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India

The Indian U19 Boy's team head into their first World Championship full of confidence having won the U19 Boy's Asian Championship in April, their first major Volleyball title at any level.

It was a superb performance by this young Indian side, who beat defending champion Iran 3-1 (25-23, 30-28, 23-25,25-20) in 110 minutes.

Now the side, under coach G.E. Sridharan, a former international, and captain Rathish Nair head into the World Championships with an air of believe that they can do equally well on the world stage. A thorough preparation programme through a month long, seven hours a day, national training camp in Visakhapatnam and Bangladore is testament to our seriously they are taking their chances.

Despite the general reservation from many in Volleyball circles, Sridharan has his eyes on a medal and he told the Times of India newspaper recently that he firmly believes it is possible.

"No, it's not big talk," he said. "One considers the standards of the senior teams of the top countries like Brazil, Italy and Russia while making comparisons. The difference at U19 level is not so big and I believe we could be in contention for a medal if the boys play to their potential".

In an ominous warning for the other countries Sridharan says his side is even playing better now than during the Asian Championship, particularly in reception and in blocking at the net.

Still, India has a big assignment ahead of them with four-time champions and 2001 winners Brazil, Poland and the Czech Republic in the same pool (c).