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Calendar for 2003 World League
Sixteen teams in four pools will play off the Intercontinental Round matches, with Pools A, B, and C commencing on the weekend of May 23-25, with Pool D starting one week earlier (May 16-18).
Following the success of the 2002 edition, which concluded for the final round in Brazil in August, and drawing on elements of promotion and entertainment also used successfully at the just concluded 2002 Men's World Championship in Argentina, the Council ruled that stadium entertainment, venue decoration and the use of animated mascots would now become a requirement for the World League.

Pools
Pool A: Russia, Poland, Spain, Venezuela
Pool B: Brazil, Italy, Portugal, Germany
Pool C: Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Cuba, China
Pool D: France, Argentina, Greece, Japan

Competition format
All teams in the pool play against each other, both home and away, during the Intercontinental Round. Top eight teams advance to the final round.
The team of the organizing country of the Final Round will be automatically qualified.
In case that the team of the organizing country is not among the 8 qualified teams, the lowest second ranked team of the Intercontinental Round will be eliminated and replaced by the organizer. Spain is the candidate country to host the final round.

Match schedule:
Pool A
May 23-25: Spain vs. Poland; Venezuela vs. Russia
May 30-June 1: Russia vs. Spain; Venezuela vs. Poland
June 6-June 8: Poland vs. Venezuela; Spain vs. Russia
June 13-15: Russia vs. Venezuela; Poland vs. Spain
June 20-22: Poland vs. Russia; Spain vs. Venezuela
June 26-28: Russia vs. Poland; Venezuela vs. Spain

Pool B
May 23-25: Brazil vs. Germany; Italy vs. Portugal
May 30 June 1: Italy vs. Brazil; Portugal vs. Germany
June 6-8: Portugal vs. Brazil; Germany vs. Italy
June 13-15: Portugal vs. Italy; Germany vs. Brazil
June 20-22: Brazil vs. Italy; Germany vs. Portugal
June 26-28: Brazil vs. Portugal; Italy vs. Germany

Pool C
May 23-25: Netherlands vs. Yugoslavia; China vs. Cuba
May 30- June 1: Yugoslavia vs. China: Netherlands vs. Cuba
June 6-8: Netherlands vs. China; Cuba vs. Yugoslavia
June 13-15: Yugoslavia vs. Cuba; China vs. Netherlands
June 20-22: Cuba vs. Netherlands; China vs. Yugoslavia
June 26-28: Yugoslavia vs. Netherlands; Cuba vs. China

Pool D 
May 16-18: France vs. Argentina; Greece vs. Japan
May 23-25: France vs. Japan; Greece vs. Argentina
May 30 - June 1: Argentina vs. France; Japan vs. Greece
June 6-8: Argentina vs. Japan; Greece vs. France
June 13-15: France vs. Greece; Japan vs. Argentina
June 20-22: Argentina vs. Greece; Japan vs. France

World League finals:
Tuesday July 8 - Sunday July 13 2003

 

Russia wins first ever World League title

Belo Horizonte, Brazil, August 18, 2002 – Russia simply proved too powerful too often on Sunday morning here in this Brazilian city when they charged to a 3-1 victory in the finals of the FIVB $15 Million World League, shutting out the host country and last year’s title holder in a Festival of Volleyball at the Mineirinho Stadium.
It was the Russian team’s first ever World League title, the richest men’s event in the annual FIVB calendar, and follows on from the Russian women’s team winning the World Grand Prix final in Hong Kong several weeks ago.
Earlier Yugoslavia won the bronze medal 3-1 (28-26, 29-27, 23-25, 25-21) depriving eight times title winners Italy of a piece of this year’s World League glory.
Although Brazil were on the court with their Dream Team and were supported by some 20,500 screaming fans, it was still not enough to beat the might of the Russians who had crept back into the semifinals after a rocky performance in the round robin of the final round.
The Russians also cleaned up on the individual awards, winning everything except the Best Scorer Award that went to Ivan Miljkovic of Yugoslavia with a total of 61 points. Other awards went to Pavel Abramov (Best Attacker), Alexi Koulechov (Best Blocker) and Vadim Khamouttskikh (Best Server) – all from the Russian team.
Dr. Rubén Acosta, FIVB President, Brazilian dignitaries and senior members of the international Volleyball Family were in the stadium for the finals and Dr. Acosta presented the winning team with their trophy.
The Brazilians, on the court with their super heroes like Giba (Glberto Godoy Fihlo), started nervously against the powerful Russians who edged ahead in the opening phase.
But the Russians were in devastating form with Roman Iakovlev and Alexei Koulechov setting a wall of defense that was often impossible for even the Brazilian maestros to penetrate. A hug block by Andrei Egortchev at the 14-minute mark widened the gap for Russia to 17-13, prompting the nervous Rezende to pep talk his players.
The Brazilian block was ineffective against shots like Iakovlev’s smash that took to Russians to a five point lead and three points from the first set victory. Brazil fended off one set point and drew back to 21 before the Russians closed out 25-21 in 22 minutes.
Russian setter Vadim Khamouttskikh providing excellent service to his teammates in the second set while the Brazilians slipped into a costly set of errors.
Brazil took a brief lead at 12-11 and did manage to fight off one set point before making a mistake that gave the Russians their second set 25-23.
The Boys from Brazil ran on rejuvenated in the vital fourth set and set up a slim early lead, but again muscle bulk and deadly accuracy by the Russians foiled the host team. Rezende reshuffled his men and the Brazilians took the lead at 20-17. Two service errors sent Rezende’s blood pressure into the stratosphere before Brazilians found their way back into the match taking the third set 25-22. Brazil ran up an early lead in the fourth, but their renaissance was too little too late and Russia went on to close out the title.
In their match, Yugoslavia’s warriors put away the disappointment of their defeat by Brazil in the semis to contest one of the most closely fought matches of the tournament with each side chasing down every point.
Yugoslavia started strongly but Italy whittled away at their lead and drew level at 11-all. Seizing the initiative the always vigilant Valerio Vermiglio, small but deft, set elegantly to assist his team to a 2-point lead. Twenty-five minutes into the set with the sides ties at 23-all. Geric served the set point for Yugoslavia but Italy’s shot over the net found the sure hands of Miljkovic who gave his team a 28-26 first set. Italy edged ahead in the second set at 14-12 but with every point an individual battle, both sides had to pull all their power, tricks and finesse out of the bag. Fei and Pasquale Gravina at the net for Italy countered for 24-24. A great kill by Andrija Geric gave Yugoslavia set point at 27-26, but Fei was again
ready to save the point, but at the next set point, Miljkovic put away the winner for 2-0 for Yugoslavia.
Both teams traded the lead in the third set, but at the six minute mark Yugoslavia was two points ahead. A smash at the net by Andrea Giani put them back in the match at 11-all. Italy edged ahead and again Miljkovic struck to equalize at 13-13. Fei’s attack again put Italy ahead and a service error by Grbic gave the Italians a cushion of 3 points. Italy had set point on a Yugoslav attack error and suddenly they were back in the match.
Yugoslavia put away the final set 25-21 in just over 20 minutes, defeating the team that has dominated this Tournament in its 13-year history and who have won the World League on eight previous occasions.
The 2003 World League final will be hosted by Madrid, Spain.

 

Brazil, Russia advance to final
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, Aug. 17, 2002 - Hosts and titleholders Brazil on Saturday advanced the finals of the FIVB $15 Million World League when they defeated Yugoslavia in a tough five-set first semifinal here in Brazil's third biggest city. They will meet Russia, who shut Italy out of a chance at their ninth World League title. Brazil took their match 3-2 (25-27, 25-19, 25-12, 21-25, 18-16) with the kind of Volleyball that has elevated them to one of the best teams in the world and put them in the box seat to take their second consecutive title. Russia beat Italy 3-1. "This was a real thriller," said FIVB President Rubén Acosta, here in Brazil with his wife Malu for the finals. "At times we thought that the Yugoslavs would win but they seemed to lose their rhythm and it was not enough to beat the courage of the Brazilians who were supported by more than 16,000 fans here in the stadium," he said adding, "It was a great match!" Brazilian coach Bernardo Rezende said his team had showed maturity. "It was a very tough match," he said, while super Superstar wing-spiker Giba Giba (Gilberto Godoy Fihlo) said "We had a lot of ups and downs and now we are going to study our mistakes before tomorrow's match". Thousands of euphoric fans streamed into the Mineirinho Stadium two hours before the whistle for what turned out to be the biggest Volleyball party so far of this, the richest annual event on the FIVB calendar. With Brazil now in the final the people of Belo Horizonte, the "Volleyball Capital of Brazil", will be out in force for Sunday's final. The stadium, awash with the Brazilian national colors and throbbing to music, erupted when Henrique Randow tipped the ball over the net to put Brazil on the scoreboard, but it was the Yugoslavs, spurred on by the considerable skills of Goran Vujevic, Dula Mester who went on to take a 14-11 lead with a ace by Nikola Grbic. Aerial attacks from the sure hand of Andre Nascimento and a mistake in the Yugoslavia block leveled the sides at 17-17. Brazil then went one point up after a high shot by Ivan Miljkovic landed outside the line and they applied pressure and notched up a three- point lead. Again Vujevic struck to give the Yugoslavians the lead, but Giba leveled at 23-23 and set the crowd on fire before Geric scored the winning shot to give Yugoslav the set at 27-25. The Boys from Brazil, especially Andre, Giba and Henrique, gave their team an early lead in the second. Giba and Henrique combined to block the Yugoslavs to 19-15 and an overhead smash by Gustavo and an ace by Ricardo put the Brazilians two points away from equalizing. Nalbert sealed their victory with a perfect ace for 25-19. The third set belonged to Brazil, who was unstoppable for a massive 13-point lead at the close. The Yugoslavs rallied in the fourth when their legendary fighting spirit kicked in to put them back in the match and force the thriller tiebreaker that finally fell Brazil's way 18-16. In the other semifinal, Italy took the opening set 25-23 in their match against Russia, deploying big guns Hristo Zlatanov and Alessandro Fei with the finesse of the Vermiglio. Russia, who scraped into the semifinals when Spain failed against The Netherlands in the last Pool E match, looked better in the second set for an early three point lead with setter Vadim Khamouttskikh combining harmoniously with heavyweight Roman Iakovlev to support an almost impenetrable block that saw them charge to 16-10. Russia looked a rejuvenated side in the second set with a vastly improved block that shut out the Squadra Azzurri while their coach Andre Anastasi paced like a lion on the sidelines. Serguei Tetioukhine served for the set and Italy defended the first set point but not the second, allowing Russia to equalize with 25-19. The Russians frequently powered home shots that landed at the feet of skilled players like Samuel Papi, and even overhead smashes by the usually deadly Zlatanov were cut down by the Russian defense to allow them to cruise to a 25-20 third set. By then, Italy looked rattled but a rare error by Tetioukhine gave them a 2-point lead. The sides traded points back and forth, leveling at 10-all, but the enormous reach of Alexei Koulechov was too good too often. Iakovlev gave his team match point and then blocked to give his side their place in the finals.


 
Netherlands wins to allow Russia back in the action
Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Aug 15 – The Netherlands, until now the minnow of the 2002 FIVB $15 Million World League, went out in a blaze of glory on Thursday in the northern Brazilian city of Recife when they humbled Spain 3-1 (25-20, 25-27, 25-23,25-18). The Spanish side simply ran out of legs after their courageous victory over Russia on Wednesday.
Before Thursday’s match young Dutch side had failed to win a single set in this tournament.
The surprise result reshuffled the cards and allowed Russia back into the semifinal action, despite being crushed 3-0, also in Recife, by titleholders Brazil. Only in the second set did the Russians show their customary fire, before allowing Brazil to deliver the final blow, a five-point advantage in the third set to take the match 3-0 (25-23, 28-26, 25-20). Brazilian hero Gilberto (Giba) Godoy Fihlo was the top scorer with 15 points. Brazil now meets Yugoslavia who lost to Italy in an evenly fought five-setter that finally favored the Squadra Azzurri.
Looking ahead to the semifinals, Brazil’s coach Bernardo Rezente said he was aware of the “missiles” that Yugoslavia was capable of delivering.
Italy and Yugoslavia delivered the highlight match of the day. Yugoslavia started confidently and when they had run up an 8-4 lead, Italian coach Andrea Anastasi took his side off for a pep talk.
Italians Valerio Vermiglio, Zlatanov and Fei had flashes of brilliance, but an overhead smash by Slobodan Boskan took the Yugoslavs to 16-12 and they closed out the first set 25-22.
The Italians edged ahead in the second set and a graceful, well-placed ace by veteran Samuele Papi extended the lead to 8-5. The dual ensued with lofty Hristo Zlatanov and Fei airborne, agile and deadly for Italy taking the score to 13-11. Yugoslavia’s block kicked in and they leveled at 17-17 when an attack by Ivan Miljkovic’s put the Olympic champions back in the lead. The sides shadowboxed their way through the points, but it was Italy took the initiative to equalize 1-set all.
Italy’s block proved effective early in the third set and a leap, twist and slam from Vermiglio took them to 6-4. A rare service error by Fei allowed Yugoslavia back in at 10-all, but another by Miljkovic returned service to Italy. The Italians gained confidence in the block and looked smug at 20-15 and when Yugoslavia’s Miljkovic’s serving accuracy deserted him, Italian Coach Anastasi began to relax on the sidelines. Papi delivered a cross-court kill to give Italy a 25-18 victory and put them back in contention.
Yugoslavia broke away with a 5-0 lead early in the third and maintained the edge to 12-8. Vladimir Grbic left the court with a twisted ankle but Yugoslavia still won 25-22 to force the tiebreaker, a thriller in which both sides knew that to lose was to pit them against Brazil in the first semifinal. Italy took match point at 14-15 and another at 16-15 when Papi served and allowed Fei to put away the winner for Italy to face Russia in Saturday’s semifinal.
In the final match of the day, Poland played France, both freed from the responsibility of advancement. Enthusiastically supported by a small knot of fans chanting “Polska! Polska!” amid a sea of Brazilian enthusiasts, the Poles took the first set 28-26 and the second 25-23, before cruising to a 3-0 victory with 25-18 in the closing set of the round robin

Spain rattles the Russian Bear for a win in the tiebreaker
Belo Horizonte, Brazil, August 14 - Spain was elevated to giant killer status on Wednesday when they tested Russia to the limit in a tiebreaker that they eventually won 19-17 here in the finals of the FIVB $15 Million World League 2002. The Spanish team came into the match outsiders after a 3-1 drubbing at the hands of Brazil on Tuesday but it did intimidate them against the team that was considered absolute favorite to win this year's title.
Francisco Hervas, the Spanish coach said his team had played the match of their lives. They had only beaten Russia once before, and then at the 1999 World Cup. "This victory is more important. It shows that Spanish Volleyball is growing and we can be among the best in the world," Hervas said.
Russia now faces titleholders Brazil in their final round robin match, and after the Brazilian 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-23) victory over The Netherlands on Wednesday Brazilian coach Bernardo Rezende said he thought the Russians were the best. "I have never seen them this strong," he said. Rezende may have reconsidered his remarks after the Russians tumbled to Spain in the northern city of Recife. Spain now meets the luckless and set-less Dutch in the last round robin match and has an excellent chance to qualify for the semifinals.
Eight-times World League winners Italy ran out confident to face Poland with Alessandro Fei and the powerful Hristo Zlatanov ready for the kill. But with Poitr Gruszka and the 216cm Marcin Nowak in the middle on the net, the Poles repelled the Italians in the opening stages, going up 4-points to 14-10 and widening the gap to 16-11. Meanwhile, their coach, Waldemar Wspanialy, paced expressionless on the sidelines.
Trailing by six points Italian coach Andrea Anastasi took his players to task and they went back on the court to trim the lead to two points when Samuele Papi put away an overhead smash that left the Poles flatfooted. A quick Polish recovery followed and they closed out the first set 25-22 to raise eyebrows and catch the Italians on the run.
The Poles dominated the opening stages of the second set, but Italy came back strong and left them little room to move, going on to level 1-1 with a 25-19 victory.
Pasquale Gravina and Fei combined power with finesse to run the Italians up 3 points at 5-2, in the third set, which they extended that lead to 11-7 with great support by Valerio Vermiglio. The Italians looked invincible in the final stages with a nine-point edge from a delicate ace by Fei, and Vermiglio and Papi blocking to 19-9.Luigi Mastrangelo was in the foreground for the Italians in the closing stages, then Papi closed out for a 2-1 lead.
Early magic by Vermiglio, twisting a shot over the net gave the Italians a five-point lead, extended to 10 points ahead just nine minutes into the set. Papi had the honor of the closing point in 18:44 minutes at 25-15 to allow the Italians to leave the court to the rapturous yelling of their Brazilian fans.
France met Yugoslavia in the last match of the day and Yugoslavia wasted no time in surging ahead. Deadly spikes by Boskan and a perfect impenetrable block immediately gave them a 5-point lead. Luc Marquet gave the French two points and high-flying Laurent Capet another, but the spirited French were no match for the might of the Olympic Champions. They won the first set 25-19, helped by the likes of Nikoa Grbic and Ivan Miljkovic. But the French had nothing to lose and took the lead 9-8 in the second. The two sides shadowboxed through the points but Yugoslavia was just too good, too often, closing the match 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-17) In the third set, France's Philippe Barca-Cysique was carried off the court with an ankle injury
Italy and Yugoslavia will contest the semifinals while France plays Poland to see out the tournament.

Brazil takes first honors after shaky start

Belo Horizonte, Brazil, August 13 - Titleholders Brazil made tough work of their opening match in the finals of the FIVB $15 Million World League against upstarts Spain who scraped into the last round finals as second fiddle to Italy, the dominant nation in this blue ribbon annual men´s Volleyball tournament.
Driven by enthusiastic local supporters in the northern city of Recife, they took the first set 25-17, but then stumbled, let their concentration slip and allowed Spain to equalize 1-1 by a margin of four points.
Brazil soared ahead to a four-point margin 16-12. They stretched the score to 19-14 before wrapping up the vital third and went on to wrap up the match in the fourth set. Andre Nascimento put away 19 points for Brazil to be the top scorer of the match. 
But in the opening match here in Belo Horizonte, France met titleholders Italy in what the local media are describing as the "Pool of Death". Yugoslavia and Poland are the other teams in the group. The Italians, using talent like Alessandro Fei and Valerio Vermiglio to perfection had a nine point lead in just 12 minutes. Some desperate renaissance shots by the French were insufficient to stop the Squadra Azzurri, who shut them out 25-14 in just 15 minutes.
France was powerless to stop the charge and failed to break through the Italian defense with Gravina and Zlatanov impenetrable on the net. A fine block by Kiefer, followed by a timely ace let the French level at 11-11 and captain Dominique Daquin came on, allowing the French a small lead. The two sides traded points to 19-19, but Italy edged ahead and Daquin served into the net to give the Italians set point in the second. Two points later Fea smashed a shot out of reach and Italy was 2-0. 
Efforts by Daquin and Capet were not enough to save the French and Italy wrapped up the final set 25-21.
In other action in Recife, Russia was unshakable against Netherlands with a straight sets 3-0 victory that confirmed that Brazil and Russia are the absolute favorites to advance to the semifinals in the group playing in Recife.
In the final match of the day, Olympic gold medallists met upstart Poland. Zoran Gajic had his heavyweights out in the opening phase with Nikola and Vladimir Grbic and the lofty 206cm Ivan Miljkovic, the tallest in the side, to take a four point lead in the first five minutes.
Nikola Grbic and Andrija Geric were fearless on the net and helped expand the Yugoslav lead to 16-7. In just 15 minutes the Yugoslav blues were 10 points up and three from taking the first set. Poland rallied with five points with Murek making a large contribution, before libero Rafal Musielak failed to pick up the winning Yugoslav point, giving them a 25-20 head start.
Poland, the only undefeated team at home in the preliminary rounds, settled quickly into the second set and took the lead briefly at 10-9 and Marcin Novak's 215cm height at the net was difficult to get past. A deft overhead shot by Slobodan Boskan leveled the score at 15-15 and put Yugoslavia back in contention. A serve into the net by Robert Prygiel gave Yugoslav a 2-point lead to 20-18 and they went on to go 2-sets up.
The sting then went out of Poland's attack and they retreated, defeated in straight sets when Yugoslavia took the final with an impressive 25-13.

World's elite Volleyball teams gather for finals showdown
Belo Horizonte, Brazil, August 12 - The world's elite men's Volleyball teams gathered here Monday ahead of the finals of the FIVB $15 million World League 2002, some still weary from six weeks of Intercontinental Rounds and all with expectations of a tough showdown over the next days.
Netherlands, Russia, Spain and hosts Brazil in Pool E of the Final Round, while Olympic Champions Yugoslavia, France, Italy and Poland play off in Pool F here in Belo Horizonte.
Interest in the opening match is intense here, when hometown favorites Brazil meet Spain in their opening match in Recife. Spain, at No. 14, is the lowest ranked team according to the FIVB World Rankings as at July 15 2002 but Spanish coach Francisco Hervas said he is happy that his side had qualified for the finals for the first time, a sign he said that the team is improving. Raphael Pascual, the best Spanish player is not with the team. " He is a great player, but we need him in a good shape for the world championship," Rascual said.
Russia and Brazil start as favorites in their pool and Russia's assistant coach, Boris Kolcins is confident. " In the last two months, we practice every day, twice a day, so we don' t have any problems. We think we can play well and we are sure that we'll leave Brazil with a great result," he said.
The Netherlands, even with stars like Richard Schuil and Reinder Nummerdor, and Spain will be hard pressed to push past the two giants. " Our hopes are not very high for this tournament, but we are proud to be here, said Bert Goedkoop, coach of the Netherlands, who added he expected all their matches would be tough for the young team.
Brazilian color aside, it could be Pool F that is the real thriller with Italy going for their ninth League title. They face Pool winners France in their opening match but French middle blocker Dominique Daquin said he was quietly confident. "We have worked hard and we deserve to be here," he said. "I am confident we will advance."
The Poles, unbeaten in their six matches at home, come with few expectations. "Italy will be hard to beat with their great World League tradition, but for me the Yugoslavs are the favorites," said coach Waldemar Wspanialy.
Yugoslav coach Zoran Gajic is taking the opposite tack. "We are going through a tough situation. There has been a lot of traveling and a lot of the matches," he said.
The decision in this group could go down to the wire when Yugoslavia meets Italy on Thursday when their playmaker Valerio Vermiglio and Alessandro Fei face the powerful Yugoslavs like Ivan Miljkovic and teammates. Squadra Azzurri coach Andrea Anastasi, facing his personal fourth World League and with two titles to his credit, also claimed theirs was the toughest group.
What is guaranteed is action and atmosphere in this country where major tournaments have attracted as many as 26,000 spectators. The "Boys from Brazil" will find the stands packed and players like the much-adored "Giba" (Gilberto Godoy Fihlo), the 25-year-old wing spiker, will draw strength from their enthusiastic support. What remains to be seen is this it will be enough to give Brazil their third, and second consecutive World League title.
Coach Bernardo Rezende is aware that his team needs to be concentrated.
"It's good to play in our country, but it' s very dangerous. There is a lot of thing that can distract the players and I want them to think only about Volleyball," he said.


All tickets booked for Brazil 
 Japan pulled off its sole victory in the FIVB $15 Million World League Intercontinental round on Sunday to sever Greece's slim chance of taking the last ticket to the finals in Brazil of this, Volleyball's richest annual competition for men. Instead, Yugoslavia, now undisputed second in Pool D, even with one match to go against Pool D leader France on Sunday night, takes the final place, while Japan and Greece are out.
Hosts Brazil, Poland, Italy, Spain, Russia, Netherlands, France and Yugoslavia are the eight team to contest the final round in the Brazilian cities of Recife and Belo Horizonte (Aug 13-18). The two groupings for the two cities will be announced from FIVB headquarters on Monday. 
Teams went into the final round of this six-weekend competition with most of the decisions already made. Some teams also chose to rest up their key players ahead of the finals, knowing that the outcome of their final matches would not alter the results.
In Pool A, Brazil beat traditional South American rival Argentina 3-2 and 3-0 to consolidate their leadership, while Poland, the other qualifier scored two victories over Portugal to be the only team undefeated at home.
Italy, who has won eight of the 12 World League titles so far contested, won over Spain 3-1 in Pool B on Friday and their rematch on Sunday night has no effect on the outcome. China and luckless Venezuela, the only team not to win a match so far in the preliminaries meet on Sunday night in Venezuela, but then exit the competition. 
In Pool C Netherlands went to Russia without ace Richard Schuil and Guido Gortzen and setter Nico Freriks also rested. Instead young players Joppe Paulides, Robert Horstink and Joram Maan all delivered fine performances that drew praise from Russian coach Guennade Chipouline. Russia won both matches 3-0, but Chipouline graced the visitors with a compliment saying: "It was a match of equal rivals." In this group, Germany and Cuba also round up their World League appearances.

France beats Yugoslavia, who move closer to qualifying for last finals berth in $15 Million World League 

Yugoslavia pushed France to the limit in a challenging five-setter on Friday night that finally went the way of the visitors to Podgorica, Yugoslavia 3-2 (20-25, 25-23,25-21, 19-25, 15-11) in front of a packed sports hall throwing their weight behind the home team.
With Yugoslavia battling for a World League finals berth in Brazil, there was no ground given, despite temperatures in the hall of more than 30 degrees C and heavy humidity that often trapped the players in lapses of concentration.
France, as Pool D leaders had already advanced and this weekend decides the remaining berth - between Olympic Champions Yugoslavia and their classic Balkan rivals Greece, who have lifted their game immensely in the last rounds.
But even before the final match of the Intercontinental round on Sunday, Yugoslavia seems certain of taking the last place, even if Greece win their second match against Japan. The teams will then be level on 19 points and advancement will be on superior set average. 
In other pool action, Poland beat Portugal and Brazil beat Argentina in Pool A, but both winning teams are already through. In Pool B, Italy and Spain are already in the final rounds, with China and Venezuela out of the race. Likewise, from Pool C Russia and Netherlands are also contesting a dead rubber this weekend with both teams through, while German and Cuba are eliminated.

Face-off for last finals berth
in last Intercontinental Round

Lausanne, Switzerland, July 30, 2002 – The FIVB $15 Million World League goes down to the wire this weekend in the sixth and last Intercontinental Round with traditional Balkan rivals Yugoslavia and Greece facing a battle of attrition in Pool D for the final berth.

France tops the Pool with Yugoslavia second and Greece close behind and while France should finish Pool leader, Yugoslavia must be wary of Greece, which has been enjoying continually improving form as the tournament progresses. Greece goes to Japan, which like Venezuela, has failed to win any of their 10 matches so far, while Yugoslavia is home to France, who beat them 3-0, 3-1 in the first round.

Meanwhile Italy and Spain have already qualified at the top of Pool B, with China and Venezuela chanceless going into the last round.

Russia, with only one loss so far, hosts Netherlands and both are already through to the final. Some of the Dutch players have opted to miss the trip. The tournament’s top scorer Richard Schuil will stay home to recover from a small injury. Guido Gortzen, who has been facing a heavy club program for Italian champion Modena will rest up ahead of the finals and setter Nico Freriks is out with travel-related stomach problems. The three will be replaced by third setter Erik Siebers and attackers Dennis van der Veen and Wytze Kooistra will go instead to Russia. Germany and the young an inexperienced Cuban side have exited now the tournament.

The tournament, the richest for men’s Volleyball, pits 16 of the world’s top national teams against each other in the Intercontinental Rounds, with eight teams advancing to the finals, this year in Brazil, in the cities of Recife and Belo Horizonte. Brazil, as finals host, qualifies automatically, but still tops Pool A going into the last round. Poland, the other qualifier in the group, has a theoretical chance to top the table this weekend when they meet Portugal at home.

Brazil is also the defending titleholder, but Italy has won more titles than any other nation in the history of the competition. They have won eight from 12 World League titles since 1990.

Match Schedule

Friday, August 2
Russia vs. Netherlands (Pool C), Belgorod, GMT 1400, Local 1800
Poland vs. Portugal (Pool A), Worclaw, GMT 1700, Local 1900
Venezuela vs. China (Pool B), Barquisimeto, GMT 2330, Local 1930
Yugoslavia vs. France (Pool D), Podgorica, GMT 1815, Local 2015
Italy vs. Spain (Pool B), Catania, GMT 1830, Local 2030
Argentina vs. Brazil (Pool A), Rosario, GMT 0000, Local 2100

Saturday, August 3
Germany vs. Cuba (Pool C), Leipzig, GMT 1300, Local 1500
Japan vs. Greece (Pool D), Toyama, GMT 0600, Local 1500
Poland vs. Portugal (Pool A), Worclaw, GMT 1300, Local 1500
Argentina vs. Brazil, Rosario (Pool A), GMT 2100, Local 1800
Russia vs. Netherlands (Pool C), Belgorod, GMT 1400, Local 1800

Sunday, August 4
Germany vs. Cuba (Pool C), Leipzig, GMT 0900, Local 1100
Japan vs. Greece (Pool D), Toyama, GMT 0500, Local 1400
Venezuela vs. China (Pool B), Cabimas, GMT 2330, Local 1930
Yugoslavia vs. France (Pool D), Novi Sad, GMT 1815, Local 2015
Italy vs. Spain (Pool B), Caserta, GMT 1830, Local 2030


Key matches
• Friday: Yugoslavia vs. France (Pool D), Podgorica, GMT 1815, Local 2015
• Saturday: Japan vs. Greece (Pool D), Toyama, GMT 0600, Local 1500
• Sunday: Japan vs. Greece (Pool D), Toyama, GMT 0500, Local 1400
• Sunday: Yugoslavia vs. France (Pool D), Novi Sad, GMT 1815, Local 2015
 


FIVB $15 Million World League 2002: Italy, Russia, Spain and France ahead on points after Round 5
Europe's elite men's Volleyball teams - Italy, Russia, Spain and France - have all surfaced to mount a challenge to FIVB World League titleholders Brazil as Intercontinental Round Five draws to a close this weekend. Italy and Russia lead their pools with 19 points, France and Spain have 18 and Brazil, Pool A leader, has 17 points from seven matches, they exhibited their vulnerability with weekend when they were twice thrashed this weekend by upstart Poland in front of more than 11,000 euphoric fans in Katowice. "We did not make any camouflage here in Katowice, at the moment this is the best we can play, but I still hope we will improve to reach our top disposition for the World League Finals and World Championships," Brazil's head coach Bernardo Rezende reflected. But it is in the other pools that action is fast and furious. Pool B is a battle of attrition between Italy, who has claimed the title more than any other nation in the League's 13-year history, and Spain. The Italians crushed Spain 3-0 on Friday for their second only defeat in the series, but had to struggle for their 3-1 return match on Saturday. Next weekend the Spaniards must travel to Italy to face the giant again in their away tie, knowing they are separated by just one point. Russia twice beat Germany this weekend to continue to lead Pool C while Netherlands delivered 3-1 and 3-2 messages to the youthful Cuban side, giving ace Dutch player Richard Schuil the chance to surge ahead on the Best Scorer's table, which he now leads with 197 from Cuban star Tomŕs Aldazabal, who has 179 for second place. Aldazabal was rested for part of the match in the Cuban capital. The Dutch team meets Russia at home next weekend, but do so confident of their ticket to the finals in Brazil the following week.