Lausanne, Switzerland, June 29, 2003 - Germany wound up their 2003 World League action this weekend with two wins against giants Italy to leave without a ticket to the finals but with a big dose of confidence to head, as hosts, to the 2003 European Championship in September.
Germany finished their 12 matches with four wins and eight losses, but their two 3-1 victories against Italy would have made up for earlier disappointments. They finished in third place in Pool B, with Portugal bringing up the rear after two 3-1 defeats at the hand of World Champions Brazil this weekend.
Other superpowers also had mixed luck. In Pool A, already qualified Russia uncured its second only defeat in the series at the hands of Poland, when they split their last two matches. Poland exits the tournament as the most unlucky second placed team as finals hosts Spain advance as automatic qualifiers even though they finished third on the table.
Meanwhile in Pool C the action was more decisive with Bulgaria and Serbia and Montenegro scrambling for the honor of first place on the table. The Olympic champions stole the glory by hammering the Netherlands twice, while Cuba ruined Bulgaria's chances by finishing the series as they had started, with a win against the Balkan newcomers. Both Serbia and Montenegro and Bulgaria finished with 20 points, with the former Yugoslavia and Olympic Champions squeezing past with a marginally better set ratio.
Spain was away to the young Venezuelans and both sides took a match in their encounter. Venezuela won their first match and then pushed Spain to a tiebreaker in the second.
The most notable absentee at the finals in Spain will be France, bronze medalists at the 2002 World Championship in Argentina, who failed to advance in the face of tough competition from World League debutants Czech Republic and Greece, clearly shaping their squad to be as competitive as possible ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Meanwhile, Bulgaria, also a last minute entry into the 14th Edition, can go to Madrid knowing their side has depth and courage. Vladimir Nikolov was top scorer in the preliminaries with 210 points, Plamen Konstantinov was third and Evgeni Ivanov was seventh.
Finals Qualifiers: Russia, Spain, Brazil, Italy, Serbia and Montenegro, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Greece. Pool D started and finished one week earlier than the other groups.
Results Week Seven:
Pool A: Russia beat Poland 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-14); Poland beat Russia 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 31-29)
Venezuela beat Spain 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 26-24, 26-24); Spain beat Venezuela 3-2 (25-22, 20-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-13)
Pool B: Brazil beat Portugal 3-1 (21-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-19); Brazil beat Portugal 3-1 (25-16, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18), Germany beat Italy 3-1 (25-23, 26-28, 25-22, 25-22); Germany beat Italy 3-1 (19-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-22)
Pool C: Serbia and Montenegro beat Netherlands 3-0 (27-25, 25-17, 25-23); Serbia and Montenegro beat Netherlands 3-1 (34-32, 23-25, 25-20, 25-18). Bulgaria beat Cuba 3-1 (25-20, 22-25, 25-19, 25-13); Cuba beat Bulgaria 3-1 (25-20, 17-25, 25-23, 25-22).