Lausanne, Switzerland, July 3, 2014 – Two teams
have been determined for the grand finale of the 25th anniversary season of the
FIVB Volleyball World League, while other teams are making their final run to
claim the remaining spots.
Hosts Italy and surprise package Iran have already qualified, three more teams will secure their tickets between Thursday and Sunday, including record champions Brazil, who are fighting for survival to take the qualifying slot.
Wrapping up the season will be the main event, the Group 1 Final Six that will be held in Florence, Italy from July 16 to 20.
First up, however, are the dramatic conclusions to the “Super Pools” – A and B. In Pool A, Brazil and Poland will fight it out on the courts for the qualifying spot. Both teams have the same number of points at the moment, but the advantage lies with Brazil, whose set difference is two sets better than that of the Poles. The Brazilians must travel to Italy and beat the Italians, while Poland will play Iran, with a home advantage.
The Brazilian team took a break in the Intercontinental Round last weekend and spent their time preparing in Saquarema for their all-important matches against Italy. Coach Bernardo Rezende’s squad departed for Italy on Sunday for the two matches.
Main hitter Wallace Souza, who celebrated his 27th birthday last week, is in high spirits for their trip to Italy.
“I am quite confident,” Wallace said. “I think we improved in the last few matches and we have also trained well. We have to win these two matches in Italy, then we shall wait and see how Poland will do in their matches against Iran.”
Brazilian captain Bruno Rezende is not giving up, despite the complex position they found themselves in.
“We know it won’t be easy to advance to the Finals but we still have two matches against Italy,” Bruno said. “These will be extremely hard matches but we will fight until the last ball.”
Brazil have been a permanent fixture in the Finals of the World League. The team have won the FIVB World League nine times, but their 25th participation threatens to produce their worst result in their team history. Should this happen, this will be the second time they will not qualify for the Finals. The Brazilians’ poorest result in recent years is their sixth place finish in 2012.
Poland, on the other hand, are hoping that their home advantage in Gdansk will pay off against the Iranian squad, who handed them two defeats on the sixth week. Poland coach Stephane Antiga is not satisfied with his players’ performance and will expect more from them in their final week of the Intercontinental Round.
“I'm not happy with their performance,” Antiga said. “I hope we can play better in our home matches.”
Poland captain Michal Winiarski has high hopes that they will play well in their home matches.
“We believe we can raise our game and do well this time,” Winiarski said. “We really want to qualify for the Final Six.”
In Pool B, the same determination looms from the teams, where USA are currently ranked first with 21 points, defending champions Russia have 18 points, followed by Serbia with 17 points. The three teams are set for an exciting three-way battle for the two tickets at stake for the Final Six.
Russia will face Bulgaria in Sofia on Saturday and Sunday. Their second match on Sunday at 20:00 local time, is featured as the FIVB “Match of the Week”. The seventh and last matches of the week will be distributed by IMG free of charge to all major international networks and the host broadcaster. The matches will include English commentary and will be shown live and on demand on FIVB Web TV, geo-blocked only in countries where respective rights have been sold.
Russia coach Andrey Voronkov is full of optimism when his team enters into the final showdown this week.
“The two tight matches against the USA last weekend made us stronger,” Voronkov said. “We can still do better.”
Russia will need to be on top form as they need two wins against last placer Bulgaria to be able to confirm their final round slot.
Serbia are also in the hunt for that qualification ticket but must win against group leaders USA in Novi Sad on Friday and Belgrade on Sunday.
“We know very well what awaits us and it won't be easy,” Serbian captain Dragan Stankovic said. “The United States have shown during the Intercontinental Round what they can do and how well they can play any team. Now we need support from the spectators of Novi Sad and Beograd, and we hope for the best. I am just positive that the level of our game is rising.”
In Group 2, Australia and France are waiting for the other teams to join them in the final week of pool play, after which the Final Four round will be played in Sydney, Australia next week.
In Pool C, debutants Belgium need one more point to guarantee their pool leadership but will have two tough away matches against Finland in Tampere.
“We took an important step to arrive in the finals with two wins last weekend in Australia,” Belgium coach Dominique Baeyens said. “Now we want to take the last step.”
The other duel sees Canada take on Australia in Sydney, with the former hoping to keep their hopes of qualifying to the Final Four alive.
In pool E, the Netherlands, who won the World League in 1996, hold their fate in their own hands. The Oranjes are currently first with 18 points ahead of Portugal. The Dutch team hosts the Czech Republic in Rotterdam on Saturday and Sunday.
The visiting team has 15 points to their name, and could still mathematically win the group if they beat the hosts.
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