Lausanne, June 12, 2008 - The 2008 edition of the FIVB World League, the annual showcase for the world’s finest Men's Volleyball players who compete for more than USD 20 million in Prize Money, starts this weekend with some mouth-watering clashes ahead.
World No. 1 Brazil play the mighty Serbia in Sao Paulo in Pool A in the first of six FIVB “Match of the Weeks,” while in Pool D China host Asian rivals Japan in Hangzhou, the host city changing from Chengdu after the devastating earthquake in May that hit the region.
Venezuela host France in Caracas in Pool A, while Cuba play in Havana against Italy and Korea face Russia at home in Suwon in Pool B. In Pool C, Finland welcome USA to Espoo and Spain travel to Varna to play Bulgaria. Egypt, meanwhile, are at home to Poland in Alexandria. All teams will play two matches between June 13 and 15.
Brazil, winner of the last five editions of the World League and looking for their eight title, begin in front of their fans this Saturday, June 14, at 10 a.m. local time. "Serbia comes from east of Europe, so has a physically strong based play," said Brazilian Head Coach Bernardo Rezende. "But, to the contrary of the other teams of the zone, has a squad with many skilled players, besides (being) tall. Serbia received the Yugoslavia’s Volleyball tradition and retains with it an excellent game."
Serbian Head Coach Igor Kolakovic wants to leave Sao Paulo after a good showing from the team which finished ninth in the competition last year. "Brazil is a more than inspiring rival. We are the first team to play with them," said Kolakovic. “In sense of the result, we would love to have two victories in Sao Paulo, but moreover to play spectacular and beautiful Volleyball.”
In Varna, Bulgaria, Martin Stoev, Head Coach of Bulgaria, has declared his ambition to give a chance to any new player who is pushing for a future in the National Team, ahead of their tie against European Champions Spain. Bulgaria, who will heading to the Beijing Olympics in August, host Spain on Saturday and Sunday, with both matches starting at 17:30 local time. "Youngsters have the chance to stand side by side with our improved players and to learn from them," said Stoev. "But they also have the opportunity to burn on the court and to prove themselves." The Head Coach has plans to rest a few of the main Bulgarian players. Captain Plamen Konstantinov, top spiker Vladimir Nikolov and veteran Evgeni Ivanov will be in the crowd. Superstar Matey Kaziyski, who has led Trento to the top in the Italian Championship, will be playing, though.
The Spanish make their World League return after a three-year hiatus. "We are very excited about playing again the World League," said Enrique De la Fuente. "For us it is definitively a step forward, after three years taking part in European League. FIVB's World League is the best international competition, the best players are there, and for us it is an honour to be one of the participating teams." However, all is not well in the Spain camp, with two significant absences in opposite Guillermo Falasca and wing spiker Israel Rodriguez, both injured. Falasca has a strained shoulder and Rodriguez problems with his knee.
In Espoo, Finland, the home team, who produced a big surprise in the World League in 2007 with a seventh-place finish, face a “mini Olympics” according to Head Coach Mauro Berruto. "This year we have the World League again as our main goal," said Italian Berruto. "We will face three teams from the top of the world: USA, Bulgaria and Spain. Our pool is like a mini Olympics. USA and Bulgaria will play in Beijing and Spain is the current European Champion. This is the hardest pool we have ever played in the World League. This will give us a great opportunity to develop our team again better and better."
The U.S. Men won the World League bronze medal in 2007, but U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon said repeating or improving on that performance would not be easy. "We are excited to get started with the World League competition," said New Zealander McCutcheon. “Like all the teams, I'm sure, we wish we had more time to train. Finland is a good team. We expect it to be a difficult weekend."
In Suwon, South Korea, the home team has made changes to the side that just missed out on a place in Beijing at the recent Olympic qualifiers in Tokyo. Korea have decided to replace players such as Who In-Jung, Suck Jin-Wook and Shin Sun-Ho with powerful youngsters Kim Yo-Han, Park June-Bum and Ko Hee-Jin.
In Hangzhou, China, the hosts will start their 2008 FIVB World League campaign in Hangzhou Dragon Stadium against old foes Japan. These two teams have met each other many times during the past few years, but this will be first meeting in the World League since 2000. "We have done everything very well to prepare for these two matches, and all of my team members are full of confidence to win the game," said China Head Coach Zhou Jianan.
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 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 email@example.com for further information.
In other World League news, the Final Round, to be played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, through July 23-27 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/