Brazil, USA, Russia, Bulgaria, France get off to perfect starts as fans flock to start of 2008 FIVB World League
Fans pack out the stands during the weekend for Brazil-Serbia in the 2008 World League
Lausanne, June 16, 2008 - Defending champions Brazil, USA, Russia, Bulgaria and France produced excellent starts in the 2008 edition of the FIVB World League with two straight wins for all of them on the first weekend of Intercontinental Round action.
The Brazilians, chasing an eighth World League title and sixth in a row, were pushed all the way in Sao Paulo against Serbia, with both matches going to five sets before the home side prevailed in the Pool A encounters watched by 10,999 fans on both nights.
Bulgaria cruised to two comfortable victories over European champions Spain, dropping just one set in the second Pool C match in front of a combined crowd of 9,750, which included Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov.
USA similarly dropped just the one set, in their first Pool C match against Finland away in Espoo. Russia had a harder time away to Korea in Suwon, edging the first match 3-2 and the second 3-1 in Pool B.
A huge number of fans were at the Poliedro de Caracas in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, where partisan crowds of 11,500 and 7,000 watched France win 3-2 and 3-0 over Venezuela in Pool A.
There were closer affairs during the weekend as well. Egypt pulled off a huge shock to down 2006 FIVB World Championship runners-up Poland in five sets in Alexandria before the Europeans came back to win the next match in four sets in Pool D. In the same Pool, Japan edged China in five sets in Hangzhou before China returned the favour with a 3-2 victory the following night.
In the other Pool B match, Cuba downed eight-time World League winners Italy in five sets in Havana before Italy came back to win 3-1 amid a raucous atmosphere in the Cuban capital. Italy are chasing their first title since 2000. Cuba, of course, won the World League in 1998.
The second weekend of World League action through June 20-22 will see home matches for France, Venezuela, Cuba, Korea, USA, Spain, China and Egypt.
The FIVB “Match of the Week,” the free-to-air match for television channels, was Brazil’s second five-set win over Serbia on Sunday and it turned out to be a worthwhile choice. Samuel Fuchs was top scorer for the Brazilians with 23 points. In the previous night’s match, Brazil spiker Andre Nascimento and the Serbia spiker Sasa Starovic were the match's top scorers with 26 apiece.
“I think our team showed how we wanted the victory against Serbia,” said Brazil captain Gustavo Endres. “We overcame all difficulties and won the game.”
In Pool B, the Cuban fans gave Italy, especially Alessandro Fei, a rough ride at the Ciudad Deportiva Coliseum and there was a deluge of boos accompanying every Italian serve. Rolando Jurquin was Cuba’s hero on the first night with a huge ace that set up a grandstand finish in the tie-break, but the headstrong Italians, who clinched an Olympic Games berth at the recent Olympic qualifier in Tokyo, pulled the level the second night.
“I am satisfied with our results this weekend in Cuba, fighting for all the balls,” said Italian Head Coach Andrea Anastasi. “That is what I like the most of the Italian team now. I was sure we would find a strong opposition from the Cuban team.”
Korea’s Moon Sung-Min was one of the Korean players on the sort of form that rattled the Russians in Suwon. But the battle-hardened Europeans, World League winners in 2002, came back from 2-1 down in the first match and 1-0 down in the second to claim two victories, their superior height telling in the end.
In Pool C, USA made far fewer mistakes than the Finns in the two matches, with William Priddy standing out with 17 points in the second match. Bulgaria, meanwhile, celebrated resting-captain Plamen Konstantinov’s 35th birthday in style against Spain. Matey Kaziyski, as usual, was in sensational form, but it was local Varna hero Danail Milushev who had the crowd cooing with sizzling performance and a top-scoring 23 points in the second match.
In Pool D, Egypt claimed their first-ever World League victory. If that wasn’t enough, it was against the mighty Poland. Ahmed Salah was star of the historic show with a match-high 24 points. The Polish, led by Piotr Gruszka and efficient wing-spiker Marcin Wika, cruised in the second match and won by four sets.
“I want to congratulate all the Egyptian Volleyball family for this first-ever World League victory and I'm proud to be the first to achieve this,” said Egyptian Head Coach Ahmed Zakaria.
In front of more than 8,500 in Hangzhou, Japan and China shared two five-set matches. Japan’s Kunihiro Shimizu rattled home a combined 55 points over the two matches.
The 2008 FIVB World League standings after first Intercontinental Round are as follows:
Pool A: 1. Brazil, 2. France, 3. Serbia, 4. Venezuela
Pool B: 1. Russia, 2. Italy, 3. Cuba, 4. Korea
Pool C: 1. USA, 2. Bulgaria, 3. Spain, 4. Finland
Pool D: 1. Poland, 2. China, 3. Japan, 4. Egypt
The organizer (Brazil), the winner of each pool, plus one wild card chosen by the FIVB, go through to the Final Round in Rio de Janeiro from July 23-27, 2008. The Final Round is now open for press accreditation applications, with the application form available on the official FIVB website at www.fivb.org
The "Match of the Week" is available to the World League's valued Host Broadcasters and other TV channels on each weekend of Intercontinental Round action and is a successful way of introducing the World League to TV viewers. TV channels interested in finding out about broadcasting a "Match of the Week" free of charge are requested to contact the FIVB at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
For all the latest news on the 2008 FIVB World League go to the official FIVB website at http://www.fivb.org/EN/Volleyball/Competitions/WorldLeague/2008/