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World League 2002 - Previews & Reviews
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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.
PREVIEW
FIVB $15 Million World League : Spain goes into Round 5 the only undefeated team
Lausanne, Switzerland, July 25 - Spain continues to waltz through the FIVB $15 Million World League the undefeated ruler of Pool B with eight clear victories. But this weekend could be crunch time when they meet archrivals Italy who have only conceded one match when they went down 0-3 to China. Spain travels to Italy next weekend for the final Intercontinental round, and in what is shaping up to be one of the most interesting encounters in the competition.
Title holders and Pool A table leaders Brazil travel to Poland, where they will be out to revenge their only defeat so far in the Intercontinental rounds. Poland not only delivered a resounding 0-3 shock to the Brazilians at home, but also tested them to a tough five setter in their other encounter. Three points separate Brazil and Poland on the table and the Poles will have the psychological advantage in an already sold out 10,000-seat Spodek Arena Katowice. Third placed Portugal travels to Argentina with a cushion of two wins in their former meeting, while Argentina will try to scrape itself off the bottom of the table and improve their dull average of 2 wins to six losses so far. China and winless Venezuela meet in what will probably be a formality to decide the minor places in Pool B. 
Russia, also with only one loss in eight matches in Pool C travels to Germany in what will be a more important tie for the Germans than the lofty and experienced Russians. Netherlands could lift its win average away to the young Cuba side, whom they beat twice in their at home encounter. The match should be highlighted by the personal clash between the competition's two top scorers Richard Schuil and Cuba's star Tomás Aldazábal.
"I am just concentrating on playing, not on whether I am the best attacker," said the lanky and highly focused Cuban, who has been suffering from knee problems. Cuba must strike hard this weekend to have a chance to stay in the competition. Germany meets Russia with the satisfaction of having delivered their only defeat, but it will still be a tough tie for them.
France should consolidate their lead in Pool D playing Greece who will be not only fighting for the victory, but to bump Balkan rivals Yugoslavia from second spot on the table. Meanwhile Yugoslavia travel to Japan for their second encounter with the Japanese team, who are yet to break their cycle of defeat.

ROUND FIVE MATCH SCHEDULE

Friday, July 26
Poland vs. Brazil (Pool A), Katowice, GMT 1700, Local 1900
France vs. Greece (Pool D), Castelnau Le Lez, GMT 1800, Local 2000
Cuba vs. Netherlands (Pool C), C. Habana, GMT 0040, Local 2040

Saturday, July 27
Spain vs. Italy (Pool B), Madrid, GMT 1000, Local 1200
Germany vs. Russia (Pool C), Dusseldorf, GMT 1200, Local 1400
Japan vs. Yugoslavia (Pool D), Osaka, GMT 0600, Local 1500
Poland vs. Brazil (Pool A), Katowice, GMT 1300, Local 1500
Argentina vs. Portugal (Pool A), Buenos Aires, GMT 2100, Local 1800
China vs. Venezuela (Pool B), Beijing, GMT 1130, Local 1930
France vs. Greece (Pool D), Castelnau Le Lez, GMT 1800, Local 2000
Cuba vs. Netherlands (Pool C), C. Habana, GMT 0040, Local 2040

Sunday, July 28
Germany vs. Russia (Pool C), Dusseldorf, GMT 0900, Local 1100
Spain vs. Italy (Pool B), Madrid, GMT 1000, Local 1200
Japan vs. Yugoslavia (Pool D), Osaka, GMT 0500, Local 1400
Argentina vs. Portugal (Pool A), Buenos Aires, GMT 2000, Local 1700
China vs. Venezuela (Pool B), Beijing, GMT 1130, Local 1930

Key matches
Spain vs. Italy (Pool B)
Poland vs. Brazil 
Germany vs. Russia 

Full roundup of weekend's matches on Sunday est. 1800GMT