Lausanne, Switzerland, June 2, 2010 – Defending champions and world No. 1 Brazil host Bulgaria while Olympic champions and world No. 2 USA visit world No. 3 Russia in two mouth-watering opening matches for the first round of the 21st edition of the FIVB World League, which starts on Friday.
Last year’s bronze medallists Russia play 2008 champions USA in an absolute cracker of an opening match at 12.00 GMT on Friday in Ekaterinebourg followed by the first serve of Brazil’s match against world No. 6 Bulgaria in Uberlandia 30 minutes later.
Despite going into the Pool A match against Bulgaria without a number of star players, Brazil coach Bernardo “Bernardinho” Rezende has full confidence in his young team.
"We will not have our best team for the matches in Uberlandia but that is the situation we have to live with as Bulgaria is probably the strongest rival we are going to have in the Intercontinental Round,” Bernardinho said. “They pushed Argentina close in some friendly matches and certainly have a better rhythm than us. However, even if we do not have our best players, I can assure everyone we will have an efficient team on court.”
USA, meanwhile, have a tough trip to Russia for their opening match. A young US side finished a credible sixth last year but with some Olympians back in their squad and a new captain William Priddy, who plays for Russian club Lokomotiv Novosibirsk, at the helm, the Americans will be looking for a good start with the hope of adding to their two bronze and one gold World League medal collection. However Russia coach Daniele Bagnoli has done his homework and expects his youthful side to rise to the challenge.
"I like that we have a number of young guys on the roster," Bagnoli said. "I feel good about the guys on the roster; we can put them in at any time."
In another key encounter, FIVB World League Final Round hosts Argentina travel to Havana to play Cuba, led by the inspirational 17-year-old dynamo Wilfredo Leon, in their opening Pool D match while Egypt’s return to this year’s FIVB World League will begin with a match in Tampere against Finland, a side they haven’t faced in over 60 years. The last occasion the two sides met was in 1958, and prior to that they have only met four times, all throughout the 1950’s with Finland picking up every win.
In the weekend’s other fixtures, 2009 World League runners-up Serbia play China and Italy face France in Pool B in the two other Friday matches at 18.15 and 18.30 GMT respectively, Korea host the Netherlands in Pool A and Germany, returning to the competition for the first time since 2003, open their campaign with a tough Pool D match against Poland in Stuttgart.
For live scoring, photos and all match results, reviews and press conferences from the opening weekend’s action make sure to check the FIVB’s World League page here
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