June 19, 2003 - Although both teams sit at the bottom of Pool B, Germany's last home matches in the World League against Portugal this weekend in Week 6 of the World League Intercontinental Rounds still have a lot riding on them according to German coach Stelian Moculescu.
With only four matches left in the preliminary phase, the next two matches in Leipzig will effectively decide which team will have the honour of finishing third behind the World Champions Brazil and the eight-time World League champions Italy in third place. In the final weekend neither side is expected to add to their victory tally when Germany travel to Italy and Portugal visit Brazil.
Following the four weekends so far in Pool B, Brazil and Italy have equal points with a 7-1 win ratio and share first place on the table. Germany with a 1-7 ratio has the same amount of points as Portugal and brings up the rear so Moculescu says a win is the only possibility for his team this weekend.
"Our aim at the 2003 World League was and still is to finish in the pool higher than Portugal," Moculescu said. "We must achieve this and that is what I demand of my players.
"We wanted to improve our position in the World League and up until now we have had overpowering opponents in Italy and Brazil in our matches at home. We want to win against Portugal at any cost and secure 3rd place in the group. Looking ahead to the Euro Championships the World League matches are a very good preparation."
Despite missing captain Stefan Hubner, who is still out with a knee injury, Germany will start for the first time this year as favourites as the home side has managed to take five sets from Italy and Brazil where as the Portuguese are yet to take a set off the two volleyball giants.
In Portugal, the hosts and Germany shared the points with Germany being well led by replacement captain Wolfgang Kuck to a 3-2 victory in the first match. The following day, Portugal, who finished eighth at the World Championships, won 3-1.
"Now we have a lot of pressure to win and this is important for our target of reaching the final round of the European Championship," said Germany's opposite hitter Marco Leifke, who will celebrate his 200th international match on Saturday.
Germany: Björn Andrae, Christian Pampel, Norbert Walter, Ilja Wiederschein, Frank Dehne, Marco Liefke, Eugen Bakumovski, Till Lieber, Ralph Bergmann, Wolfgang Kuck, Mark Siebeck, Georg Wiebel, Sebastian Prüsener, Jochen Schöps.