Lausanne, Switzerland, June 12, 2013 - The absolute highlight of the third weekend of the FIVB Volleyball World League throws up the first tough test for the Olympic champions from Russia.
Having opened their campaign with two expected wins against debutant Iran, they now take on big rivals Serbia on Friday (to be streamed live as the FIVB's Match of the Week) and Saturday in Kaliningrad (both at 15:00 GMT).
The matches take on extra significance due to the fact that both teams are currently sitting pretty at the top of Pool B with a maximum six points. This makes them the only two of the 18 World League teams yet to drop a point. Serbia opened their campaign with two impressive 3-1 victories against home favourites Cuba in the boiling pot of Havana.
“My team showed a lot of power in Cuba. We want to reproduce that again in Russia, although we know they will be tough matches,” said Serbia’s coach Igor Kolakovic.
His Russian counterpart Andrey Voronkov also recognises the difficult task facing his team: “We must rule out the mistakes we made in the matches against Iran. But that is a normal part development process. After all, we have a number of new players in the team.”
Both teams are hungry for success at the pinnacle of international volleyball: last year, 2011 winners Russia and Serbia both underperformed, having to settle for eighth and ninth place respectively.
The two volleyball powers currently occupy the top two places in their pool, which would see them both progress to the Finals, which takes place from July 17 to 21 in Mar del Plata in Argentina. However, a third party could benefit when they go head to head at the weekend. Eight-time World League winners Italy started with two wins against Germany and once again have home advantage this weekend. Their opponents in Turin on Friday and Florence on Sunday (both at 18:00 GMT) are Cuba.
After their two opening triumphs against Poland in the defending champions’ back yard, Brazil now face another difficult away trip in Pool A. Argentina, hosts of next month’s Finals, will be looking to continue their upwards trend in the South American duel in Mendoza on Friday (23:30 GMT) and Sunday (01:00 GMT Monday). Last weekend's away win at last year’s World League runners-up USA have given the Gauchos, who have already qualified for the Finals as hosts, even more confidence.
Brazil’s coach Bernardinho will be without key player Lucas Saatkamp, who pulled a muscle in Poland. However, he is optimistic his team, which has a new look to it since losing to Russia in the Olympic final, will hold its own in the heated atmosphere: “It‘s important for our young players, to play in such an atmosphere," he said.”
In this weekend’s other match in Pool A, USA takes on winless France in Tulsa (Friday and Saturday, both at 00:00 GMT). As well as Argentina, a further two teams from this group will qualify for the grand finale.
Only one ticket for the Finals is up for grabs in Pool C, which consists of the lowest ranked teams in the World League. Rather surprisingly, Finland are currently in pole position to secure the coveted place in the Finals, following their victory and defeat to Portugal in week one and two wins in South Korea last weekend. The second leg of their Asian tour sees the Scandinavians take on the role of favourite on Saturday and Sunday in Komaki (both at 04:00 GMT), when they face Japan, who are still without a win or a point after four games. Canada and South Korea, who go head to head in Mississauga on Friday and Saturday (both at 23:00 GMT), both have one victory and two defeats to their name.
Note: Match won 3-0 or 3-1: 3 points for the winner, 0 point for the loser
Match won 3-2: 2 points for the winner, 1 point for the loser
In case of tie, the teams will be classified according to the following criteria: number of matches won, sets ratio and points ratio
Match won 3-0 or 3-1: 3 points for the winner, 0 point for the loser
Top Scoring Performances
28 – Wytze Kooistra of Netherlands v Canada (May 31)
27 – Ivan Zaytsev of Italy v Germany (June 9)
26 – Leandro of Brazil v Poland (June 9)
26 – Valdir Sequeira of Portugal v Finland (June 1)
26 – Mikko Oivanen of Finland v Portugal (June 1)
Top Blocking Performances
6 – Emanuele Birarelli of Italy v Germany (June 9)
6 – Park Sang-Ha of Korea v Japan (June 1)
5 – Marcin Mozdzonek of Poland v Brazil (June 9)
5 – Jelte Maan of the Netherlands v Japan (June 9)
5 – Konstantin Shumov of Finland v Korea (June 9)
5 – Seyed Mousavi of Iran v Russia (June 8)
5 – Adam Simac of Canada v Portugal (June 8)
Top Blocking Performances by Team
16 – Italy v Germany (June 9)
15 – Poland v Brazil (June 9)
14 – Brazil v Poland (June 7)
14 – Korea v Japan (June 1)
14 – Finland v Korea (June 8)
Top Serving Performances
7 – Alexandre Ferreira of Portugal v Finland (June 1)
4 – Matti Oivanen of Finland v Korea (June 9)
4 – Earvin Ngapeth of France v Bulgaria (June 7)
Top Serving Performances by Team
10 – USA v Argentina (June 8)
9 – France v Bulgaria (June 7)
9 – Portugal v Finland (June 1)
Highest Scorer by Week
Week 1: Wytze Kooistra of Netherlands, 28 (v Canada)
Week 2: Cristian Savani of Italy, 27 (v Germany)
Highest Set Score
Week 1: Finland v Portugal, 29-27
Week 2: Bulgaria v France, 31-29
Highest Scoring Matches
Week 1: Finland v Portugal, 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 23-25, 15-12) – 219 points
Week 2: Brazil v Poland, 3-2 (28-26, 25-22, 23-25, 20-25, 15-10) – 219 points
2013 World League Tournament page
2013 World League Live Scorebox
2013 World League Schedule
FIVB World Rankings
Twitter - @FIVB Volleyball, @FIVBWorldLeague
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