Lausanne, June 25, 2008 – The 2008 FIVB World League, the 19th edition of the annual event showcasing the world’s best men’s players who are competing this year for more than USD 20 million in Prize Money, sees the third Intercontinental Round contested this weekend.
World No. 1 Brazil, 2006 FIVB World Championship and 2004 Olympic Games winners, play away to Venezuela and France host Serbia in Pool A, Korea travel to Cuba and eight-time World League winners Italy host Russia in a big clash in Pool B, USA welcome Finland and Spain play Bulgaria at home in Pool C, while Japan faces Poland at home and Egypt play away to China in Pool D.
France play at home again after a fair weekend against Brazil, where they beat the South American giants in five sets in front of 7,200 fans in the opening match before going down in straight sets in the second. Venezuela performed well against Serbia, too, last weekend, winning the opening match in four sets in front of 9,000 fans before dropping the second, like France in straight sets.
Both Brazil, looking for their sixth straight World League title and eighth altogether, and Serbia were seemingly stung into action last weekend and they’ll both be hoping to get off to better starts in the upcoming matches.
Russia, the only unbeaten team left in the World League, face a tricky trip to Italy. The 2002 winners and last year’s runners-up, who dismantled the Cubans last weekend over two matches in Havana in front of a combined crowd of more than 25,000, head to Florence for the first match to face an Italian side bolstered by the inclusion of Mirko Corsano. Alberto Cisolla, Alessandro Fei, Luigi Mastrangelo and Valerio Vermiglio are also back in the team.
The second match between the two in Rome on Saturday, June 28, at 16:30 (18:30 local time) is the FIVB “Match of the Week,” free-to-air for all television channels.
Cuba host Korea in the other Pool match, with the Asian outfit still to get off the mark with a win, despite pushing the Russians all the way on the opening weekend.
USA face a winless Finland after sharing the spoils against Bulgaria last weekend. U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon doesn't like to lose, but admitted that there was a positive side to losing in five sets to Bulgaria in the second match, USA’s first loss of the competition.
"We forgot the importance, in the international arena, of taking care of your side of the net," McCutcheon said. "Every year it takes something like this to remind us of what it takes to win at the international level."
Spain will meet Bulgaria in two matches to be played in Madrid and in Pinto. The Spaniards will try to avenge the two defeats suffered against the Bulgarian squad in the first leg of the competition.
Two main disturbances agitate the Spanish squad. The first concern lays on the physical condition of some of the key players. Opposite Guillermo Falasca remains injured and his participation against Bulgaria is unlikely.
Wing spiker Israel Rodriguez is recovered but not in tip-top condition, as proved last weekend with his cameo performance against Finland.
"We must not forget that we arrive here as European champions, and we will play against Bulgaria as such," said international setter Miguel Angel Falasca, who defined Bulgaria as "a very strong team, one of the best in the world."
Japan host Poland, having won only once in 16 meetings with the Europeans since 1996. The last time Japan and Poland met each other was at the FIVB World Championship in 2006, where Poland won in straight sets.
Japan's key players Takahiro Yamamoto, Yusuke Ishijima, and Yu Koshikawa, all of whom played at the recent World Olympic Qualification Tournament held in Tokyo, will return for the tie.
China host Egypt with the two teams having met each other three times since 2003, with China winning two of the three matches.
"Egypt has made great progress in the past few years, and are performing very well at present. We must pay more attention to the match and try to learn from them well to prepare for Beijing Olympic Games," 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 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 email@example.com for further information.
Besides the “Match of the Week,” Italy against Russia, another outstanding match is scheduled: Spain against Bulgaria on Sunday, June 29, at 12:30 local time will be broadcast by Eurosport International, with one semi-live broadcast plus three repeats in 55 European countries to 112 million TV homes, with up to 240 million potential viewers and in 20 languages.
Furthermore, the match will be broadcast in Poland on Polsat Sport, Bulgaria on BNT, in Russia on RTR, in the Middle East/North Africa on Al-Jazeera Sport and in East-Asia on Planeta Sport. That means, the second match between Spain and Bulgaria will be broadcast in more than 80 countries with up to around 500 million TV viewers.
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/