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 Press Release
It's now or never for laggards in Round 4 of World League

The Finns can fly, but will it be high enough to overcome Brazil?

Lausanne, July 1, 2009 - The fourth round of intercontinental play at the 2009 FIVB World League takes place this weekend, with the USA, France, Cuba and Brazil leading their respective groups.

Many changes in the standings took place last weekend, particularly in a tight Pool B, but one constant remained: undefeated Brazil continues to dominate after two more victories, this time over Poland.

Will there be any surprises this weekend? Tune in to find out.

In Pool A, the United States will look to hold on to their newfound lead after leapfrogging the Netherlands last weekend with two wins over last-place China. The two teams meet again this weekend, the only difference being that the games will be played in China instead of Stateside. The USA (5-1) should be extremely confident of collecting maximum points against China (1-5), not only due to their exceptional form at the tournament, but also because they now hold a 42-12 advantage over China in meetings since 1981.

The other Pool A showdown promises to be a more even affair, with the second-place Dutch traveling to third-place Italy with only three points separating the two after the Azzurri won both matches against the Dutch in Holland last weekend. The Italians (3-3) are on the ascendancy after a lackluster start to the competition, while last week's losses took the wind out of the Dutch (3-3), who opened the tournament with a shock win over defending champions the United States. One bonus for the Italians is that captain Valerio Vermiglio will rejoin the squad for the remainder of the team's Pool A matches.

In Pool B, some air finally separates the teams after France became the first team in the group to win both matches of a weekend series last week against Korea. The victories left France (4-2) on 11 points, one better than Serbia (3-3), and two up on Argentina (3-3). Last-place Korea (2-4) trails Argentina by one point.

France will once again play on home soil, this time against Serbia, in a showdown that could ultimately determine which team finishes first in the pool. The French are looking to add to their points total this weekend before jetting off to Argentina and Korea for the final two rounds. Serbia, which received a bye to the Final Six as host of the Final Round, will nevertheless be a dangerous foe, although the team has yet to meet the expectations of their home fans and media.

Both Argentina and Korea know the clock is ticking on their aspirations of reaching the next round, and will want to sweep the series to keep pace with the leaders.

Argentina's goal was to win at least one match against each of its rivals overseas, which it accomplished, and the team is in a confident mood heading into its final six Pool B matches, all at home.

In Pool C, Russia and Cuba will play in what is considered the de facto final for the group. Cuba and Russia both enjoy a sizeable lead over Bulgaria and Japan, and know two straight wins this weekend would go a long way to giving them a berth in the Final Round.

Cuba (5-1) has 15 points and leads Russia (4-2) by 3 points, although the Russians do have home-court advantage this time around. The teams split their series in Havana in June, with both matches going five sets.

Cuba has been known for its poor away form over the years, so it will be interesting to see what kind of performance they produce in Russia and later against Bulgaria. Cuba coach Orlando Samuels, however, says his new batch of players has what it takes to win on the road.

"These players have a different mentality compared to the previous generations. Last weekend in Japan we played well, which is a good sign," Samuels said. "Of course Russia is stronger. That's why I'll be satisfied if we win just one game here."

World No. 4 Bulgaria kept its dreams of reaching the Final Round alive with a split against Russia in Khabarovsk last weekend. It is expected to have a much easier time against Japan, which is still struggling to get its game together mentally, according to both coach and players.

In Pool D, the only question being asked is, "Who can stop the indomitable Brazilians?" It's been six wins in six games for Brazil, who have only dropped three sets so far. Next up for the top-ranked team in the world is Finland, who have failed to beat Brazil in 10 attempts in the World League, although the Europeans came close in their first encounter this year, pushing Brazil to five sets on June 19.

Finland coach Mauro Berrutto is under no illusion just how daunting a task his team faces, but nevertheless welcomes the challenge.

"It is always a big honor and a great challenge for us to play against Brazil, the world's No.1 team," Berrutto said. "In Brasilia we came close to realizing our dream of beating Brazil and we hope that the distance will get shorter all the time."

Poland and Venezuela, who lost both of their matches last weekend, will need to turn things around quickly if they have any chance of making it to the Final Round. Poland won both its matches against Venezuela in their first encounter in June in Venezuela.


  
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