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 Press Release
Brazil, Russia, Cuba go unbeaten on opening weekend of World League

Netherlands' Rob Bontje celebrates a succesful middle attack against the U.S. on Saturday
Lausanne, June 15, 2009 - Brazil, Russia and Cuba were the only teams to pick up maximum points during the first weekend of the 2009 FIVB World League, each winning their opening two matches in convincing fashion.

The trio top their respective pools with 6 points each following the Opening Round of play at the competition, featuring 16 of the world's top men's national teams.

Pool A: The Netherlands got off to a great start by upsetting Beijing Olympic gold medalists and defending World League champions the United States in their first match played at Ahoy Rotterdam. The Dutch stunned the visiting team in straight sets (25-22, 25-19, 26-24) on Saturday, leaving coach Peter Blangé in an understandably buoyant mood. "I am very happy with the result. Our serving and blocking, normally not our strongest points, worked out fantastic," Blangé said. "I am sure that the USA will be much better in the next match, but we are ready for them."

The Americans were indeed much better in the rematch, having analyzed the Dutch tactics and prepared the necessary countermeasures. The U.S. evened the series at 1-1 with a hard-fought 3-2 win (16-25, 32-30, 17-25, 25-20, 6-15).

In other Pool A action, Italy traded straight-sets victories with China in Verona, with the hosts winning Friday's opener 3-0 (25-16, 25-12, 25-16) before succumbing to the visitors 21-25, 23-25, 32-34 a day later.

Pool B: France, South Korea, Argentina and Serbia all finished the weekend with one win and one loss. Serbia and France got things going on Friday in Nis, with the hosts losing in straight sets 0-3 (22-25, 17-25, 27-29). Serbia battled back on Sunday with a 3-1 (25-19, 25-22, 19-25, 25-23) win that took just under two hours to complete. Korea, meanwhile, opened their World League campaign off with a 3-2 (20-25, 25-22, 34-36, 25-16, 15-13) victory over Argentina in Suwon, before losing the rematch by the same score (25-21, 21-25, 25-19, 20-25, 12-15) on Sunday.

"I am very satisfied by the performance of my players," said Argentine coach Javier Weber. "Korea showed better defense compared to yesterday especially in the fourth and fifth sets, but my players did their job perfectly. That is the main reason for today's victory."

Pool C: Russia visited Japan during the first round and left with two commanding victories as souvenirs. The visitors dropped only one set in their two matches, winning 0-3 (22-25, 23-25, 16-25) on Saturday and 1-3 (22-25, 22-25, 25-22, 12-25) on Sunday. Russia coach Daniele Bagnoli had much to be pleased about after the wins, but said he was particularly impressed with the way his players responded to losing the third set in the second match. "I am very happy about the reaction of my team after we lost the third set. For me it's very, very important to see such a great reaction from my players," Bagnoli said. "This makes me optimistic for the future because I like to see the team when the play is difficult, not when the play is easy. This really is the difference between great teams and normal teams - how you resolve problems when the situation is difficult."

Cuba also went unbeaten on the weekend after two 3-1 victories over Bulgaria in Havana. The hosts won 24-26, 29-27, 25-18, 25-2 on Friday and wrapped the series up with a 25-19, 23-25, 25-21, 25-20 victory on Saturday.

Pool D: Brazil joined Cuba and Russia as the only unbeaten teams remaining in the competition after downing Poland 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 25-20, 25-19) on Saturday and 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-15) on Sunday in Sao Paulo. The competition was much closer in Caracas, where Venezuela hosted Finland. The hosts got off to an immaculate start, winning the opener on Friday in straight sets (27-25, 25-21, 25-22), but were treated to some of their own medicine on Sunday, losing 3-1 (23-25, 22-25, 25-22, 23-25) in a match that lasted just over two hours. Finland coach Mauro Berruto, who instructed his players not to pay attention to the vocal home crowd in the second match, said he was impressed with the way his team bounced back from the opening defeat. "I am happy and proud of the result," Berruto said. "We improved in reception, serving and defense. The players were in a different mood, which helped them to score important points and finally be winners."

The second round of World League play gets under way this Friday and wraps up on Sunday.

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