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20 teams in hunt for Men's U21 World Championship glory

Brazilian coach Leonardo Afonso Seixas de Carvalho during a training session in Ataturk Volleyball Hall in Izmir ahead of the Men's U21 World Championship which starts on Thursday

Izmir, Turkey, August 21, 2013 – Twenty teams from all over the world will battle it out for glory as volleyball fever takes over Turkey as it hosts the FIVB Men's U21 World Championship that will take place in the cities of Ankara and Izmir from Thursday, August 22 until September 1.

Most of the world powerhouses are available including the biggest two rivals Russia and Brazil, and Serbia whose squad includes seven players from their U19 side who won the Youth World Championship in Argentina two years ago.

Russia are the defending champions after their success in Brazil in 2011, their eighth in 11 appearances in the competition. They will face a double South American threat – from Argentina and Brazil – as well as from fellow Europeans Serbia and Italy. 
Russia will face a greater challenge this year following the expansion of the format for this year's Championship to 20 teams for the first time.

Four-time champions Brazil are the second most successful country at Men's U21 with four titles and 12 medals in 16 editions.

The Baskent Hall in Ankara will host Pool A and B matches, while the Pool C and D matches of the tournament will take place at the Ataturk Volleyball Hall in Izmir.

Russia will be conducted by their assistant coach Mikhail Nikolaev who replaced Andre Tolochko after the latter had health problems. "We need to prove our consistency as the best performing team at this age category and win at least a medal, but the gold is still a big objective for all Russian teams, specially we need to follow the footsteps of the youth team who just won the U19 World Championship in Mexico early last month,"  Nikolaev said.

Two years ago, the Serbian Boys' U19 team were the world champions in Argentina and now with the majority of the players continuing their international career with the Junior U21 national team they still have the passion to create a new era and stay in the podium at the Men's U21 World Championship.

Seven players from the 2011 Youth World Champions (Kovacevic, Brdjovic, Katic, Stankovic, Okolic, Medic and Blagojevic) are still here in the Junior U21 team making over an extraordinary generation.

Serbia will line up against USA, Tunisia, Canada and Rwanda in Pool C in Izmir in their only second participation at this age category beside 5 other participations under ex-Yugoslavia and Serbia-Montenegro names. The only Serbian participation under this name was two years ago when they captured the bronze medal in Brazil.   

Serbia's coach Sinisa Reljic said that they started preparations since June for the Men’s U21 World Championship. "We trained in Slovenia for 2 weeks. We played in the Balkan Championship and won the tournament against Turkey in the final," Reljic said.
“In the youth category we were the world champion. We have good players. Our players are experienced at both local and international levels.  All my team play in the super league in Serbia,”

Argentina won medals from the previous two Junior Men’s World Championships - 2009 bronze in India and 2011 silver in Brazil, but in the eve of the upcoming championship in Turkey they have put all this behind and are only thinking about their next match.

Coach Muraco is very pleased with the way his team trained for this tournament.  ”We had a very good preparation and trained hard,” he said.  ”We played many friendly matches and we are ready for a tough championship.”

Despite the local political troubles in Egypt, their team came to compete here with a high spirit to overcome these troubles. ”We come here as the second team in Africa and we hope to make it among the top eight teams in this World Championship.  Our preparation was not as complete as I would have liked and without any friendly games.  But our team is not bad and we hope to make a good performance in Ankara.  We want to do something good for our troubled nation,” said Head coach Gaber Abouzeid.

The tournament, which takes place every two years, provides a platform for the next generation of stars to showcase their skills on the international stage and potentially take the big step into the senior ranks. While it is the first time that Turkey will host the 10-day Men's Under 21 World Championship, the country has hosted the Women's U20 World Championship in 2005 and the Girls' U18 World Championship in 2011.

The competition features a revised format having been expanded from 16 to 20 teams, made up of the hosts and 19 qualifiers.

The 20 teams will be divided into four pools of five teams each and will play a round-robin tournament. The bottom-ranked team of each pool will play classification matches for 17th-20th place in a round-robin system.

The other 16 teams progress to the eight Finals which consists of a playoff (first of Pool A against fourth of Pool B, second of pool A against third of Pool B etc). The winners of the playoff matches will advance to the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals to be classified from first to eighth while the losers of playoff match will play classification matches, with a similar quarterfinals, semifinals and finals system, to be classified from ninth to sixteenth.

Pool distribution

Pool A: Turkey- China- Egypt- India- Morocco
Pool B: Argentina- Iran- Japan- Mexico- Estonia
Pool C: Serbia- USA- Tunisia- Canada- Rwanda
Pool D: Russia- Brazil- France- Venezuela- Italy

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