Tampere, Finland, June 24, 2009 - A very experienced trio
of players will be back in the Finnish lineup when the team plays Venezuela in
World League matches on Friday and Saturday.
Mikko Esko returns as the first setter, replacing Joni
Markkula, who conducted the Finnish attack in Venezuela and in Brazil during
the first two rounds. Team captain Tuomas Sammelvuo and Olli Kunnari will also
take back their positions as universal players.
However, two important players are still missing from the
Finnish team. Experienced middle blocker Janne Heikkinen and young universal
player Urpo Sivula remain sidelined with injuries.
Many young players had the opportunity to show their
skills to head coach Mauro Berruto while the older players were away. Jesse
Mäntylä and Jari Tuominen played their first matches ever for the Finnish
National Team in Venezuela.
"We have now a lot of good players and the number is
increasing all the time," Berrutto said. "I believe that many of our
players have not reached their absolute best level, and they will develop
further. I am happy to see new young players like Jari Tuominen and Jesse
Mäntylä really fighting for places in the team."
Setter Esko agrees with his coach. "Four years ago
we had seven or eight players who could realistically take to the court. Now
the competition between the players has become really hard and that is a
positive problem for the team."
In their home matches against Venezuela, the Finns have
only one goal: to win them both. In Venezuela, the hosts won the first match
and Finland the second. A week later in Brazil the Finns took one point from
the No. 1 team in the world with a 2-3 loss.
In Tampere Ice Hall a hot fight is expected to emerged
between the two top spikers, Venezuela's Luis Diaz and Finland's Mikko Oivanen.
They have both scored 64 points in their previous four matches. Diaz is one of
the most efficient spikers in the World League and Oivanen has made a lot of
important points for his team.
Finland has also showed very good blocking in their
previous matches. Middle blockers Jukka Lehtonen and Oivanen gave even the
skillful Brazilian attackers a hard time.