Lausanne, July 16, 2008 – The sixth and final weekend of Intercontinental Round action in the 2008 FIVB World League approaches with two berths still to be decided for the Final Round in Rio de Janeiro. Host Brazil, Pool B winner Russia, Pool C winner USA and FIVB wild card Japan are all confirmed for the Finals through July 23-27. France and Serbia are battling it out for the qualifying place behind Brazil in Pool A, while Poland need to stay ahead of China in Pool D to clinch their place.
Serbia, who have a 5-5 win-loss record with 15 points host France (6-4 with 16 points) in two crunch matches on Friday, July 18, in Nis and Sunday, July 20, in Belgrade, both matches starting at 20:30 local time (18:30 GMT).
Poland (7-3 with 17 points) host Egypt on Friday, July 18, in Poznan at 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT) and Sunday, July 20, in Bydgoszcz at 15:00 local time (13:00 GMT). China (5-5 with 15 points) play away in Osaka against Japan (4-6) with matches on Saturday, July 19, at 15:00 local time (06:00 GMT) and Sunday, July 20, at 14:00 local time (05:00 GMT).
Brazil (8-2) have a great test against Venezuela (1-9) in front of what is expected to be an impressive crowd at Goiania Arena this weekend. For the Brazilian Head Coach Bernardo Rezende, it will be great preparation for the Finals: "Venezuela has powerful attack. It will be so good to us, since we will play against strong teams in the Finals.” Brazilian captain Giba said: "We showed a better adjustment in the last games against France, in the last weekend. Now we want improve our game and obviously expect win the games.” Venezuelan Head Coach Ricardo Navajas now has his eyes on the Olympic Games: "We have to improve a lot and we are on a good way to achieve the form we want for the Olympic Games. We trained two to three months and we need this month to achieve the best possible result we can.”
The expectation for connoisseurs of Volleyball that the matches between Serbia and France this weekend would decide which one of the two would go to Rio de Janeiro for the Final Round came very true. Before this last weekend, France have the advantage of a victory more than the Serbians, who, with the help of their loyal fans in Nis and Belgrade, hope for two victories this weekend to secure their eighth appearance in the World League Finals. Serbia has achieved 99 victories overall in their World League history and so are looking for their 100th win this weekend. "It is a well known fact that the type of game the French play does not agree with us completely," said Serbian blocker Novica Bjelica. "They go for long rallies and we have to be very patient. We learned that when we played against Brazil but also against France.
With Italy out of the Rio World League showdown, the team coached by Andrea Anastasi has gathered in Turin for the first match of the final series against Cuba. Even with a double defeat against Russia last weekend, the Italian team came back to home soil in good spirits looking forward to the Olympic Games. In Russia the team showed a good attitude, leading 2-1 in the second game. Although they did not have the killer instinct to close the game before the tie break, the impression Italy gave was a pretty confident one. Without Valerio Vermiglio, the second setter Dragan Travica showed good skills and a clear ability to read the game.
Russia, already qualified, face winless Korea in Khanty-Mansiysk in two matches that give the visitors the chance to get off the mark in the World League this year. Indeed, Korea pushed the Russians to five sets in both team’s first match of the event this year.
Finland played four good matches against Bulgaria, which is in fourth place in the world ranking. The Finns won two of these matches and have now possibility to go past Spain and into third place in Pool C. Spain has won three matches and Finland two. So Finland has to win both of the home matches in Tampere next weekend to take the third place. "We will concentrate totally in the matches against Spain, because we want to have a happy ending to this years' World League," said Finland Head Coach Mauro Berruto. "The level of our playing has become better and better during the World League. I think that the choices we made for this summer seem to be the right ones."
Bulgaria (6-4) host already qualified USA in Varna in the other Pool C match-up. In their previous matches in America, the U.S. won in straight sets in the first match before the Bulgarians came back to win in five sets in the second. Two losses at the hands of Finland added to that loss to USA was enough to eliminate Bulgaria from World League contention this year.
Poland called together 19 players in Poznan on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the team's matches against Egypt. The Polish staff decided to organize only one two-hour training session at the competition Hall. On Wednesday they were set to have two: one on the court and one in the gym. Coach Raul Lozano was then set to choose his 12 to play against Egypt out of the 19 available. It is likely this will be the squad for the Beijing Olympics. To appear at the Finals in Rio de Janeiro, Poland can afford losing both matches to Egypt, but only if Japan win at least one match against China.
Japan, announced Tuesday as the FIVB wild card for the World League Finals, will meet China at Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium. Japan still has a chance to improve its standing from fourth to second in Pool D if the team records two wins against China (currently ranked second). Higher than China in the world rankings (Japan 12th, China 21st), Japan should not underestimate China. When Japan met China on the first weekend in China, the teams shared the spoils after two full-set matches.
Television/Match of the Week
Bulgaria vs. USA on Saturday, July 17, at 17:30 local time (14:30 GMT) in Varna, Bulgaria, is the FIVB "Match of the Week," free-to-air for all TV broadcasters.
The fifth Match of the Week, Poland vs. Japan on Saturday, July 12, at 18:00 (20:00 local time) was broadcast by 17 TV channels including in Asia (Japan), South America (Brazil), Africa (Cameroon), the entire Middle East and throughout Europe. A total of 22 different TV channels have broadcast the first five Matches of the Week.
The Final Round is now open for press accreditation applications, with the application form available on the official FIVB website at www.fivb.org
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/