Lausanne, Switzerland, May 28, 2014 - After a thrilling, surprise-packed start to the FIVB World League, Olympic winners Russia are set to begin their title defence in week two. Russia’s matches with Serbia are just two of the 16 matches scheduled to take place between Friday and Sunday in the Intercontinental Round of the 25th anniversary tournament.
“Our goal is to reach the final six and to play the best of the best in the Finals. This is necessary to gain sparring experience and match practice,” said wing-spiker Maxim Mikhaylov ahead of Russia's first big game of the World Championship season.
Their match against Serbia on Saturday, May 31 at the Cair Sports Centre in Nis is the FIVB’s ‘Match of the Week’ and will take place at 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT). The FIVB Volleyball World League ‘Match of the Week’ allows broadcasters to televise one match from each week of the FIVB’s premier annual tournament for men for free.
Russia’s second match against Serbia was originally due to take place in Belgrade on Sunday but will now take place in Nis on Friday.
The change to the schedule came after the FIVB agreed to a request from the Serbian Volleyball Federation following the heaviest flooding in more than 100 years after the River Sava burst its banks and left large parts of the country devastated. The PIONIR Sports Hall in Belgrade, where the second match was originally due to be held, is currently being used as emergency housing for displaced people and is where emergency aid is being provided.
Given the situation only one of Serbia's scheduled friendlies against Iran after a joint training camp was able to go ahead. Serbia's 3-2 victory was a welcome reprieve from the current situation. In a strong show of solidarity the Iranian players presented their Serbian counterparts with a donation for the flood victims, collected by all the members of Iran's national team.
“I want to thank the Iranian players and staff who collected a large amount of money for our people who have been affected by the floods,” said Igor Kolakovic, head coach of Serbia. “There is still room for improvement and I am sure that in the matches against Russia our game will be up and running.”
Newcomers Iran, with their new coach Slobodan Kovac, are ready for their first
appearance in this year's World League. However, they have tough games ahead of
them against hosts Italy in Trieste on Friday and in Verona on Sunday. The Azzurri
are brimming with confidence after their two 3-1 victories in Brazil.
“We may have amazed others, but we also amazed ourselves. I believe that over the last three to four years Italy has regained the respect of opposing teams as well as our fans. There are some people who think that we still have some way to go but, without being presumptuous and with all humility, I maintain that we can play alongside the best teams in the world,” said setter Dragan Travica. As hosts of the final round from July 16 to 20 in the city of Florence, Italy is the first of the six teams to go through to the Finals of the FIVB World League.
Having opened with two shock home defeats to Italy, record winners Brazil are out to make amends against Poland, hosts of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship.
“We need to improve a lot in the next games. We will put in a lot of practice and I know that we will play better,” said Brazil captain Bruno Rezende. However, they are up against Poland, winners of the 2012 FIVB World League and with new coach Stephane Antiga they have the desire to celebrate their first success on the way to the FIVB World Championship, which is held in their own country.
In pool C, newcomers Belgium – who became the fourth debut team to win their first two matches in the World League, courtesy of their two victories against Australia in the opener – have a break. But Canada, who recently qualified for the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship Poland 2014, will be playing in home matches against Finland in Calgary on Saturday and Sunday. Canada made it to the Final of the FIVB World League last year, where they sensationally beat Olympic champions Russia.
Argentina are seeking to make amends in pool D after their two opening defeats to France. The team trained by coaching legend Julio Velasco will take on Germany in Salta on Saturday and Sunday; Germany head to South America with two victories against Japan to their name. In the other match in this pool, France have their sights set on maintaining their winning streak against Japan on Saturday and Sunday in Montpellier.
In the opening games scheduled for pool E, Portugal will play against the Czech Republic twice and the Netherlands will host two duels with South Korea. The best teams from pools C, D and E will play in a Final Four format on the weekend of July 11 to 13 in Sydney, Australia, to determine the team that will progress to the Final. Also, in addition to hosts Italy, the top two teams in the 'super pools' A and B will take part in the grand finale. This format is completely new – as is the record number of participants of 28 teams.
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