Rotterdam, The Netherlands, June 11, 2009 - Almost
thirteen years to the day after the Dutch National Team reached the highest
peak in its history, the team returns to the scene of its memorable victory
hoping history will repeat itself.
On June 30, 1996, the Netherlands won World League gold
at the Ahoy arena in Rotterdam with a victory over powerhouse Italy. On June
13th, 2009 the Orange team kicks off its 2009 World League campaign at the same
venue with a match against Olympic gold medalists the United States.
Nobody on the Dutch National Team knows the joy of
victory at the World League better than head coach Peter Blangé.
Blangé was the captain and central figure behind the
team's gold-medal winning performance in 1996.
"I remember almost every point of that final,"
said the record-setting international on the eve of the current squad's World
League showdown. "I will never forget the face of (teammate) Olof van der
Meulen after he decided the match with an impressive serve."
The 1996 World League final between the Netherlands and
Italy, the top Volleyball nation in the world at that time, was talked about
long after it ended. After many second-place finishes, the Orange team finally
claimed the highest perch on the podium at an international event.
The match took two hours and 28 minutes and was only
decided in extra time of the fifth set (15-12, 9-15, 16-14, 9-15, 22-20). Back
then there was no rally-points-system, the ball was white and the position of
libero did not exist.
During this season's World League competition, Blangé has
two liberos at his disposal and most matches will be decided in well under two
At the same location where Italy was beaten last century,
the current crop of Dutch players has another opportunity to upset the world's
strongest Volleyball nation on June 13th and 14th.
Can the Netherlands beat the United States just like
Blangé and his team did in Italy in 1996?
"Anything is possible," said Blangé. "The
overwhelming support of our fans could help us enormously."