November 14, 2003, COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The USA men's national Volleyball team begins its
journey to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, on Sunday in
Tokyo, Japan when the 2003 Men's World Cup begins.
The World Cup - the first qualifier for the 2004 Olympic Games - is played in
four rounds over 11 days (one game per team per day). The 12 teams in the
tournament play a round-robin format in two groups, with each team playing
the other 11 teams in the field one time over the course of the four rounds.
"We have to understand that this tournament is about playing the match on
that day and focusing all your energies on that match," explained Team USA
head coach Doug Beal. "Every coach talks about it; all the players know it,
but you have to make yourself do it, and that's the hard part.
"You can't count on a win without playing good Volleyball," he added. "Even
losing a set can influence the outcome of the tournament. We want to play
our best Volleyball against everybody. That's the challenge of the World
Cup for us."
The top three teams at the World Cup earn automatic bids to next year's
Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. The final ranking is determined by the
total points earned, with a win equaling two points and a loss counting as
For the men's tournament, early-round matches will be played in the cities
of Tokyo, Nagano, Hiroshima, Hamamatsu, Fukuoka and Okayama with both groups
playing in Tokyo for the three-day final round.
The United States' first match is scheduled for Sunday against neighbours Canada.
"Canada is a very good team and a very tough opener for us," said Beal, who
guided the USA men to an Olympic gold medal in 1984. "They know us very
well. They probably know us better than any team in the tournament. So
it's not an easy opener. We know them too, of course, and we just beat them
in an important event (the NORCECA championships)."
The men will then play defending Olympic gold medalist Serbia and Montenegro
(formerly Yugoslavia) on Monday and China on Tuesday to
conclude the first round before the entire field takes Wednesday off for a travel day.
"We're going to have to play very well against Canada in the opener,"
cautioned Beal, a member of the Volleyball Hall of Fame. "And we absolutely
can't be thinking about (our second) match against Serbia and Montenegro.
"They (Serbia and Montenegro) are certainly going to be one of the favorites
in the tournament," he added. "But we can't be thinking about that match or
we'll be going in there with a loss to Canada. And that's not what we want
Team USA qualified for the World Cup by finishing in the top two at the
NORCECA Zone Championships in September. The USA men captured the NORCECA
Championship gold medal by defeating Canada, 3-1, on Sept. 30 in Culiacan,
The United States' best World Cup showing came in 1985 when it won the gold
medal. In fact, since 1985, the United States has finished no lower than
fourth place in the World Cup. It also captured a bronze medal in 1991 and
finished fourth in 1989, 1995 and 1999.