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The history
In 1987, a new idea was conceived, to organise a professional event for Men's Volleyball which should become the show window of our sport. Today, after 10 editions, the World League is more successful than ever.
1990 - 1991 - 1992 - 1993 - 1994 - 1995 - 1996 - 19971998 - 1999 - 2000- 2001
A fascinating history, peppered with money and glory, will be further enriched by another thrilling chapter in 2000. In an exciting feast of top-class world volleyball, all 12 competing nations will host games ahead of the Final-Six, scheduled for 10th-16th July 2000 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

As a build-up to World League 2000, from 1990 to the present day, 21 national teams, 654 players, 48 coaches and 123 referees have taken turns in appearing on the World League stage - the protagonists of 851 matches which have enthralled almost 5 million spectators. However, the spirit of the ground-breaking FIVB-World competition, devised to pool each continent’s best national teams in a single event, has never changed. Over the last decade, it has undoubtedly been the World League which has made the most significant contribution to the stunning spread of volleyball; a feat of quite amazing proportions.

1990 - Set against its subsequent growth, the first World League appeared modest: ‘only’ 8 teams, 52 matches, 52 host cities, 270 thousand spectators and a Million Dollars in prize-money. Few sports tournaments can boast of such a rich debut.
The Osaka Finals were contested by Holland, USSR, Brazil and Italy, despite the latter having to qualify with reserves. France, Japan, USA and China, meanwhile, were eliminated. Having then recalled its stars, Italy won the World League, beating Holland in just three sets.

1991 - The prize-money doubled (two Million Dollars), matches increased out of all proportion (84) and the number of teams went up to 10 (Canada, Cuba and Korea made their debuts, China exited). But in the end, the Milan finalists were the same as in Osaka with, however, Cuba taking Brazil’s place. Once again Italy won - only, after an epic semi-final struggle against Holland in which they had to come from behind (0-2 and 10-14) in the third set. The 3-0 victory over Cuba, however, was a clear victory.

1992 - China made a comeback and Germany started. The number of teams rose to 12. Prize-money grew again (three Million Dollars) and the formula changed (three 4- team groups) with play-offs among the 6 best, ahead of the customary Final-Four, this time in Genoa. Confirming its class, Italy once again dominated qualifying and went through with Brazil, Cuba, CIS, Holland and the USA. The surprise Olympic setback, however, re-stoked the fire in Velasco’s players who redeemed themselves in the World League finals, first beating the USA (3-0), then Cuba (3-1).

1993 - The winners finally changed: Brazil brought both Italy and Russia to their knees in the Final-Four in front of a huge, partisan Sao Paulo crowd. The South Americans thus won the World League with Finland and Greece debuting as replacements for Canada and France. A new qualifying formula was put to the test (a preliminary round with two six-team groups involving a record overall number of 124 matches).

1994 - This marked a quantum leap in terms of prize-money, which doubled from 3 to 6 Million Dollars. The number of matches reverted to 82. Finland went out to be replaced by the debutant Bulgaria. The rookie immediately qualified for the Final-Six played in Italy, which also featured the hosts, Cuba, Russia, Brazil and Holland (the last three won the competition’s three 4-team groups). Italy lost 3- 0 against Brazil in the Final-Six and fell behind 0- 2 against Holland before waking up. Italy claimed its fourth World League title beating Cuba, conquerors of Brazil in an endlless battle which finished 22-20 in a tie-break.

1995 - For the first time qualifying groups were arranged geographically. Italy and Bulgaria dominated the European group (Greece and Holland went out); Russia and Korea qualified from Asia (with Japan and China being eliminated) and Brazil and Cuba went through from America (ahead of USA and Spain - the only novelty in this World League being the replacement of Germany with Spain). The Final-Six, played in Brazil, saw Italy beat the South Americans in front of their own fanatical crowd in the Rio de Janeiro lion’s den.

1996 - As with Brazil three years earlier, Holland also managed to take full advantage of home territory and, for the first time, won the World League in the Rotterdam Final-Six. They really had to draw on their deepest reserves, though, to overcome Italy 22-20 in a memorable tie-break; the electrifying final to a match lasting 158 minutes. Compared to previous tournaments, one team less took part in the ‘96 World League: USA and Korea exited, with Argentina making its entrance. As for the Final Six, in addition to the two protagonists which had dominated the European round to the detriment of Bulgaria and Greece, Brazil and Cuba also qualified (at the expense of Spain and Argentina), together with Russia and China (Japan eliminated).

1997 - Prize money soared to 8 Million Dollars. The number of teams increased to 12. The return of Korea and the debut of a classy Yugoslavia bridged the gap left by Greece. Brazil, Italy and Cuba dominated the three qualifying groups, taking part in the Moscow Final-Six with Bulgaria and Holland (best runners-up), along with host nation Russia. Italy once again took the title, beating Cuba for the fourth time in the final (this had already happened in ‘91, ‘92 and ‘94). This was the first World League to be won by a Italy without Velasco, who had left after a golden reign. Bebeto replaced him with a victory.

1998 - Two Asian teams went out: China and Japan, the latter to prepare quietly for the November World Championships in Osaka. They were replaced by the resurgent Greece, and the rookie, Poland. Qualifying was altered somewhat. Although the customary three four-team groups were retained, two semi-final groups were then played in Alicante (4 teams, Spain being one) and Belgrade (with 3 including Yugoslavia). Italy was excluded from these groups, on account of being admitted to the Final-Four as host country. Russia, Holland and Cuba, who dominated the final round winning all three matches, qualified for the Milan tournament. Without a victory, Italy stepped down from the podium for the first time.

1999 - Revolution for the 10th edition of the World League: for the first time, the competition will be played with the new rules: Rally Point System, sets to 25 points (5th to 15). The team of Yugoslavia has been withdrawn at the last minute from the tournament due to the crisis situation. Portugal replaced the Yugoslavs. The other rookie was Australia, which seize the opportunity for gaining top international experience ahead of the Sydney 2000 Games. France and Canada, whose last appearances go right back to 1992, made a welcome return . Six teams advanced to the Final Round in Mar del Plata: Italy, Cuba, Brazil, Russia, Spain and host team Argentina. The triple World Champions Italy clinched their 7th World League title, defeating Cuba in the final match.

2000 - The 11th edition featured 12 teams and $US10,000,000 prize money. The eighty nine matches of the preliminary round were played across Europe and the Americas in 52 thrilling days of concentrated intensity and excitement. Cuba was the surprise, exiting after the preliminaries. USA showed inspiring form in the early rounds with the longest winning streak of 10 matches. The final six gathered in Rotterdam and featured Brasil, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, USA and Yugoslavia. Italy secured its eighth World League title after an amazing five set final against Russia, continuing its amazing form in this annual competition. Brasil avenged an earlier 3 - 0 defeat to down Yugoslavia 3 - 0 for third place. The psychological battle that preceded the Olympic Games had begun.

2001  - Brazil came into the final match of the World League the only undefeated team of the finals series. They had dropped only four sets in its four matches over Poland (3-1),Yugoslavia (3-1), France (3-0) and Russia (3-2) in the semi-final.
Italy had also been in magnificent form, losing its first match 2:3 to Russia in what was certainly one of the games of the series.  Even though Brazil had arguably been the in-form team of the series, there was almost an expectation that Italy, winner of eight previous World League titles, was the only team that could put together a defensive strategy to upset the Brazilian offence, as they so effectively did against Cuba. But Brazil had done their homework. The Brazilian style of play and their overall court speed and rhythm, won the day over Italy in three straight sets.