Lausanne, June 19, 2008 - The second Intercontinental Round in the 2008 FIVB World League starts Friday, with some of the big guns in Volleyball on their travels this weekend as competition heats up in the annual showcase for the world's finest Volleyball players competing for more than USD 20 million in Prize Money.
World No. 1 Brazil, 2006 FIVB World Championship and 2004 Olympic Games winners, are being hosted by France in their Pool A match, while the mighty Serbia travel to Venezuela in the other match of the group. Russia head to Cuba and Italy to Korea in Pool B, while Bulgaria are in the USA in Pool C. The other match in that Pool sees Spain host Finland. In Pool D, 2006 World Championship runners-up Poland are in China, while Japan, recently qualified for the Beijing Games, are playing fellow Olympic qualifiers Egypt.
In Pool A, Paris is definitely the city of Volleyball this week. In addition to the SWATCH FIVB World Tour event taking place on the Champ de Mars right under the Eiffel Tower, Bercy Sports Hall will welcome two fantastic World League matches as France entertain eight-time World League title winners Brazil. Last year, France welcomed Italy to Bercy with spectacular success as 10,000 spectators attended each game of the weekend. After winning their first two games abroad versus Venezuela, Philippe Blain's team is first in the Pool, thanks to a better-set average than Brazil, who won their two first games in Sao Paulo in five sets versus Serbia.
After two defeats in their respective series against France and Brazil, Venezuela and Serbia will try this weekend to claim their first victories in this year's World League on Saturday at 17:30 and Sunday at 14:30 in El Poliedro de Caracas, Caracas. The young and strong Serbia Team scheduled its arrival in Caracas on Wednesday in the morning hours. At 18:30 the same day the first training took place in El Poliedro, which was visited last weekend by 18, 500 spectators for Venezuela's opening two matches.
In Pool B, Cuba have announced three changes in the 12-man team to face Russia at Havana's Ciudad Deportiva Hall Friday and Saturday. Fourteen-year-old Wilfredo Leon, 2.01 cm, will replace Cuba's second libero Gustavo Alvarez, who is also making his debut at the annual event. Setter Raydel Hierrezuelo, who played his first World League in 2007, will take the place of setter Lian Sem Estrada, one of the Cuban squad's six debutants this year.
Darien Ferrer, a 24-year old central spiker who played his first World League in 2003, will replace another blocker, Osmany Camejo, who made the 18-member team in 2005 and 2006. "I want all our guys to play. They lack games, competition," commented Cuban Head Coach Orlando Samuels after a training session.
In Pool C, the U.S. Men's National Volleyball Team, ranked No. 3 in the world, plays its first domestic matches of the 2008 World League this Friday and Saturday when it will face No. 4 Bulgaria at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The U.S. Men are coming off a two-match sweep of host Finland on June 13-14. U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon was pleased with his team's efforts in Espoo. "I thought it was a good start to the tournament," McCutcheon said. "Most importantly, I thought we played a lot better the second night than the first. That's really all we're looking for at this stage." Bulgaria is coming off a two-match sweep of visiting Spain in its first two matches.
Spain and Finland clash after a disappointing start for both teams. The Spanish city of Valladolid will hold the two games on Saturday at 19:30 and Sunday at 12:30, which will be FIVB's "Match of the Week," free to air for television channels. Spain lost against Bulgaria 3-0 and 3-1, and Finland could not beat USA on home ground last week. Finland will play the current European champions with a renewed line-up. Four starting players from last season will not compete in Valladolid: spikers Tuomas Sammelvuo and Olli Kunnari, middleblocker Janne Heikkinen and libero Tapio Kangasniemi, with Head Coach Mauro Berruto opting for a youthful side. Spain also has young players. "Our young players must use this opportunity; I'd like to see more conviction in them, because I think they need to prove themselves against the best teams in the world," said Spain Head Coach Marcelo Mendez.
In Pool D, China lost their two home games in the 2007 World League against Poland and the Chinese are out to beat their opponents at home this time after sharing the spoils against Japan last weekend. "Poland is one of the best teams in the world traditionally. They show their advantages in powerful attacks. The best and also the only way to conquer them is by fast attack. We still have chance to win the game if our team members can keep a proper mind and insist on a fast-attack strategy," said China's Head coach Zhou Jianan.
Egypt will meet Japan 20 and 21 June at Mubarak Hall in Alexandria, Egypt. Egypt started their World League campaign with a victory over Poland in an epic five-set match, before Poland took revenge to win the second match 3-1. Egypt Head Coach Ahmed Zakaria is eager to continue the success of the first weekend, with Egypt's win over Poland in their first match being their first-ever World League victory. "We want more support from our energetic spectators who have usually played a great role in our historic victories in the last few years," said Zakaria.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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/