2003 FIVB WORLD GRAND PRIX

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Italy

What a difference a title makes. The Italian women's volleyball team's triumph at last year's World Championship has give them a completely different look heading into the 2003 World Grand Prix starting on July 21, especially since the tournament will now be played on their home turf.

Having often been the subject of comparison with their male counterparts the Italian women's team finally won an international tournament last year - the 2002 World Championship in Germany - having lost the final of the European Championship to Russia in 2001. It was a memorable performance and has finally put them on the map of genuine international contenders.

This year's World Grand Prix will signal another step in the process and after two years of not featuring in the tournament the "Azzurre" will have it in their sights to make a dream return with honors.

This women's team, ranked sixth in the world, have all the qualities. Last year's Most Valuable Player at the World Championship and one of Italy's tallest players Elisa Togut is back to cause havoc with her 192cm frame while the rest of the squad compliment each other with passion, drive and a sure-fire spirit which resembles the "Azzuri".

Volleyball is the most practiced women's sport in Italy and has received the backing of the national federation with over 100,000 registered players but it is only now that Italian women's volleyball is finally seeing the hard work bear fruit.

With the 2003 World Grand Prix looming, another international title will be another tasty reward, especially in front of their home fans.