CHAMPION READY FOR SECOND TITLE
Nagoya, Japan, 19 Nov, 2001 - Olympic champion
Yugoslavia leads a star studded field as the men's leg
of the US$2 million World Grand Champions Cup that gets
underway at the Nagoya Rainbow Hall, Japan Tuesday.
Yugoslavia is one of six teams participating in the
tournament that features four continental champions:
Asian Champion Korea, European Champion Yugoslavia,
NORCECA Champion Cuba, South American Champion Brazil,
wild card Argentina and host nation Japan.
Determined to reaffirm its status as the
world's best men's volleyball team, and make up for its
disappointing third placing at the 2001 World League in
June, won by Brazil, the Yugoslavs will field a full
strength squad in Japan.
Qualifying for the World Grand Champions Cup by
defeating world champion Italy 3-0 to win its first
European title in September, the Yugoslav line-up
features brothers Nikola and Vladimir Grbic, stars of
the Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medal win, as well as 1998
world championship best server Goran Vujevic and 2001
European Championship's MVP and best scorer Ivan
Yugoslavia meet NORCECA champion Cuba in its opening
match Tuesday - a match that could determine final
placing of the two teams.
"Cuba and Brazil are the rivals, as much as I'm
concerned, who could put up some real challenge to our
team for the victory here," Yugoslavia's assistant
coach Bogdan Sretenovic said on Monday.
The last time the two met, at the World League, Cuba
won in five sets. The Cuban line-up is at full strength
and features the devastating attacking power of Ivan
Ruiz, B. Leonel Marshall and Angel Dennis.
Brazil, playing with seemingly in-extortive offensive
options and an overall court speed that bewildered its
opponents at the World League, has been weakened by the
loss of three of its World League players: star attacker
Gilberto Godoy Filho 'Giba', middle blocker Gustavo
Endres and libero Sergio Santos.
Wild card Argentina, that is blooding six players
from its world junior team, is without its normal
captain Marcos Milinkovic and should struggle against
the power and experience of the continental champions.
Korea and Japan make up the six teams in the single
round robin tournament. Korea is an upcoming squad that
qualified by defeating Australia for the Asian title
last month, while host Japan is considered the outsider
for this event. But as was shown in the women's event,
the Japanese women used home ground advantage to claim
its highest finish since its bronze medal at the Los
Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.
At the women's event, that concluded in Fukuoka
Sunday, China was the Grand Champion, Russia second,
Japan third with Brazil, USA and Korea finishing fourth,
fifth and sixth respectively.
Nagoya will be the venue of the first two rounds of
the men's leg, on Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 November.
Thursday 22 is a rest day with the final three days to
be held in Tokyo's Metropolitan Gym from Friday 23 and
Sunday 25 November.
Set scores will be updated live at www.fivb.org