while Greece and Poland will meet each other in Leipzig. After the first three days of the preliminary pool phase, the teams of Pool I will travel from Leipzig to Karlsruhe, while the teams of Pool II will do the opposite.

After the single round robin preliminary pool phase, the best two teams of each group will proceed to the semifinals. The third and fourth ranked teams will fight for the fifth to eighth position. The semifinals and finals will be played in Berlin on September 13 and 14. More on the net at www.cev.lu and www.volleyball2003.de