Lausanne, Switzerland, June 25, 2003 - Tension is guaranteed as the FIVB $15 million World League enters its seventh and final weekend of the Intercontinental Rounds with five teams still vying for three remaining berths to the World League Finals next month.
The weekend is the culmination of matches for the world's elite 16 teams who contest pairs of home and away matches in four pools. The winners from each pool plus the four second-placed team advance to the finals to be held in Madrid, Spain from July 8-13. However with Spain, host and automatic qualifier, currently placed in third spot in Pool A, the lowest second-ranked team will be dropped if Spain does not finish second in their pool.
Defending World League champions Russia have coasted through and are confirmed winners and Finalists in Pool A, joining Italy and Brazil from Pool B and the Czech Republic from Pool D. Poland in Pool A, Greece, who finished second in Pool D when their Intercontinental Rounds finished a week earlier last weekend to spoil France's and Japan's chances of advancing. This leaves Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro and the Netherlands still in the running for the three remaining vacancies.
With two points for a win and one point for a loss, Pool C hosts the biggest race for the Finals with Bulgaria (17 points), Serbia and Montenegro (16 points) and the Netherlands (15 points) all within reach. Two wins to Bulgaria in Cuba this weekend will seal first place and an automatic qualifying spot while one win for Serbia and Montenegro against the Netherlands will be enough for them to finish as the second-best team.
In Pool A, Poland, on 15 points with a Set Ratio of 1.167, has to make sure it stays ahead of Spain, 14 points, and finish on a better Set Ratio than Greece (.960). However, Poland has the near impossible task of beating Russia in Moscow so their best chance is if Spain fails to beat Venezuela in both of their two clashes.
In Pool B Italy and Brazil, who have already booked their places in Madrid having only lost two matches all tournament, host Germany and Portugal who are now out of the running.
The first matches this weekend start on Friday afternoon with Russia hosting Poland starting at 14:00GMT before the big clash in Pool C between Serbia and Montenegro and the Netherlands at 18:00 GMT. Two Pool B matches, with Italy entertaining Germany (18:00GMT) and Brazil against Portugal (18:30GMT) follow soon after.