Ancona, Italy, October 1, 2010 – Czech Republic has certainly developed into a Cinderella story during the 2010 FIVB Men’s World Championship taking place in cities across Italy.
Entering the tournament as the 36th ranked team in the world by the FIVB, Czech Republic is on the verge of reaching the World Championship third round as one of the top 12 teams. To open the second round in Ancona’s Pool L on Sept. 30, the Czechs swept the United States, the reigning Olympic Games champion and currently ranked third in the world.
Based on their results before the World Championship, the victory over the United States would have been considered a major upset. However, based the Czech’s play in the opening round of the World Championship, the upset is not a complete surprise.
Czech Republic opened this year’s World Championship with a hard-fought five-set loss to No. 12 France in Pool E at Turin. While the match ended with a loss, the results on the floor was more significant in that Czech Republic showed they could compete with top teams in the world. In their second match of the tournament, Czech Republic defeated China in four sets. Then came a defining moment as they edged No. 7 Bulgaria 25-23, 27-25, 28-30, 27-25 in a thrilling match with all sets decided by two points. Winning the critical points carried over into its second round match against the United States.
“We are satisfied with the way we played in both defence and attack,” Czech Republic head coach Jan Svoboda said after the team’s victory against the United States. “We served very well, too, so I feel very proud.”
“We have played pretty well since the beginning of this World Championship and we are very satisfied with our performance,” Czech’s Jan Stokr said after the victory over the United States. “We weren’t nervous before the match and we didn’t suffer the pressure, so this might have been our secret. We didn’t make too many faults maintaining the level always high.”
Czech’s offense has been a balanced machine led by the combination of Peter Platenik and Jan Stokr. Platenik has 68 points in the tournament for sixth-best among all scorers, while Stokr has added 67 points for seventh place. Jiri Popelka is not far behind in 16th place with 58 points. Platenik has converted 58 percent of his attacks for points for third-best in the tournament.
Czech Republic can guarantee a spot into the third round with a victory over another surprising team during the tournament – Cameroon. The two teams will tangle on the court on Saturday at 3 p.m. Prior to the contest, Cameroon takes on the United States at 9 p.m. on Friday evening in Ancona. Cameroon overcame a one-set deficit to outlast Australia for its first victory in Pool C on Sept. 27 and second ever win at the FIVB World Championship. Cameroon beat Venezuela in a consolation final for 13-16 spots at the 1990 Men's World Championship, which represents their only appearance in Volleyball's premier event prior to this edition.
While the Czech Republic was a dominant force in the past World Championships under the Czechoslovakia flag, the success has not been as high in recent competitions. Czech Republic did not compete in the 1994, then placed 19th in 1998. In the past two World Championship competitions in 2002 and 2006, Czech Republic failed to break into the top 12 with 13th-place finishes.
More remarkably, Czech Republic has only competed in the annual FIVB World League just once – a fourth-place finish in 2003. They have been able to compete well under the radar of the top programs.
In the early history of the World Championship under the flag of Czechoslovakia, events routinely concluded with medals around the players necks. Czechoslovakia competed in the first 12 World Championships, including two gold medals (1956, 1966) and four silvers (1949, 1952, 1960, 1962) in the first six events.
Now Czech Republic is striving to reach that same level of consistent success starting with the 2010 FIVB World Championship.
FIVB Press Department Director - Richard Baker
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