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Plenty at stake for Japan & Venezuela in Pool A

Tokyo, Japan, June 17, 2005 - Although Portugal and four-time champions Brazil are dominating Pool A in the 2005 World League, the head coaches of Japan and Venezuela say they still have plenty to play for this weekend.

At a press conference in Tokyo on Friday evening, Japan's Tatsuya Ueta and Venezuela's Eliseo Ramos said the World League would continue to play an important part in the overall development of their respective teams.

"We are at the halfway stage of the World League, and we are learning what we need to do to compete against the best teams in the world," Ueta told reporters at Yoyogi National Gymnasium. "Now we can look forward to the second half of the tournament and hopefully achieve some better results."
Pic: Captain Ernardo "Harry" Gomez will be Venezuela's key weapon since he plays his club Volleyball in Japan
Japan have lost all six matches so far and won only three sets. Venezuela beat them 3-1 and 3-0 when they met earlier this month in Caracas.

Venezuela's Cuban coach, Ramos, will be looking for a big improvement after his team went down twice in straight sets in Portugal last weekend.

"We suffered two painful defeats in Portugal, but we have been training well since arriving in Japan and our minds are refreshed," Ramos said. "I am sure we will play better than last weekend and that we can have two very interesting matches against Japan.

"I have been head coach for only four months, so all these games are a step toward the World Championship qualifying tournament in July and toward the 2008 Olympic Games. The World League is important because we are developing our style of play in order to achieve our goals."

Japan's task will not be made any easier because they will be without their ace setter, Daisuke Usami.

The experienced 26-year-old Usami twisted his left ankle in training on Thursday and may be out for up to two months, depending on the extent of the injury.

Taiji Yamamoto, also 26, takes over under the net. He is the only other setter on Japan's preliminary 18-man roster and plays for Japan's champion club, Toray Arrows.

Venezuela have a player who knows all about Yamamoto and the rest of the Japanese squad.

That man is team captain Ernardo Gomez, who goes by the nickname of "Harry" and plays his club Volleyball for Toyoda Gosei (Chemical) in Japan.

"His knowledge of the Japanese players will be helpful to us, but we have studied the whole team of Japan in their previous matches. I know they are going to be two even games," said coach Ramos.

Japan and Venezuela's first match of two is on Saturday at 06:00 GMT.
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