Lausanne, July 6, 2008 – France, Russia, USA and Poland are sitting pretty in the best places to join Brazil in the Final Round of the 2008 FIVB World League after the fourth weekend of Intercontinental Round action in the flagship annual event in Men’s Volleyball involving the world's best players competing for more than USD 20 million Prize Money.
Russia (7-1) lead Pool B, USA (7-1) sit at the top of Pool C and Poland (5-3) are ahead in Pool D. The organizer Brazil (6-2), the winner of each pool, plus one wild card chosen by the FIVB, go through to the Final Round in Rio de Janeiro through July 23-27, 2008. If the Brazilians win Pool A, the second-place team (currently France with a 6-2 win-loss record) advances to the Final Round.
Serbia (4-5) and Brazil shared a pair of roller-coaster five-setters in Belgrade and Novi Sad in front of two huge crowds. Brazil won the opening match of the weekend in Belgrade against the Serbians 17-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-21, 15-8 in front of 9,325 fans before the Serbians came back from two sets down in Novi Sad in front of 10,730 fans at SPC Vojvodina to keep their World League Final Round hopes alive by winning 20-25, 18-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-11. The second match was the FIVB’s “Match of the Week,” the free-to-air game for all television broadcasters.
Said Serbian Head Coach Igor Kolakovic after the opening match: “Tonight, as in the first weekend we played another long and difficult match. All our anticipation that this will be a spectacular match came true, except for breaking the series’ of defeats from the best team in the world. They defended excellently and were very patient in responding to our attack having improved their service and the block in the third set. It is important now that we all forget this match and try finally in Novi Sad to reach the victory, improve the service and the reception.” Credit to Kolakovic and crew, his wish came true.
Meanwhile, France beat Venezuela (1-7) 3-1 twice over the weekend in Toulouse, winning 25-23, 25-13, 20-25, 25-18 and 25-20, 20-25, 25-20, 25-22. “Of course I’m very satisfied,” said French Head Coach Philippe Blain. “We achieved our goals of the weekend. However I saw good things and many bad ones. I guess the most consistent player this weekend was Guillaume Samica. But as Gerald (Hardy-Dessources) says, this is a good group, with a good future. Now the team needs to rest before playing the last four games versus top-level teams.”
The 2002 champions Russia beat Cuba (3-5) 3-1 twice over the weekend in their first home match of the edition, in Kazan. The Russians prevailed 25-21, 25-22, 22-25, 25-22 and 25-17, 18-25, 25-20, 25-20. “I would like to thank our opponents for good Volleyball match and a very interesting one. I am pretty satisfied with its result,” said Russian Head Coach Vladimir Alekno.
Eight-time champions Italy, looking for their first title since 2000, beat Korea, still without a win, 3-1 twice over the weekend in Trieste, winning the first match 22-25, 28-26, 25-20, 25-23 and the second 23-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-22. “We faced the game with a good attitude even if some skills did not work,” said Italian player Valerio Vermiglio “Now the important thing is to face any opponents trying to do our best.”
Said Italian Head Coach Andrea Anastasi: I am happy for what my players put in the game. I had good answers from the new players added in the team and from the ones that had a rest. (Andrea) Sala? He was great. One month far from Beijing it is not easy to make decisions. (Alberto) Cisolla had a problem but I am worried about (Luigi) Mastrangelo. Wild card? We are going to Moscow trying to clinch the success that leads us to Rio.”
Spain (3-5) and USA were involved in an epic five-setter in their first match of the weekend in Madrid, with USA coming through 25-23, 25-22, 29-31, 20-25, 18-16 in 2 hours, 25 minutes. The U.S. cruised through the second match 25-19, 25-19, 25-23. “It was a very good match, both teams played at a good level of Volleyball and it was a very close finish, “ said USA Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon after the first match. “It could have gone either way. This victory was very important for our mentality, for our confidence, as we are evolving in our preparation for Olympic Games.”
Bulgaria (5-3) looked as though they would keep the pressure on USA when they beat Finland 3-0 (28-26, 30-28, 25-19) in their first match of the weekend in Tampere, Finland. But the Finnish came back and claimed their first victory of this year’s World League with a stunning five-set win. They came back from two sets down to win 22-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-21, 17-15 in 2 hours, 18 minutes. “The second set was really bad from us, the lowest point of our World League so far,” said Finland Head Coach Mauro Berruto. “Then something changed. Olli-Pekka Ojansivu was really important for us today, not only in attack but also in service. This is our first victory and I am really happy. We have still much to do to improve our game. The atmosphere in the hall was really great today.”
Poland beat China (4-4) twice at home in Katowice, with 10,120 fans turning out both matches to see their heroes in action. Poland won 25-20, 20-25, 25-23, 25-23 and 25-22, 19-25, 25-21, 25-23. “I think that today’s match was on the level, it was much harder than yesterday,” said Poland captain Piotr Gruszka after the second match. “China played really, really well and I’m happy that, in the end, we played better. This was a very important event and we’re happy to have fulfilled our goal for this weekend of to win both matches.”
Japan (4-4) prevailed in a big five-set victory over Egypt (3-5) in Komaki (25-19, 25-22, 27-29, 24-26, 25-23) before easing to a 3-1 victory in the second match (26-24, 20-25, 25-20, 25-20).
Asian teams provide the two top scorers of the competition so far this year, with China’s Yuan Zhi leading the charts with 174 points and Korea’s Moon Sung-Min in second place with 172 points.
The World League, launched by the FIVB in 1990, is a spectacular showcase for the crème de la crème of Men's Volleyball. The total attendance for the 2007 edition was 637,000 fans with total TV coverage of 2,244 hours. The Final Round in Poland was covered by 31 different TV channels, commented on in 23 in languages, beamed to 110 countries and had a TV audience of more than 1.1 billion.
Match of the Week
The "Match of the Week," which is free for use by television channels, is available to the World League's valued Host Broadcasters and other TV channels on each weekend of Intercontinental Round action and amplifies the interest in the World League among 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.