Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 10, 2009 - Olympic silver medalists Brazil and Poland are ready for their debut in the 20th edition of the World League, which gets under way this Saturday (June 13th) at Ibirapuera Gymnasium, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The teams will face each other at 10 a.m. local time for the first match of the opening weekend of the competition. The teams face each other again in the second match on Sunday.
The most important previous duel between the teams was the gold medal match of the 2006 World Championship in Japan. The South Americans prevailed 3-0.
Brazil and Poland both took part in the two most important competitions of last season. At the Beijing Olympic Games, Brazil took silver while Poland finished fifth. In the FIVB World League, both teams advanced to the Final Round, played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The host team finished fourth while the Europeans placed fifth.
Both teams have changed drastically since last season. Brazil has only five remaining players from Beijing: setter Bruno, wing-spikers Giba and Murilo, middle-blocker Rodrigao and libero Sergio.
New additions such as wing-spikers Leo Mineiro and Joao Paulo Bravo, and middle-blocker Thiago Barth are strong candidates to be in the team for the next Olympic Cycle.
Brazilian head coach Bernardo Rezende has the tough mission of rebuilding a team in the shadows of one of the strongest teams ever, which won two Olympic medals (a gold and a silver), two World Championships, two World Cups and six World League titles.
"The most important aspect of that team was its spirit, its posture," Bernardo said. "It made the difference in all the competitions they played. And fortunately I can see it in this group too. But it does not mean they will win all the tournaments as the previous team did.
"I would not consider it improbable; I would say it is impossible. This team needs time because it was born with a heavy weight."
Poland has only six players remaining from the Olympic Games, but only three of them will be in the matches in Brazil: Pawel Woicki (setter), Marcin Mozdzonek (middle-blocker) and Krzysztof Ignaczak (libero).
The biggest change, however, was in the coaching staff, as Argentinean Daniel Castellani has replaced compatriot Raul Lozano as head coach.
One of the most experienced players of the new Polish Team, middle-blocker Wojciech Grzyb, 28, has asked for patience in the first matches of the tournament.
"This year's FIVB World League will be full of emotion for us. We want to advance to the Final Round, but we know that it will not be easy. We have a young squad, which for sure will do whatever is possible. The difficulties are clear to us, but that just motivates the team to work hard and achieve our goals," Grzyb said.
Bernardo expects no easy ride against the Polish, either.
"Poland is a team steeped in the tradition of international Volleyball, as they have won all the major competitions. They have tall middle-blockers and a skilled team. Some of the main players are out of their World League squad and I do not know how they will be replaced," Bernardo said.