Lausanne, Switzerland, May 22, 2014 – With the start of the 2014 FIVB World League season just a day away, two of the tournament’s most experienced participants – Brazil and Italy – are preparing to meet for the twenty-fifth time in the 25th season of the men’s annual tournament.
Brazil (WR 1) and Italy (WR 3) are the only two teams to take part in every edition of the World League since 1990, followed only by Cuba (WR 7) with 24 appearances having only ever missed the first season of the tournament. Title holders Russia will embark on their 23rd World League campaign, having only missed out in 2004 and 2005.
When they meet in Jaragua Do Sul, Brazil on May 23 for the first Pool A match of the tournament, the home team will be hoping to start off their bid for a tenth title with a win against Italy who they play for the 25th time in the tournament. Over their last 24 encounters each has claimed 12 victories, meaning that for one of these teams, 13 will be a lucky number.
Whatever happens, Italy are guaranteed a spot in the Finals as they will host the Final Six in Florence from July 16 to 20. Brazil are on a mission to take back the title after losing it to Russia in the Final last year in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
As Brazil and Italy face off in Jaragua Do Sul, Bulgaria will host USA in Varna and France travel to Argentina with the first week’s matches rounded out by matches between Belgium and Australia, and Germany and Japan.
This weekend promises to be an interesting one for the players of Bulgaria and USA who are not unknown to each other. Bulgaria’s Nikolay Penchev and USA’s Paul Lotman are teammates at Asseco Resovia in Poland; Zlatan Yordanov and Murphy Troy both play for Saint-Nazaire VB Atlantique in France; and Danail Milushev and Vaafuti Tavana are teammates at Spacer’s Toulouse Volley, also in France.
However, with the lines clearly drawn at the World League, Bulgaria (WR 6) and USA (WR 4) will each be hoping to start as they intend to finish in this year’s tournament with a win.
Belgium (WR 37) making their World League debut go up against Australia (WR 14) in a Pool C match on Friday.
Australia last participated in the World League 15 years ago in 1999, surpassing Finland’s first (1993) and second (2006) participation. They will be in search of their first World League victory after finishing 10th in 1999 with a 12-game winless campaign – a feat only equalled by Puerto Rico.
Argentina (WR 7), under the leadership of new head coach Julio Velasco, get set to meet France (WR 16) this weekend with coach Laurent Tillie at the helm.
Neither France nor Argentina have won three
matches in a row against each other, though France could be the first to do
this. Indeed France has Ludovic Castard the only 2014 squad member to have also played for France in their silver medal winning campaign in the 2006 World
League as well as Earvin Ngapeth, the man with the highest efficient rate of
all receivers in last year's tournament.
Of course if Argentina’s Julio Velasco’s track record of five wins in the first six editions of the World League with Italy is anything to go by, France will have their work cut out for them.
It also promises to be an interesting match between Germany and Japan going against
each other in this weekend’s Pool D match.
Germany will be missing Georg Grozer who will not be playing in their year’s World League following his win at the FIVB Men’s Club World Championship with his Russian club Belogorie Belgorod. Japan, one set short of 300 set wins in their World League history, will be looking to round off that statistic this weekend.
Click here for FIVB World League Statistical Preview for Week 1
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