May 16, 2003 - Greece go into their opening World League matches against Japan this weekend in Xanthi hoping for a repeat of last year's two opening round victories against the same opposition.
In 2002 Greece got their World League campaign off to a cracking start with 3-0 and 3-1 victories in their first two matches, both at home and both over Japan and it's exactly those results Greece captain Marios Gkiourdas is hoping for again in Friday's and Saturday's matches.
After last year's World League performance, where Greece finished ninth and their seventh-place finish at the World Championship Gkiourdas says his team should make a significant improvement this year.
"The physiology of the team has improved," he said. "This year is perhaps a better year considering the start and the team is more mature and this has helped of course, especially at the World Championships.
"We have worked through European Championship qualification and this proves that we can fight through tough matches."
Meanwhile Japan enter into this weekend's matches under prepared and missing one of their big stars in Yoishi Kato who is still involved with his Sisley Treviso club in Italy but coach Tanaka Mikiyasu still has big goals for his young side. "We have had a small preperation since we only assembled a few days before our departure for Greece but the top eight and the finals in Madrid is still a big aim for us this year"
He confirmed that Kato is expected back for the return matches against Greece in Japan in June.
Friday's and Saturday's matches start at 18:00GMT.
2002 World League results.
GRE-JPN 3-0 25-17 25-19 25-23
GRE-JPN 3-1 20-25 25-22 25-22 26-24
JPN-GRE 1-3 22-25 25-23 23-25 16-25
JPN-GRE 3-1 19-25 25-21 25-23 25-22