(Left to Right): Head coaches Jan Svoboda (CZE), Julio Velasco (ESP), Javier Weber (ARG) and Philippe Blain (FRA) during the 9-12 classification round press conference
Florence, Italy, October 7, 2010 – Argentina, Czech Republic, France and Spain will use the classification round for 9th-12th place as a stepping stone to the future.
Despite dashed hopes of placing higher in the tournament, the quartet must dispel thoughts of what might have been at the Nelson Mandela Forum on Friday where Argentina will play Spain at 5pm, followed by France v Czech Republic at 9pm. The losers will play for 11th and 12th place at 5pm on Saturday, followed by the winners' match for ninth and 10th place at 9pm.
Czech Republic, who did not finish an FIVB World Championship higher than 13th in two previous editions since independence, were showing signs of contending for a podium spot midway through the tournament. They finished the second round as pool leaders but opened with a tough match against Brazil in the third round. Although the Czechs went up 2-1 over Brazil, they could not sustain their momentum as the South Americans rallied for a five-set victory. The following day, they slumped to a 3-0 loss to Germany.
"I think we have played very well in this tournament except for the last match against Germany," Czech Republic head coach Jan Svoboda said. "We have a chance to achieve the best finish for the Czech Republic in the World Championship. We would like to put on a show of good Volleyball for the fans in Florence in this round."
In the early history of the World Championship, the former Czechoslovakia routinely finished competitions with medals around the players' necks. Czechoslovakia competed in the first 12 World Championships and claimed two gold medals (1956, 1966) and four silvers (1949, 1952, 1960, 1962) in the first six events.
As for France, they can only think what might have been after a good start to this World Championship. Les Tricolores finished the first round Pool E with a 3-0 record and were then second in the second round Pool M. However, the loss of Antonin Rozier to injury during the second-round win over Japan changed the offensive dynamic of the French team. Before injury struck, Rozier was the fourth-leading scorer in the tournament and other players have had to step up in his absence.
"There were some moments in this tournament that we played well," France head coach Philippe Blain said. "The 9-12 classification round is still important to us. One of our players was injured (Rozier), but thanks to our other players, we will do our best. We have tried to do our best because we are professionals. We are expecting a good performance in these next matches and will do our best for the future of our programme."
The French team have an average age of 26.5, but that pales in comparison with an Argentina team with an average age of 23.6. After finishing second in both the first and second rounds, Argentina ran into two highly ranked, experienced opponents – Serbia and Russia – in the third round.
"We have a very young squad arriving here in the 9-12 classification round," Argentina head coach Javier Weber said. "I would like for this team to not play like yesterday (Wednesday's 3-0 defeat by Russia), but like we had been playing earlier in the tournament. We were expecting to arrive in the 5-8 classification round, but we are a young team and this World Championship experience will be very useful for the future of the team."
Spain are relative newcomers to the World Championship top 12. In their two previous World Championship events, they finished eighth in 1998 and 13th in 2002. With an older (27.9 is the average age) yet less experienced squad, Julio Velasco's team have played some quality Volleyball in Italy, notably in a five-set loss to semifinalists Cuba in the opening match and a five-set victory over Russia in the second round.
"We are happy to be here," Spain head coach Velasco said. "We could have done better in the tournament, but we are missing three important players. This is the second time Spain have reached the 9-12 classification round. Our players are not as experienced as other teams, but are also not young. The first eight teams may be pushing for a higher finish, but for us, the 9-12 round is a big motivation as our programme grows."
FIVB Press Department Director - Richard Baker
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