FIVB - Volleyball World League

World league blog

 

Andrea Zorzi (ITA) - The start of an era

Lausanne, Switzerland, July 23, 2013 - As the excitement of the World League Finals winds down, Andrea Zorzi takes a look back at the action and why he believes that we are now looking at the 'start of an era'

"Many times when Russia won the World League we thought a new era had begun but then other teams beat them. After the Olympics, Russia confirmed their supremacy. Usually Brazil was the dominant team in international competition but now Russia seems to be in control. It is ominous for other teams if Russia are able to do this with the change of players which they had. If they find consistency in realising their potential they can dominate men’s volleyball.

"Bernardinho said after the final that Russia is like a player factory and I agree with him especially considering they also won the Boys’ U19 World Championship earlier this month. They proved that they can change eight players and the coach and still maintain a high level of performance. This comes more from having technically good players rather than an overall strategy. Russia relies more on physical and technical skill but it was still impressive that they managed to gel so quickly together and play so well as a team.

"The pace of Russia’s attack and the relationship between Grankin and Pavlov were outstanding and were the major difference. Pavlov in particular was mightily impressive. As an opposite, he’s not so big and tall as many opposites are so he has to exploit what skills he has and he was quick and agile, beating the block more with pace and guile, rather than brute strength. Historically the setter was the one major weakness for Russia but in recent years with Butko and Grankin, they have one of the best in the world and he played a superb final.

"I was also impressed with libero Artem Ermakov, who did a great job in passing, and Muserskiy. At 2.18m he is the tallest ever volleyball player. I was really impressed with his coordination considering his size. The only time you can see he is so tall is when he is walking. When he plays, he is extremely agile for such a big man. After his Olympic Games performance he now has a lot more confidence, it was evident during World League Finals week. There was no need to change positions like he did in the Olympic final. After the experience of a year ago, he now feels he can be one of the leaders in the Russian team.

"The only blip during the World League Finals for Russia was the loss to Canada. I can only put this down to switching off. Against a team like Canada you have to be focused and motivated. Russia knew after the first two sets that they stood a good chance of progressing so they relaxed, which was a big mistake. From my experience, when it comes to focus, you only have an on-off switch. You don’t have a dial where you can adjust it to different levels. The problem for Russia was that they relaxed a bit so when you are turned off sometimes you can’t find the way back to playing well again.

"After their stunning performance to win their third World League title, of course Russia are favourites for the European Championships but it won’t be easy for them. The other countries – including Italy and Bulgaria – will have a month now to prepare. The skill level during the World League and the final was not so high compared to the Olympics and previous World Leagues and this can be put down to the fact that it is the start of a new Olympic cycle and there are many new combinations within the teams so Russia will have to keep improving if they want be European champions. Remember Serbia are the current European champions after beating Russia in the semifinals in 2011 while we can’t forget about the likes of Poland and France.

"During the Finals we saw some wonderful rallies and action but what was surprising was the inconsistency which is more associated with the women’s game rather than the men’s.

"I said at the start of the Finals that Brazil wouldn’t lose to Russia because of the impressive way they played during the Intercontinental Round. However, last week they didn’t play well technically. Normally they can recover and win matches with rhythm. They were definitely playing with rhythm in the final, they kept working and striving to the end but Russia were simply too good.

"Brazil are also working with a new group of players, who are trying to avoid any comparison with the past. They weren’t lucky with the injuries to Vissotto, Dante and Eder and the other issue is the fact that they have two groups of players. Bruno, Dante and Lucas are examples of the more experienced members and the newer members of the squad who need to improve a lot. One of the key goals for Bernardinho is to find the best way to combine the two.

"It was a pity Italy didn’t take advantage of the opportunity I thought they had in the semifinal against Russia. Their performance though in the bronze medal match was impressive, especially for the youngster Vettori. To start the match in Savani’s position of wing spiker, a role he is not so accustomed to before moving to opposite and still register a Finals-high 29 points was brilliant. And hats off must go to Zaytsev. He took one for the team against Bulgaria, moving back to his old position of wing spiker to accommodate Vettori and this type of team spirit bodes well for the future of Italian volleyball. I think more success is ahead with this young and exciting squad. 

"For Argentina I’m afraid there is not a lot to say but it’s the opposite for Canada. Their best ever World League result will be very important in their development process. I don’t think they can reach a very high level even if they are well organised, respecting the strategy but probably missing just a bit more competitive spirit. The culture needs to be developed also as volleyball isn’t part of their childhoods as much as the traditional volleyball countries.

"For Bulgaria, they are the best ever team not to win a World League medal. They did a great job in the Intercontinental Round and they have great quality, they just need to exploit it better. They definitely missed Sokolov who was feeling the pressure of being their main attacking weapon."

Andrea Zorzi is a former Italian volleyball star who won two FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship crowns in 1990 and 1994 as well as three World League titles from 1990-1992 where he also won the Most Valuable Player award at both the 1990 and 1991 editions. He was also a silver medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and won the 1989 European Championship in a career which spanned 325 matches. After retiring in 1998, he collaborated with a number of important Italian TV networks as well as international newspapers as a journalist.

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Andrea Zorzi (ITA) - “This time Brazil won’t lose”

Mar del Plata, Argentina, July 17, 2013 – With less than 24 hours before the start of the FIVB Volleyball World League Finals 2013, volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi runs through the contenders for the premier annual volleyball trophy for men.


“The opening match between Brazil and Russia is set to be brilliant. This is not the first time the two countries have met and no doubt Brazil will be working hard to ensure that they do not have a repeat of the 2012 Olympic Games final in London.   

“But this time Brazil won’t lose. If anything, their loss to Russia in London last year seems to have spurred them on and they are now on a mission for gold at the World League and in Rio in 2016.

“For this week, the odds are stacked in Brazil’s favour. Russia’s Muserskiy may have turned around the Olympic final for his country but he doesn’t have the same influence this time around especially as there have been many changes to the Russian team.

“Nevertheless, the Olympic champions still have enough class to cope well with the challenge. Russia currently has a lot of players, who are not well known, but who are technically and physically very good.  They are like a machine and the inexperienced players can rely on the depth of play from some of the more experienced players on the team.

“With regards to the other finalists, I am pleased to say that it’s a new era for Italy who have made their way back to the top after many years. A bronze medal in London was a great achievement. They have some good players and are playing a good game with a better attitude. However, there is room for improvement and the team needs to work on their consistency and strengthen their mental prowess.

“Brazil has been the leader in this sport for the past 15 years because in training all 12 players and their coach are focused on the job at hand. This is the secret of winning and the Italian team need to concentrate. I hope their loss to Iran during the intercontinental round will help the Italian team to regroup and find the motivation they need to take them far in the World League Finals.

“Bulgaria surprised me last year and again this year. They have earned their place in the Finals and coach Placi is going a great job. However, they still have a long way to go and I hope that by learning from experiences in the World League so far that they will be encouraged to get better.

“Argentina is currently missing some important players like Facundo Conte and for this reason I am not sure if they will be very competitive in the Finals.

“Canada’s qualification for the Finals was a big surprise for the volleyball community and also for them and no doubt a disappointment for the Netherlands who were leading the pool until recently.  

“I like the way Glen Hoag coaches the Canadian team and his players have produced some good volleyball. He knows how to exploit their potential to the maximum and has shown his ability to coach well in France.  Canada produced some top class players during the 80s like Stelio DeRocco and John Barrett (one of the first jump servers in the game) and it is good to see the country making a comeback.

“I had the opportunity to watch the Intercontinental Round action closely and have to say that Iran played superbly. It is a pleasure to see my former coach Julio Velasco doing so well. His assistant Manuel Cicchello is from Mar del Plata and together they have been able to build an excellent rapport with the players.

“The Iranian players have a clear idea of how they have to play, have a great attitude and fight for each point until the very end - qualities that Velasco instilled in the Italian team all those years ago.  Time will tell if Iran can show the same level of skill over the long term.

“This year is the first of a new Olympic cycle and as many coaches have decided to introduce younger players to their teams, the level of play is not so high. The difference between the teams that got the good results and those that did not is focus. That is why Iran and Canada did so well this year.

“Indeed a strong team needs to show consistency and for this to happen every rally must be important. As defending champions, Poland started with too much confidence, losing their first four matches and consequently did not have time to recover. They had a slim chance of getting into the Finals in their last two games against Bulgaria but failed to go for every single set. It was a disappointing finish to their World League run but they have the unconditional backing of the Polish fans who are willing them to go far in the European Championships.

 “All will be revealed in a few hours and I know that whatever happens, we will be in for a treat.”

Andrea Zorzi is a former Italian volleyball star who won two FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship crowns in 1990 and 1994 as well as three World League titles from 1990-1992 where he also won the Most Valuable Player award at both the 1990 and 1991 editions. He was also a silver medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and won the 1989 European Championship in a career which spanned 325 matches. After retiring in 1998, he collaborated with a number of important Italian TV networks as well as international newspapers as a journalist.

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Nikola Grbic (SRB) - "Serbia will play even better in the coming weeks"

Lausanne, Switzerland, June 20, 2013  – As we head into another World League weekend, one of Serbia’s former star players, Nikola Grbic, talks to FIVB.org about his country’s performance in the tournament so far and how he thinks they will fare in the weeks to come.

“Serbia has had an interesting few weeks in this year’s World League, winning two matches against Cuba and then losing to Russia the following week. And as Serbia prepares for the next set of Pool B matches against Iran this coming weekend, it is good to take stock of the situation. 

“Serbia’s World League bid started strongly this year with two wins against Cuba. They were not easy to obtain and the team had to fight hard for each point against Cuba’s younger and less experienced team, even losing one set to them in the second match. 

“The matches against Russia were completely different in nature. They are a difficult team to face in any situation and the travelling and consequent jet lag did not work in Serbia’s favour. Admittedly, the team suffered its worst defeat over the last two years as they were unable to keep up with the Russian side that played a strong game with their superior attacks.

“Defeat is always hard but it is important to learn from them and move on. And I believe that under the leadership of coach Igor Kolakovic, the Serbian team is able to do this effectively. The players must also focus on the positive and realise that they have done well gaining seven points from matches.

“I know that the Serbian team will play even better in the coming weeks. As a team they have a great deal of potential, which they showed when taking the European Championship title in 2011. Getting in more playing time will also definitely improve their game.

“Furthermore each match serves as an important team building exercise and as players spend more time together, it will help to ensure that they play more closely as a team.

“Also the last three weeks of matches against Italy and Germany will be played on home ground. It always helps to boost the players’ morale when the home crowd is cheering them on. More practically this will mean less travel and the chance to get in more practice time before their matches.

“The changes to the structure and formula of the World League this year have helped to bring more teams into the tournament than before. And while this helps to increase the spread and reach of our sport around the world, it does seem that some teams are at an advantage having to play more difficult opponents at home and not away. Nevertheless the current formula of playing the same opponent twice helps to build some excitement for the sport among fans in the host country.

“I know that Serbia will do us proud and I look forward to seeing what they can do this weekend.”

Nikola Grbic is one of Serbia's most famous former players. Brother of another Serbia legend Vladimir, Nikola won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and a bronze medal in 1996 at Atlanta. His international honours include silver and bronze medals respectively in the 1998 and 2010 FIVB Men's World Championship, as well as gold at the 2001 European Championships.

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Gustavo Endres (BRA) - "Brazil on track to win World League title"


Lausanne, Switzerland, June 12, 2013 - The second weekend of the 2013 World League action saw Brazil take its first two wins against current title holder, Poland.  Gustavo Endres, a former player  on the Brazil national team provided his views on where he thinks  his country will be going in this year’s edition of the World League.


“It was a pleasure to watch the Brazilian team perform this past weekend and to see them take victory in both their matches against Poland. Although the volleyball action was intense Brazil managed to end Poland’s seven-match World League winning streak and after seeing the team in action, I think we are on track to win the World League title this year.

“The Brazil team is stronger than ever under Bruno Rezende’s leadership, and with Lucão at his best and Vissotto’s experience in Russia we have a good chance of making this happen. And with Eder, finally getting his big chance to show everyone what he can do as well as the young and dynamic Lucarelli and Isac on the team, we have nothing to worry about.

“Looking further ahead, I believe that Poland and Brazil are the two teams to look out for in the new Olympic cycle. Both sides are strong although they couldn’t be any more different in how they are set up.

“Brazil is creating a new generation of players, and we now have a team comprising more experienced players like Dante and Murilo (who is not playing with the national team this year because he is recovering from a shoulder surgery) and young players like Lucarelli and Isac who have just arrived. This mix has helped to create a well balanced team. Poland on the other hand has kept the same base of players over the past few years with Kurek standing out as a key player.

“Nevertheless with this year’s World League format, which has seen an expansion in the number of participating teams, there is now an opportunity for new teams to participate and who knows, even arrive at the finals. The level of competition is rising, which only helps to improve our sport and this is a very good thing.

“We all know that to win, we need to play together as team. Volleyball is a group sport and every one depends on the other to do his best. This weekend’s volleyball action has shown that if a player stands out, he is not doing it alone - not in this sport.”

Gustavo Endres retired from the Brazilian national team squad after the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. He had an illustrious career with the national team, which included six World League titles (2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007), two World Cup gold medals (2003, 2007), two World Championship titles (2002 and 2006) and one Olympic gold medal (2004). He also won two gold medals at the Pan American Games in 2007 and 2011 and the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup title in 2005. Until 2008, he played as middle-blocker/hitter for the Italian club Sisley Treviso, winning the 2005–06 CEV Champions League. He was also awarded "Best Blocker" and "Best Server" that year. Since then he has played for various Italian and Brazilian clubs and recently announced that he will continue playing with Brazilian club CANOAS for this year.


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Tom Hoff (USA) - “If there’s anyone who can do it, it’s John Speraw”


Lausanne, Switzerland, June 7, 2013 - John Speraw was recently appointed coach of the US men’s national team. Former US volleyball player, Tom Hoff takes a look at what this means for the team as they head into their first Pool A match today and in the run up to the Olympic Games in 2016.


“In March this year, USA Volleyball appointed John Speraw as coach of the US Men’s national team following Alan Knipe’s departure after the London 2012 Olympic Games. It’s shaping up to be a busy four years for the new recruit who will also continue to coach the UCLA’s volleyball team in the run up to the Olympic Games in 2016.

“There isn’t anyone else out there who’s better prepared to take on this dual coaching role. John’s a terrific choice for the national team and USA Volleyball is fortunate to have him at the helm. If I was a young player and I knew he was hired I would be excited to have him be leading the team.

“I know that many are wondering how he will be able to juggle two extremely challenging roles. After all, collegiate and international volleyball are drastically different as is the preparation for the two. But if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s John Speraw. The plus point is that the collegiate and international seasons don’t coincide so when one is at its height, the other is lulling down.

“Also John has had skilled predecessors in Hugh McCutcheon and Alan Knipe who have ensured that he has a solid foundation in coaching methodology embedded in the team’s DNA.  John also has the benefit of learning from Hugh’s and Alan’s good and not-so-good experiences.  So all that’s left for him to do is to take this opportunity and mould it into his own.

“To excel at the international game it is necessary for a player to truly envelope himself in the volleyball world. And I believe coaching is no different. Here in the US we function in a bit of vacuum due to the great geographical distances to Europe and South America for example. In these places there is a high concentration of world class volleyball players, teams, coaches, trainers who compete to refine their volleyball IQ. European teams in particular have a different approach to training, which allows them to continually refine and validate the success on their “team system” for winning.  This seems to be a critical component to understand as John plans for the ultimate prize in 2016. 

“It’s now up to John to choose the people who will work with him for the next four years. He knows that the success of the US Men’s national team will depend on the strength of the players as well as the group of coaches and assistants that will help in his pursuit for gold in 2016.  

“John would most likely need to assemble a diverse collection of people to help him on a multitude of fronts in being the head coach of the USA Volleyball Men’s team. They would include video/statistical analysis folks, several assistants who excel at building and implementing daily practice routines, assistants who are more focused on scouting other teams, as well as strength and conditioning specialists (at a minimum). 

“The people working with the team must be willing to dedicate a significant amount of time and energy along with being truly passionate for the difficult journey that is ahead. It’s going to be an incredible work load and if they are not ready to live and breathe volleyball, there’s no point in talking to John. By ensuring a mix of skills and knowledge, the national team’s new coach will have enough information at his disposal to ensure that he is consistently moving in the right direction.

“Importantly, John knows that he has a world-class collection of mentors to lean upon in the form of Doug Beal, Carl McGown and Marv Dunphy who have truly excelled at their craft and always willing to help out. 

“It’s also now up to the players to step up and go to work to show their coach the pieces he has to work with over the next four years. John will most likely be dealing with the delicate art of balancing workloads and commitments from “veteran” players coming in from overseas. As an incoming coach you want to establish a commitment and accountability level across the board, from first year players as well as returning Olympians.  It will not be an easy task but with his track record of success, high volleyball IQ, and astute manner in working with players/coaches, he is well positioned for success looking forward to 2016. 

“Look, this is a monumental undertaking John is embarking on, that is full of numerous risks and unforeseen challenges, but I think if you ask anyone from our 2008 team, the end goal is completely worth it.” 

Tom Hoff was captain of the USA team that won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and also helped his side clinch the 2008 FIVB Volleyball World League title as well as silver at the 2005 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup. He has competed on the last three Olympic teams and more recently he was part of the USA coaching staff at the 2010 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Italy. He is currently retired from Volleyball and working for Predixion Software in addition to enjoying his post-volleyball time with his five daughters in Laguna Niguel, CA.


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Andrea Zorzi (ITA) - Teams must "give their all at every opportunity"

Lausanne, Switzerland, June 6, 2013 - As teams gear up for week two of the 2013 World League, Italian volleyball star, Andrea Zorzi tells us what we can expect from Serbia, Poland, Italy and France as they make their debut this weekend.

“Prior to the start of each World League season, players work hard to ensure that they are on top form, physically. And as is the case, most national teams place a great deal of emphasis on physical fitness and in finding players who can jump higher and spike more strongly. But it is also important in today’s game of volleyball to pay attention to the technical and tactical details of the game.

"With this in mind, and after recently watching their tune-up matches for the World League, I would like to share my perspective on the following four teams – Poland, Serbia, Italy and France.

"Although Poland has a good chance of retaining its gold medal spot again this year, they need to take care to focus on the finer details of their game. While strength is important, any team wanting to win the World League needs to concentrate on speed and the ability to think fast and tactically. Technically speaking, I am curious to see how setter Lukasz Zygadlo can help to change the dynamic of Poland’s game.
 
"Having played in a team of powerful players in the Russia Superliga, Zygadlo was forced to adapt his thinking when playing for Poland in order to play a faster game. It is clear that if Poland is going to win against Brazil, they have to exploit not just their strength but also the speed of their game.

"Poland is a volleyball hungry country and if their match against Serbia in Miliciz (Poland) showed, the national team will have to fend off pressure from all quarters as it prepares to meet Brazil in this coming weekend’s World League match.

"While Serbia also has a strong team of young and physically gifted players they are not under as much pressure as Poland. Their new setter shows much promise but he may take some time to reach his full potential. But Serbian volleyball is structured in such a way so as to give their young players a couple of years of experience in order to grow and get better as players. For the moment the team has the luxury of focusing on team-building – and this will hold them in good stead in their match against Cuba this weekend.

"After watching the match between Italy and France in Piacenza, it is evident that both teams have changed a great deal since last year.
 
"The French team are paying a lot more attention to their passing and they move together with a great deal of speed. During their tune-up match, it was clear that this is where they are fundamentally better than the Italian team. So their win came as no surprise.

"I was also struck by a recent comment made by France coach, Laurent Tillie who said, “We will not approach the World League as a warm-up for the Euro 2013, but as an intense and great major competition."  

"For Laurent Tillie the World League is a priority and the tournament is not just being seen as preparation for the European Championship. I fully agree with this philosophy as it is important to strive for the best in any championship – otherwise you are just wasting your time. A good friend and former US national team player always say to me, “Not playing at your best never helps.” And for sure, it is important for teams to give their all at every opportunity – even when playing a friendly match.

"While Italy has a good young team this year, it is possible that their performance has not been as top-notch because they are missing some important players. Nevertheless, it is crucial that Italy stay motivated and focused otherwise they risk not being able to exploit their skill set totally.
 
"They have been working together for only a few weeks now so they need more work, especially on the tactical side of the game.  But in the second friendly match against France, coach Mauro Berruto changed the starting setter Dragan Travica to Michele Baranowicz. This changed the nature of the game and it will be interesting to see how Berruto manages these two players at the World League.

"This has been a bitter-sweet start to the 2013 World League season. Earlier in May I had the honour of having my hand prints placed in Poland’s Alei Gwiazd (‘Volleyball Alley’). A few weeks later I took part in a memorial match for Vigor Bovolenta who passed away suddenly last year. It was difficult to fight back the tears as his family and friends paid tribute to him during the match. The match was also an opportunity to bring together many generations of volleyball players under one roof for a special ambience that I will remember for a long time to come.   

"As players, coaches and their accompanying staff put together the final preparations for the coming weekend’s matches, I would like to wish them only the best of luck and look forward to seeing what they can achieve on the court this season."

Andrea Zorzi is a former Italian volleyball star who won two FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship crowns in 1990 and 1994 as well as three World League titles from 1990-1992 where he also won the Most Valuable Player award at both the 1990 and 1991 editions. He was also a silver medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and won the 1989 European Championship in a career which spanned 325 matches. After retiring in 1998, he collaborated with a number of important Italian TV networks as well as international newspapers as a journalist.

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Tom Hoff (USA) - “Change is difficult, but also necessary”

Lausanne, Switzerland, May 21, 2013 - Following the announcement of the squads for the 2013 edition of the FIVB Volleyball World League, US volleyball legend Tom Hoff sat down with FIVB.org to discuss what this means for the US national team and his top picks as front runners for this year.


"With the squads announced for the 2013 edition of the FIVB Volleyball World League, it’s looking like it will be a great competition featuring a good mix of teams with young and experienced players as well as teams rebuilding for success.

I am looking forward to seeing Matt Anderson continue to improve his play and develop his leadership to have a greater influence on the team’s performance and other players’ performance. I’ve seen him as a young rookie at the gym, and thought very early on that he holds some very special physical abilities that could allow him to dictate outcomes of the matches at the highest level. I’m looking forward to seeing him mature into the game-changing player who will be dedicated to the USA team for a long time.

The US team will definitely face some hardships by not having Clay Stanley this year. He was a wildly efficient player and his absence is a significant loss at the international level. But with the change, the team will need to evolve and make do without Clay, leaving a terrific opportunity for younger guys to fill in.

“The World League is a compacted, intense grind of travel and training and it will be a challenge for both the younger USA team and coach John Speraw. There is so much 'rich Volleyball value' for his team to soak up every weekend, it is hard to manage without going overboard.”

“The overriding theme for Team USA is that change is difficult, but also necessary. The changes for the US team this year aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but it will be up to coach Speraw to sit back, rethink and move some pieces around to prepare the team for another run.”

“Another team to watch out for is Russia. I’ve played in Russia over the past couple of years and I think they have a great core group of players who have seasoned themselves in the Russian League as well at many recent FIVB tournaments. There’s a lot of high level volleyball going on in the country, and a good number of solid players, including some new names leading the court. I’m happy to see their success and believe that they will continue to move forward in the 2013 season.”

“I’m must admit that I am surprised with the static line up of players in the Brazilian team, even following their performance in last year’s edition of the World League where they failed to finish even in the top five. There are some really good players on the team, but if they don’t return to striving to become the best team, it could be a long couple years. I thought we might see even more wholesale changes to ensure their rich history of success.”

“I have a lot of respect for Argentina, for their players and their coach who is turning the team into a world class power house. With such a potent group of young guys who can perform with a high degree of excellent, they are well placed to disrupt the world ranks.”

“Cuba also has the ability to win, as long as the team remains intact. Their team is full of young, incredibly athletic athletes who have a lot of international experience for their age, which gives them a lot of confidence. And the scariest thing I see about them is that they are beginning to understand and play to their strengths and minimise their weaknesses. They are a wild card poised for success, and the US has to keep a close eye on them this season."

Tom Hoff was captain of the USA team that won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and also helped his side clinch the 2008 FIVB Volleyball World League title as well as silver at the 2005 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup. He has competed on the last three Olympic teams and more recently he was part of the USA coaching staff at the 2010 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Italy. He is currently retired from Volleyball and working for Predixion Software in addition to enjoying his post-volleyball time with his five daughters in Laguna Niguel, CA.


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Andrea Zorzi (ITA) - Italy, Poland, Russia & Brazil picks for World League

Lausanne, Switzerland, May 9, 2013 - Following the announcement of the squads for the 2013 edition of the FIVB Volleyball World League, Italian volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi casts his eye over the teams and predicts who are the likely front runners.

“Since its inception in 1990, the World League has shown itself to be an outstanding international volleyball tournament not only for the quality of the game on offer, but also for the platform it provides for the development of our sport.

“With the increase in the number of participating teams this year, the intensity of the competition is set to increase and with it the level of the sport. As this is the first year of the new Olympic cycle, each team will be looking to establish themselves as serious contenders for the Games in Rio in 2016.

“From my point of view Italy, Poland, Russia and Brazil are the four teams that are well positioned for victory in the 2013 World League. 

“The Italian team has just started its training session in Cavalese, a small town in the north of Italy, with a strong group of young athletes, who have already played in the country’s first and second divisions. The Italian national team has experienced a revival over the past few years and has once again become an important goal for national volleyball players to attain so each player is working as hard as possible to make the final cut. Italy has young, determined players vying for the top spot even though for many of them the World League will be their first opportunity to compete in a top international tournament.

“Then there is Poland, a country with great players and amazing supporters. Having won the last World League edition, Poland will be counting on the same squad – with the exception of setter Zagumny – to attain victory for the second year in the row. Poland has some physically powerful and technically well-developed players like Kurek, Mozdzonek and Bartman who are perfect for modern volleyball and are also extremely passionate about their sport. They know they have the support of the entire nation, which can boost their enthusiasm and energy but also subject them to a lot of pressure on the team. As long as they succeed in dealing with this mental pressure, they are capable of reaching any goal.

“The Russian national team have all the qualities at their disposal to win this year’s World League title but they have to show more consistency in their play. While their Olympic gold medal win should give them the self-confidence to go for the World League title they must be careful not to rest on their laurels and lose that momentum. New coach Andrey Voronkov has to face two big challenges from my point of view. The first is to find ways of motivating his players to keep on winning and the second is to fill the space left by Sergey Tetyukhin, a key player for the Russian side for many years now. To his advantage, Voronkov currently has a set of really strong  players whose talents will be harnessed expertly.

“Brazil has many excellent players even after the retirement of super stars Giba and Sergio. The current squad is young yet experienced and they are destined to be the favourite as they have been in the last decade. Their coach, Bernardo Rezende, who has been at the helm for the past 13 years is now determined to take his team to victory following their defeat in the 2008 Olympic final in Beijing and in London 2012. He is not one to quit easily after a defeat and his passion for coaching will also be an important factor in nurturing his team for success. 

“This does not mean, however, that other teams cannot perform brilliantly. Argentina – host of the World League Finals – love playing to the home crowd and this is where the young Argentinean players find their greatest inspiration and motivation. Conte, De Cecco and their teammates have a great deal of technical skill and agility to exploit to their advantage.

“Germany has an opportunity to reaffirm its position internationally, following its recent success but the team will have to remain single-minded in their purpose as they have been over the past few years. I know that Vital Heynen, the German coach, will strive for the best and will work hard to maintain, and raise, the commitment of his team.

“The US also has a chance of stamping their mark on the World League this year with John Speraw and his assistant Matt Fuerbringer leading the way. They will have to search for a new identity for their team but North American coaches and players are traditionally the best in the world when working to bring out their team’s full capabilities. Over the last few years the US has not played a technically brilliant game and have not shown as much determination as in the past. It will not be easy as Speraw and Fuerbringer cannot rely on many developed players - at least not as many as other countries. However, I know that they can succeed in building a top class team that will surprise the volleyball world once more.

“Needless to say, I am eagerly anticipating this year’s World League action.”

Andrea Zorzi is a former Italian volleyball star who won two FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship crowns in 1990 and 1994 as well as three World League titles from 1990-1992 where he also won the Most Valuable Player award at both the 1990 and 1991 editions. He was also a silver medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and won the 1989 European Championship in a career which spanned 325 matches. After retiring in 1998, he collaborated with a number of important Italian TV networks as well as international newspapers as a journalist.

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Andrea Zorzi (ITA) - Looking forward to this year's World League action

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 18, 2013 - In 1990, Andrea Zorzi was part of the Italian men’s national volleyball team that took part in the inaugural World League. The format and structure of the World League has evolved remarkably since then, as have the number of tournaments in the volleyball calendar. FIVB.org took the opportunity to sit down with Zorzi for his views on this year’s changes and where he sees World League going in the future.

“I have seen many changes in volleyball during my career in the sport. The World League, in particular, has grown since its humble beginnings in 1990 and is now one of the most important annual tournaments in the volleyball calendar. This year’s edition is set to be better than ever as the number of participating teams increases from 16 to 18. 

“I was asked if I would have liked to have played in this new World League format. For my part I don’t have any regrets about my time in the sport and am proud to have been present during this key period of volleyball expansion in the nineties.

“As such I am pleased with the current changes in the sport and know that it will benefit the quality of volleyball on offer this season

“For starters, the new format will provide less experienced countries in the World League with the opportunity to hone their technical and tactical skills. The higher ranking teams on the other hand can engage in more intense competition, which helps the more experienced players keep their motivation level high. Including more teams into the mix will also serve to increase our sport’s popularity.

“Another significant step in the right direction is the inclusion of the Under-23 age-group competition in this year’s volleyball calendar, which will help our current crop of young players be better prepared to make the move into the World League. Prior to this many young players found themselves in a situation where they were too old to play in a youth championship but not experienced enough to make the move to senior level volleyball.

“The Under-23 competition gives players the impetus to continue working on their game, technique and skills and is another opportunity for them to fully exploit their talent. It is also of benefit to the clubs of the National Leagues as they will be able to draw from a pool of more experienced players.

“However, it is important to remember that the Under-23 competitions are not a panacea and the aim is to better prepare young athletes for the challenges that await them when they make the move to senior level competition.

“I hope that the FIVB will continue to work towards developing volleyball by providing more opportunities for our players. If our beloved sport will become a common activity for people all over the world, then we will have achieved an important goal. While not every individual is destined to become a star player it goes without saying that the more players we have, the more important volleyball will be.”

Andrea Zorzi is a former Italian volleyball star who won two FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship crowns in 1990 and 1994 as well as three World League titles from 1990-1992 where he also won the Most Valuable Player award at both the 1990 and 1991 editions. He was also a silver medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and won the 1989 European Championship in a career which spanned 325 matches. After retiring in 1998, he collaborated with a number of important Italian TV networks as well as international newspapers as a journalist.

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Tom Hoff (USA) - "This is volleyball, and anything can happen"

Laguna Niguel, USA, January 14, 2013 - As the 2013 season approaches, former USA player, coach and Olympic gold medallist Tom Hoff opens the FIVB blog series with a look ahead at the new structures of the World League and World Grand Prix, the prospects for Team USA, and the post-Olympic period. Here is what he said:

"The volleyball landscape is set for change in 2013 with the expansion of the World League and World Grand Prix. The new format of these FIVB properties will no doubt create some waves - and it’s about time.  

"Volleyball can do with broader international exposure and the game itself can only benefit from having new countries compete with more experienced and successful ones like Russia, Brazil and the US. The new format might offer a chance to countries like Bulgaria and Serbia, who have had a strong history in the game, but are short on recent international experience, to step up and become serious contenders in the League.

"As an older, retired athlete I feel this is an excellent way to have more kids see the game and to increase the base of young volleyball players. This is nothing but great for the sport. There are so many people who don’t have the introduction to the game because it isn’t as prevalent in their countries as basketball and football. With that being said, it will take time for volleyball to get through to the kids and for them to develop a passion for the sport.
 
"Is there a flip side to increasing the number of teams? If you’re a player your primary concern is increasing your success rate. By increasing the number of teams in the mix, you level the playing field and there is a higher chance for upsets.

"It means that we, the US men’s team, have to be on top of our game especially as it may be harder to analyse our opponents.

"But I know we’ve got what it takes to rise to the challenge, particularly after watching the team qualify for the Olympic Games in Long Beach, last May. We had a mix of experienced and new players, like Matt Anderson, and the qualification tournament showed that it was possible to come together and pull off a win. This match was an incredible confidence building platform for the team.

"As a team, this year will surely be a time for introspection.

"It’s now the moment for the younger players to pick up the torch and show their determination to achieve their own success. It is never easy to be compared to heroes of the past. I know from experience that comparison is tiring and the only way to blaze a new trail is to get onto the court, win the matches and set your own history. Young players should be motivated by USA Volleyball’s history of success. It should get under their skin and be the factor that inspires them to achieve bigger and better victories. This is what creates the sparks on the court.

"I am also confident that our women’s team will continue to build on their past successes. It was brutal to lose the Olympic gold medal match, but the team should be proud of being consistent in their playing for such a long period of time. Their loss will hopefully set them up for success over the next four years. They will no doubt be focused on dominating their game and are going to be extremely driven.

"Things are about to get a whole lot interesting in volleyball. Because even in volleyball, change is good."

Tom Hoff was captain of the USA team that won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and also helped his side clinch the 2008 FIVB Volleyball World League title as well as silver at the 2005 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup. He has competed on the last three Olympic teams and more recently he was part of the USA coaching staff at the 2010 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Italy. He is currently retired from Volleyball and working for Predixion Software in addition to enjoying his post-volleyball time with his five daughters in Laguna Niguel, CA

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