Lausanne, Switzerland, June 11, 2003 - France's hopes of qualifying for the World League Finals come to a head this weekend when they host Greece in two crucial Pool D showdowns, the first on Friday in Paris followed by the second match in Dijon on Sunday, in Week 5 of the FIVB $15 million World League Intercontinental Rounds.
Sitting in third place with only two weekends remaining - Pool D started one week ahead of the three other Pools - two defeats at the hands of second-placed Greece, will be a severe blow to France's Finals chances with their concluding Intercontinental Round fixture involving a tough trip to Japan. Last weekend's corresponding fixture in Greece saw both sides split the two matches.
With the top two Pool place getters qualifying for July's World League Finals in Spain the Czech Republic holds 1st place in Pool D with five wins and three losses. Greece has the same win-loss ratio but is in second place on Set Ratio difference, while France, the World Championship bronze medallists, is in third having won four and lost four. The Czech Republic heads to Japan this weekend for two matches against the Pools fourth-placed team.
In other weekend action defending World League champions Russia will be out to protect their unbeaten record in Pool A when they host Venezuela, who registered their first 2003 World League victory last weekend, in Moscow. The other Pool A clash features a mid-table battle with Poland, who has three wins, entertaining Spain, with two victories, in Lodz on Friday and Saturday.
Pool B sees World Championship title holders Brazil, currently in first place in the Pool ahead of Italy on Set Ratio difference, travel to Germany where both sides will be without their captains. Nalbert from Brazil is being rested again, while Germany's Stefan Hübner is still struggling with a knee injury. Italy meanwhile travels to Portugal, who are aiming for just their second win of the tournament.
Serbia and Montenegro will be looking to make a break on the rest of Pool C when they host a talented Cuban side this weekend. Currently sitting in second place on Set Ratio difference behind Bulgaria, the European and Olympic champions want to repeat last weekend's whitewash of the young Caribbean lineup while hoping Bulgaria slip up in their two matches against third-placed the Netherlands.