Lausanne, Switzerland, June 19, 2003 - With the FIVB $15 million World League Intercontinental Rounds drawing to a close, all eyes will be on two decisive clashes this weekend. In Pool D, France is away to Japan in matches that could decide if the world championship bronze medallists advance to the final round in Madrid (July 8-13) and in Pool C with Bulgaria (5-3 win-loss) entertaining Serbia and Montenegro (6-2 win-loss) in what promises to be a gripping double header.
Pool D started one week earlier than the three other Pools and their grand finale will be a shakeout with Greece, Czech Republic and France still in the bidding for advancement with only two matches each left to play. Czech Republic holds the coveted top spot and automatic qualifying position in Pool D with 17 points but it could fall to Greece (16 points) when these two teams meet in Ostrava this weekend.
Greece has been very competitive this year and will make it difficult for the Czech Republic even at home, but the result will also have repercussions for France, who are in third place with 15 points. If Greece wins and France take their two matches against table trailers Japan in Fukuoka, France can edge into second place and finals qualification. A win and a loss will also be enough for the Czech Republic but will leave Greece fighting it out with France on Set Ratio for second place. Two wins to Greece this weekend will send them to the World League Finals with the Czech Republic needing to have a superior Set Ratio than France to finish second. All the Pool D action starts on Saturday morning with France's first match in Japan starting at 08:00 GMT and the Czech Republic hosting Greece in Ostrava in the afternoon starting at 12:30GMT.
Meanwhile, In Pool C, all eyes will be on Serbia and Montenegro's matches in Bulgaria with both teams holding first and second place in the group with 14 and 13 points respectively while Netherlands (12 points) travel to Cuba as they try and stay in touch with the two leaders.
In Pool A, Russia is the only team so far unbeaten but Spain and Poland are battling for second place. Poland has four tough matches against the mighty Russian Bear to close out their bid, while Spain has a much more comfortable task, with four matches against the young Venezuelans, who languish at the bottom of the table.
The feature clash in Pool B sees World Championship titleholders Brazil host eight-time World League champions Italy in a battle royal. Both of the super powers have a 7-1 win-loss record and split their first meeting in Italy earlier in the month, 1-1. The other match in Pool B sees Germany host Portugal to decide who is likely to finish third in the group behind the two Volleyball giants.
The top eight teams advance to the finals and Spain, as host, is an automatic qualifier.
Catch all four Pools in action from Friday to Sunday LIVE along with player profiles, match reports and all the latest information at www.fivb.org