Lausanne, Switzerland, January 6, 2014 – While seven European ladies’ teams booked their ticket to the World Championships on Sunday, the Poles were left reeling as the new volleyball year opened in dramatic fashion.
Despite having home advantage at the European Third Round Qualifying Tournament in Lodz, the team centred around star Malgorzata Glinka-Mogentale surprisingly failed to qualify for the 17th FIVB Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 from September 23 to October 12. The hopes of the volleyball-mad public in Poland now rest solely with the men, who go into the World Championships in their home country as one of the hot favourites.
The emotions in Poland were in stark contrast to those of the winners of the five third-round qualifying tournaments – Turkey, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia, and Bulgaria. The top two second-placed teams – Serbia and the Netherlands – also booked their places at the World Championship. Sixteen of the 24 World Championship tickets up for grabs have now been allocated: the seven European teams who successfully qualified at the weekend will join hosts Italy, the top two teams from the European Championship Russia and Germany, Brazil and Argentina from South America, and Japan, China, Thailand and Kazakhstan from Asia.
The destination of the remaining eight tickets will be determined over the coming months. The five qualifying tournaments in the NORCECA confederation (each with four teams) will not be played until May and June. The winner of each group will qualify for the World Championship, while the group runners-up go through to a play-off for the final place from July 2 to 7. It is straight down to business in the New Year in Africa, where the destination of the two World Championship tickets will be decided in two tournaments in February, each featuring seven teams. A record number of 131 countries took part in the qualifying process for the World Championship – a big increase on the 101 that did battle for a ticket to the finals in 2010.
Europe was also the scene of some fierce battles last weekend. The real highlight was the final game of the qualifying tournament in the Atlas Arena in Lodz, which was packed and completely covered in white and red. Despite this, hosts Poland were well beaten by 2013 European bronze medallists Belgium 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 27-25). This result gave world No. 22 Belgium the top spot in Pool K and automatic qualification to the Final Round of the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014. The Poles, ranked 16th in the world, were reduced to tears. “We were very nervous today,” said Polish captain Malgorzata Glinka-Mogentale after the game. “But we are professionals, so we cannot blame this loss on nerves. We should have played better.” Belgium coach Gert Vande Broek commented: “The level of this match was very high, but the pressure of the crowd was on them and it helped us a lot. We deserved the qualification.”
The home advantage did work in favour of the hosts of the other four FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 qualifying tournaments. Turkey finished their home campaign in Ankara with a perfect record after defeating Romania in straight sets (25-15, 25-23, 25-18). The hosts did not lose a single set in their three matches at the Baskent Volleyball Hall in Ankara. Bulgaria completed a clean sweep in their matches in Samokov – edging Belarus 3-1 (25-11, 32-34, 25-9, 25-23) to qualify. Though they lost their second set in the competition, the home “Lionesses” made it three in a row, thanks largely to Emiliya Nikolova who registered 20 points.
There were two reasons to celebrate in Rovinj, as hosts Croatia edged the Netherlands in a breath-taking thriller 3-2 (25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 22-25, 16-14). As well as the hosts, the “Oranjes” also secured the coveted ticket for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014. They were one of the two second-placed teams with the best score across all the pools and are thus set to travel to Italy in late September. The second team to progress to the finals courtesy of a second-place finish was Serbia. The home heroines from Azerbaijan caused a sensation in Baku, where they ended their FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 qualifier in first place after a third straight victory and edging the bronze medallists from the 2013 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Serbia. The hosts came back twice from one set down to win the tie-break 3-2 (19-25, 25-18, 18-25, 25-16, 18-16).
The FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship will feature 24 teams divided into four pools of six teams for the first round, which will be a round-robin system over five days – three matches per day - with four cities (Rome, Trieste, Bari and Verona) hosting a pool each. The top four teams of each pool will advance to the second round (in Bari, Trieste, Verona and Modena), where the 16 teams will be split into two pools of eight (top two of Pool A and B, third and fourth of Pool C and Pool D), with the top three of each pool advancing to the third round.
The top three teams from the two second-round pools will advance to the third round with the winners, placed in each pool, while the second and third will be drawn. The third and final round will consist of a round-robin system, with the top two teams of each pool advancing to the semifinals before the final takes place in Milan on October 12.
Russia’s female volleyball stars have their reputation as the most successful nation in the history of the World Championship to defend: together with Russia’s predecessor – the Soviet Union – they have won a total seven titles. Cuba and Japan have both triumphed on three occasions, China twice, and World Championship hosts Italy once (2002).
Olympic gold, victory at the World Grand Prix and success in the World Grand Champions Cup: Brazil’s volleyball ladies have won every title on offer of late. As such, it is almost impossible to believe that the skilful South Americans are still waiting for their first ever World Championship title. The Russian giants defeated Brazil in the final to win the World Championship title in 2006 and 2010, meaning the Brazilians’ three silver medals (including 1994) remain their greatest success to date in the World Championship.
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