World League 2004 Press & News Final Round (16-18 July)  
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Golden performance from Brazil claims third title in four years  Spanish German
Rome, Italy, July 18, 2004 – Brazil defended their World League title with an amazing display of vintage Volleyball to storm to a 3-1 (27-25, 25-19, 25-27, 25-17) victory in a wonderful final over courageous Italy in the Palalottomatica in Rome, Italy.

In front of 11,000 screaming fans Brazil pulled out all their magic tricks led by their magician Giba in a riveting display of top class Volleyball. Spiking, blocking or digging Brazil were too efficient for Italy and they thoroughly deserved to win their fourth World League gold medal and their third in four years in a magnificent scene of blue, green and yellow.

Italy, who have won eight World League titles – the last in 2000 – made it a wonderful contest, with Samuele Papi at his sparkling best. They were unlucky not to win the first set and fought extremely hard in the third. However, Brazil’s class was evident regularly and in the end they wrapped up their fifth international title in two years comfortably.

“I’m very happy because some of our young players did their best and played well,” Brazilian coach Bernardo Rezende said. “This is a great win for us and we’re happy to win like this because we managed to spike very well, even if the start was nervous. Now we have a new target in the Olympic Games next month.”

“We reached another important target against Italy playing in front of their home crowd,” Brazilian captain Giovane said. “Maybe this is the first sign of what can happen at the Olympics. We would love to keep playing great matches like this today. From tomorrow we start thinking about Athens”

The Brazilians will definitely be the favourites at the Olympics having collected the 2002 World Championship title, the last two World League titles and the 2003 World Cup.

“Brazil showed they are a strong team, they are a highly skilled team and mentally strong and that is our target if we want to beat them,” Italian captain Andre Giani said. “This match was very important for us because in our plan was to play at the same level, and we did.”

Earlier, Serbia and Montenegro claimed the bronze medal with a hard fought straight sets (25-23, 25-19, 25-20) win over their Balkan neighbours Bulgaria.

The silver medalists from last year weren’t quite at their efficient best but in the end the Olympic champions proved too experienced and well-organized for Bulgaria to claim their third medal from seven attempts.

2004 World League awards

Best Scorer: Andrea Sartoretti (Italy)
Best Spiker: Samuele Papi (Italy)
Best Blocker: Luigi Mastrangelo (Italy)
Best Server: Matey Kaziyski (Bulgaria)
What the coaches say
Rome, Italy, June 15, 2004 – The climax of the 2004 World League begins on Friday with the Final Round in Rome, Italy.

After six weeks of Intercontinental Round action defending champions Brazil, Olympic champions Serbia and Montenegro and European champions Italy are joined by Bulgaria in a fascinating showdown of four teams over three days.

First match starts at 18:30 in the beautiful Palalottomatica Hall with hosts Italy taking on Serbia and Montenegro. Brazil play Bulgaria in the following match at 21:00.

Here’s what the coaches said on the evening of the opening day on Thursday.

Brazilian head coach Bernardo Rezende

“Our progress towards the Final Round of the 2004 World League was not too difficult because, although the teams in our pool were good they were not very motivated. After not qualifying for the Olympics both Spain and Portugal were hurt. Greece are a good team but they came to Brazil in their last match with only half their team. We don’t know where we are at because we haven’t been tested. These will the first big tests of the year and hopefully we can put in some good performances and prepare well for the Olympics.”

Bulgaria head coach Brunko Gavrilov

“Since we had France, Poland and Japan in our pool, some might think it is a surprise that we made it to the 2004 World League Final Round but our players were great and we had a lot of motivation and that is why we are here. We decided to target the final four in Rome and we are proud that we are here. We have got the world, European and Olympic champions so it is going to be a top tournament. Although qualifying for the World League Final Round was a great achievement hopefully we can play better on the weekend.”

Italy head coach Gian Paolo Montali
“We began to play the World League with a first group of players who played very well but then decided to put in a second group of players in the second part. The Intercontinental Round was tough for us due to the fact we changed players. Changing players during the tournament was enough to beat Cuba but it wasn’t enough when playing strong teams like Serbia and Montenegro so we know exactly the choices we have done before in preparation for the season. We have a big assignment ahead of us in the final because Serbia and Montenegro and Brazil are the two top teams this summer and we have Bulgaria who is not a surprise because in this World League and the World League of last year they demonstrated a high level of Volleyball. We will play thinking of nothing else but being focused on each match.”

Serbia and Montenegro head coach Ljubomir Travica

“In this World League we tested players in preparation for the Olympics so in the very first part of the World League we played with sometimes 30 players. So you have seen different games we have played with different teams. We knew even if we were second we could go to Rome, but even in training I’m very happy we have arrived here in good shape even if I made changes to the team. We are proud of how we have performed so far this season and we have improved in our mentality and preparation for matches. Weekend after weekend we improved our shape. In the last match we were very motivated and played a very good match. The difference between our team and others are only little things so this weekend will be close.”