Tokyo, Japan, November 14, 2003 - The 2003 FIVB World Cup of men's Volleyball gets underway on Sunday in the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Nagano with 12 of the world's best teams fighting for fast-track entry into the 2004 Olympic tournament. At the end of this round robin contest on November 30 the top three ranked teams directly qualify for Athens 2004.
World champions and World League title holders Brazil are the strong favourites heading into the 15-day tournament that takes in six cities across four rounds with the likes of European champions Italy, World League runners up Serbia and Montenegro and hosts Japan the most likely threats.
With the creative and subtle powers of Giba, Nalbert and co currently proving to be the ones to beat, Brazil will start favorites but the influence of Italy, the super team of the 1990's and 1995 World Cup winners, can not be discounted with their new coach Gian Paoli Montali starting to work wonders having taken his side to glory at the European championship earlier this year on the back of a bronze medal at the 2003 World League. Crucially for the Italians one of their most experienced players Alessandro Fei will miss the tournament after breaking his ankle playing in the Italian league earlier this month.
Olympic champions and World League runner's up Serbia and Montenegro will use their awesome attacking strength through the likes of the World League top scorer Ivan Milkovic and Andrija Geric, who finished the same tournament as the Best Blocker and Best Server.
Hosts Japan are still going through a rebuilding phase under coach Mikiyasu Tanaka since missing out on qualifying for the 2000 Olympics and three years on and in front of their home fans, the 2003 World Cup will be a great yardstick of how far they have come since Japan finished 10th at the 1999 World Cup.
China and Serbia and Montenegro will open proceedings on Sunday in Tokyo at 12:30 (local time) while Italy plays Tunisia in Nagano followed by Canada v USA in Tokyo and world championship bronze medalists France, whose unpredictability always makes them a threat, taking on Venezuela in Nagano. The final matches of the first day see Japan take on Egypt in Tokyo and in Nagano, Brazil plays Korea.
Over the next two weeks the 12 teams will play in two parallel groups with half of the teams crossing to the other group at the halfway mark, in a schedule which sees the tournament reach the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Nagano, Hiroshima, Hamamatsu, Fukuoka and Okayama before the closing ceremony, staged by host broadcaster Fuji Television, is held in the Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo.
For more information visit www.fivb.org