The 2003 Men's World Cup begins on Sunday in the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Nagano and here is what the coaches of the 12 competing teams had to say:
"We are very proud to be playing in the World Cup again in front of our fans. This is the hardest world tournament with the very best teams attending in Japan and the teams are among the best on the world rankings so we will try our best and beat these teams. That is what I insist to our players."
Mikiyasu Tanaka - Head coach, Japan
"I think this World Cup is one of the most important tournaments in the world with Olympic qualification up for grabs and our goal is to qualify for Athens nest year. I know Athens is a long way away but there are good teams here and we respect that but we are expecting to be among the top three at the end of the tournament to qualify. However, like the other teams, we have problems with our preparation with players not always being available and we have only been together since November 11."
Ljubomir Travica - Head coach, Serbia and Montenegro
"It's nice to be here as a participant in the World Cup. It's a very close group of teams and it's a wonderful opportunity to qualify for the 2004 Olympics. Like all the teams, we will be gunning for a top three spot and I think this tournament will be like the women's where the winner was only decided on the final day. All of the major teams for men over the past two to three years have had some surprising results and I expect more of the same here. Considering the build up of some of the teams I expect some of them to be firing early on while others will get better later in the tournament. We are very happy with our preparation and can't be in a better frame of mind going into this tournament. "
Doug Beal - Head coach, USA
"We, first and foremost, would like to play the best we can everyday, everybody at this tournament wants to finish among the three best teams and qualify for the Athens Olympics. That is our objective for the tournament. Our team are fighting fit and all set to go"
Stelio DeRocco - Head coach, Canada
"Our team is very young so everybody is very excited. It's a good opportunity to play in this tournament. They will try their best to play well and give a good account of ourselves in each match."
Di Anhe - Head coach, China
"The team is very thankful for getting the wild card and being able to participate in this international event. We know the World Cup is a very good competition with the best teams in the world. We are going to try and do our best in this tournament. Our players, however, don't have enough experience at this level like the World Cup. We have a problem also at this tournament because in Egypt at the moment it is Ramadan. The players won't eat or drink during the day."
Veselin Vukovic - Head coach, Egypt
"We have a very tough schedule and tough beginning to what is a very long
tournament. All my players are okay, some of them are not 100 per cent but
they are all ready to play. Alot of teams can win this competition so we
have to be very consistent - even the lower teams can win games. So we have
a tough time ahead. I don`t think anyone here is yet ready to say who`s
going to win."
Head coach, Brazil
"Since we arrived all our players have been fit and well. To be successful
in this competition we are going to have to play to our full potential and
retain our fitness well. Our goal is to finish in the top three and gain a
place for the Athens Olympics next year. It is too early to say who the best
team is going to be."
Head coach, France
"The condition of our team is good. I`m interested only in thinking in terms
of point by point, set by set and match by match. That way I hope my team
can play their best in this tournament. The subsittute for (Alessandro) Fei
will be (Luca) Tencati, playing middle blocker. I think maybe we have seen
Fei playing his last international tournament. But I will not cry for a
player I do not have and we will not look for any excuses."
Head coach, Italy
"I believe the teams here are all very strong and excellent. When I think
about the games ahead of us I know it will be very difficult. I know it will
be very tough. In Korea we have had many changes to our team. Many of our
older ones have retired and been replaced by younger players. They are not
very experienced so I think this will be a great opportunity for them to
learn. But I do not think an Olympic place is impossible for us. Maybe after
tomorrow`s games we`ll know a bit more about who are the strongest teams."
Head coach, Korea
"We know there are many very good teams here, but it will be a good
opportunity for us to discover what level we`re playing at, since we`ll be
playing at the highest level of world Volleyball. It will be good for us to
see how we`ve progressed in three years. It won`t be easy for us but it`s
important to see how Tunisian Volleyball is improving. Only through
competition we will know who the strongest teams are."
SLIM BEN YOUSSEF
Head coach, Tunisia
"For us this is the first time in the World Cup and I believe all the teams
will be very strong and powerful. It will be very hard for us, but since
we`ve been playing well for the past few years our goal is to finish in the
top eight. Our players arrived yesterday and are a bit jet-lagged, but they
are all in good shape. Each country has their own style of playing, so it`s
hard to say who are the strongest. But I think the teams from Europe as well
as Brazil will be amongst the best teams."
Head coach, Venezuela