Men's World Olympic Qualification Tournament - Portugal
Portugal coach says group is "difficult but beatable"
February 24, 2004 - Following the Drawing of Lots ceremony held in Tokyo, Japan on Monday for the three Men's World Olympic Qualification tournaments (to be held in Portugal, Spain and Tokyo), head coach of the Portuguese side Juan Diaz says his team has a difficult yet beatable group, which includes favourites Poland, Venezuela and Kazakhstan, ahead of them to claim Olympic Games qualification when they face off in Porto from May 21-23.
"It is a difficult group, but at the same time beatable;" he said. "We know Poland well and the Venezuelan team, while although we do not we know Kazakhstan's Volleyball, the fact that it is an old Russian republic implies that, by tradition, they have great Volleyball skills.
"It's important that we are playing Poland because, theoretically, they are more beatable than France or the Netherlands (who were the other two European sides drawn to play in Tokyo and Madrid respectively)."
Venezuela, ranked 11th on the FIVB World Rankings (nine places better than Portugal and two places behind Poland), pose as one of the biggest threats to Portugal's hopes. Having participated in the FIVB World Championship eight times since 1960 with a best finish of 10th in 1960, the South Americans have plenty of experience to count on. In the 2002 World Championship they finished 18th in Argentina while more recently they were defeated in the final of the 2003 South American Championship by world champions and world cup holders Brazil before losing to Argentina (3-0) in the Continental Olympic Qualification tournament in Caracas.
It will be the third consecutive time that Portugal disputes an Olympic Qualifying Pool with Venezuela. In the two meetings to date, both sides have won one match with Portugal beating Venezuela in 1996 (3-1) and Venezuela beating Portugal in 2000 (3-2). The meetings with Poland, who have a gold medal and 11 top-10 finishes to their name in 13 World Championship appearances, are more recent. In the 2002 World League the first two matches were split (3-2, 2-3) in Portugal before Poland won both clashes at home 3-1 and recorded a similar victory at the 2002 World Championship.
"It is necessary to prepare well, especially mentally, so that we will be able to reach our objectives and gain qualification for the Olympic Games of Athens," Diaz said. "The players have the notion of what they are capable of and they'll gain confidence with a lot work, therefore like this we will achieve our objectives. It is that which is found inside the players: the necessity to fight for qualification".