Netherlands count on World League to enter new era
The Netherlands has a rich history in men’s volleyball, with a 1996 Olympic Games and World League gold medal to its name in addition to five silver medals and a bronze. They sit ninth on the overall honours ladder behind Russia, Brazil, Italy, Cuba, USA, Serbia, the Czech Republic and Poland.
However, with those glory days of the 90s a distant memory, Benne, who was part of the Dutch silver medal winning team at the 1992 Olympic Games, says the World League is crucial to the Netherlands returning to the top of men’s volleyball.
“In the World League you get the opportunity to play against the best competitors in the world on a high level,” said Benne, who was appointed Dutch coach in March last year. “The chance we get now can help us return to the international top faster than we aimed for. We will do everything we can to cash in on this opportunity.
“We played ourselves into this qualification tournament and my team is motivated to the bone. My men deserve the chance they earned themselves. On top of that, it is fantastic to see and hear that the Dutch volleyball community really supports us to return to the World League.”
The last time the Dutch participated in the World League was in 2010, when they finished 11th out of 16 teams. That prompted a decision from the national federation to withdraw from the 2011 edition. Since the establishment of the world’s most prestigious annual men’s volleyball competition in 1990, the Netherlands have been in 16 of the 23 editions and won one of each medal (silver in 1990, gold in 1996 and bronze in 1998) while finishing fourth and fifth three times, respectively, to stand as the ninth (of 25 teams) most successful World League nation of all time.
With the Netherlands’ world ranking sitting at 41, their lowest since world rankings started in 1994 (incidentally peaking at one in 1998), Benne knows he has a lot of work to do to ensure they take the necessary steps - starting with defeating the Dominican Republic and, if they win, Portugal in the next round.
“The Dominicans have a good team, with some players that play or have played in Italy. They play spectacular, Caribbean volleyball that looks a bit like the play of Cuba.”
Benne can count on his team captain Rob Bontje, who recently recovered from an injury, however opposite Niels Klapwijk will not be able to play again this international season. He has returned to Italy to rehabilitate with his club.
The Netherlands, who qualified for the opportunity to participate in the World League 2013 qualification process by winning the European League, beating Turkey in a thrilling five-set final on July 1, warmed up for their clash with the Dominican Republic with two wins and a defeat against Finland, who finished 13th in the 2012 World League and are ranked 31st in the world.
The matches start at 19:30 (local time) on Friday and Saturday.
Click here for more info on the World League 2013 qualification process
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