World League 2012 pools and format finalized
The 23rd edition of the world’s premier annual men’s volleyball event will be held from May 18 to July 1 with the Finals set to take place in Sofia, Bulgaria from July 4 to 8.
For the first time in the tournament’s history, the World League Intercontinental Round, still featuring 16 teams across four pools, will be played in four weeks with each country hosting all four teams in their respective pool on one weekend each. Each pool will play at the same time with the exception of the first weekend which will take place between May 18 and 27 to fit in with the various continental competitions also taking place at the time. The second weekend will be held from June 15 to 17 ahead of the third from June 22 to 24 and the fourth from June 29 to July 1.
The change in competition format is to accommodate a busy schedule which includes qualification tournaments for the London 2012 Olympic Games and also takes into consideration other sporting events which currently crowd the calendar ahead of the Olympics.
Pool A will begin in Japan before the attention turns to Cuba following a number of World Olympic Qualification Tournaments before the four teams travel to Russia and finally Serbia. While Russia will be preparing for the Olympic Games having already qualified at the 2011 World Cup, Japan, Serbia and Cuba will need to navigate the tournament whilst also taking into consideration their Olympic Games qualification progress at the same time.
Nine time champions Brazil, silver medallists last year, will be looking to add a 10th gold medal to their tally but will have to battle last year’s bronze medallists Poland as well as Finland and Canada, with the latter returning to the tournament for the first time since 2007 having beaten Slovakia and Puerto Rico during the qualification rounds. With both Poland and Brazil already qualified for the Olympic Games, it will be Canada and Finland who will need to stretch their resources across London qualification and the World League. The Canadians will host the opening weekend before the teams travel south to Brazil and then across to Europe for weekends in Poland and then Finland.
Italy, eight time winners, and Olympic champions USA will be favourites to top Pool C as they battle with France and Korea, who both had disappointing campaigns in 2011. It is the third year in a row that France and Italy have been paired together, with the Italians winning six of their eight encounters across both previous editions. All four teams will intertwine their campaign with qualification for London, with Italy hosting one of the European le Olympic qualification tournaments halfway through the World League.
Pool D features Germany, Argentina, Portugal and Finals hosts Bulgaria in what is expected to be a tight battle. With Argentina featuring in last year’s Finals in Gdansk and Germany narrowly missing out, both will fancy their chances for a ticket to Sofia. There is history between Argentina and Portugal also, with the two teams clashing last year, the South Americans coming out on top.
Like 2011, the Finals will feature six teams, with the four pool winners and best runner-up joining Bulgaria.
FIVB Volleyball World League 2012 Intercontinental Round Pools
Pool A – Russia, Serbia, Japan, Cuba
Pool B – Brazil, Poland, Canada, Finland
Pool C – Italy, USA, France, Korea
Pool D – Germany, Argentina, Portugal, Bulgaria
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