Lausanne, Switzerland, May 2, 2014 - Top coach Julio Velasco has to make do without Ivan Castellani when his Argentinean team lines up in the FIVB Volleyball World League on home soil.
The 23-year-old is missing from the squad of 22, which, like all the other 27 teams in the competition, had to be named by May 1. Five players in Velasco's squad hail from Argentina's top team UPCN, the runner-up at the South American Men’s Club Championship. Before the FIVB Volleyball World League gets started, they have another goal: the FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship, which takes place from May 5 to 10 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Velasco, 62, who is one of the best coaches in the world having won two FIVB Volleyball World Championships with Italy in 1990 and 1994, is charged with the task of reinstating the hosts of last year's Finals of the FIVB World League as one of the world's best teams. He recently stepped down as coach of the Iranian national volleyball team to lead the men’s team of his home country, Argentina. Velasco, who was appointed coach of the Iran in 2011, took up the top job in Argentina following a request from the country’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
There are also new faces on the coaching benches of some of the 12 teams in the other first round Pools C, D and E. In Japan, Masashi Nambu is now faced with the difficult task of making the former volleyball heavyweight one of the top nations in the world. Nambu replaces American Gary Sato, the team's first foreign coach, who was hired a year ago. The new coach is putting his faith in key players, such as captain Yu Koshikawa and Tatsuya Fukuzawa.
Another new coach in a FIVB Volleyball World League campaign is Hugo Silva, who takes charge of the Portuguese team. He replaces Flavio Gulinelli, who was replaced after disappointing results in 2013.
Several well-known faces are missing from Germany's aspiring team this year. Coach Vital Heynen will not be able to count on experienced setter Simon Tischer. Tischer has undergone surgery on both knees. “I was plagued by injuries all season and never really got this problem sorted,” he said. “After consulting the medical staff I decided to undergo surgery since this would be a long-term solution, enabling me to play volleyball for another few years and without pain. Of course I am disappointed to be missing most of the summer season with the national team due to this surgery.”
Superstar Georg Grozer – who just finished the Russian Superleague in third place and will be playing at the FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship Belo Horizonte 2014 with Belogorie Belgorod – and Sebastian Schwarz will also miss World League action this year, as they have opted to enjoy a break and spend some time with their families after a long and very exhausting club season. “They will be back once we start our preparations for the World Championship,” announced Heynen. The absence of some veterans will open the door to young players who have not yet represented Germany in international matches.
Other teams have their top stars on board. Canada, who were the surprise team of the FIVB Volleyball World League last year, making it to the final stages and even beating the eventual winners Russia, have their “point-scoring machine” John Gordon Perrin available.
France's squad includes Earvin Ngapeth and Antonin Rouzier, while Finland will field top scorer Mikko Oivanen. The Czech Republic is making a comeback after 11 years led by Jan Stokr, and Australia, making their second appearance in the FIVB Volleyball World League after their debut in 1999, are relying on previous key players such as captain Aidan Zingel and Nathan Roberts. The duo led Australia to a surprising 3-1 victory over Poland at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Australia will host the final four from Pools C, D and E in Sydney on the weekend of July 11 to 13. Pool C features first time participants Belgium along with Canada, Australia and Finland, while Argentina, Germany, France and Japan are in Pool D. Pool E sees the Netherlands, Korea, the Czech Republic and Portugal go head to head.
The first round gets underway on May 23. Each of the pool winners will go through to the Finals Down Under, where the winner will receive a ticket for the "Group 1" Finals of the FIVB Volleyball World League from July 16 to 20 in the city of Florence, Italy.
Click here for the Group 1 preview
Click here for the team lists
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