Cuba look to fresh start with new coach and young team
Lazaro Raydel Fundora Travieso (receiving) and libero Keibel Gutierrez Torna (6) will be again key members for Cuba |
Lausanne, Switzerland, May 2, 2014 - Volleyball power Cuba lines up at this year’s 25th anniversary of the FIVB Volleyball World League with a new coach, a young team and a fresh start.
The worst result in the country’s history last year, when Cuba won just one of its 10 preliminary matches, brought the curtain down on the successful era of coach Orlando Samuels Blackwood. This left his successor Rodolfo Sánchez, who was an international in the 1990s, to name the 22-man squad for this year’s tournament. Like all the other 27 teams in the competition, Sánchez had to submit his squad by May 1.
Sánchez, a successful coach on the junior scene, has turned almost exclusively to young players with potential. Last year’s top scorer, Astengo Yordan Bisset, has been omitted from the squad – as have other international stars from the Caribbean island. Cuba will be making its 23rd appearance in the FIVB World League. Only record winner Brazil and Italy, who have contested every tournament to date, have made more appearances. Cuba finished runner-up at the FIVB Volleyball World Championship Italy 2010 and actually won the FIVB Volleyball World League 16 years ago. Now, the matches against the top teams in the world are to form the foundation for a new chapter in the country’s success story.
China can also look back upon a magnificent past on the volleyball court, and the Chinese return to the showdown between the top teams in the world for the first time since 2010. The squad is led by Yuan Zhi and Ren Qi, both of whom have experience of the Olympics and World Championships.
Many of the players set to line up for debutant Tunisia and Puerto Rico, who have competed at the showdown between the best national teams in the world on just one occasion in 2011, have another important task before the start of the FIVB Volleyball World League. Puerto Rico’s top club Guaynabo Mets is the NORCECA appointed team in the FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship Belo Horizonte 2014, which takes place from May 5 to 10 in Brazil. Eleven of Guaynabo’s players are included in the Puerto Rico squad for the FIVB Volleyball World League. In order to allow the national team a perfect preparation for its return to the prestigious international competition, Puerto Rico coach David Aleman has only allowed his players to train twice a week with their club.
The Tunisian squad includes seven players from its top national team Esperance, who will represent Africa in the FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship Belo Horizonte 2014. Middle blocker Bilel Ben Hassine, opposite spiker Hichem Kaabi and outside hitter Elyes Karamosli are some of the national team stars who will play in the FIVB Volleyball World League.
The remaining three debutants, Mexico, Turkey and Slovakia, have also named their first ever squad for the FIVB Volleyball World League. Italian Flavio Gulinelli, who coached Portugal in last year’s World League, is the man charged with guiding Slovakia to success.
Rising volleyball nation Turkey includes three players in its squad from Halkbank Ankara, who recently reached the final of the European Champions League. The most experienced of these is Hüseyin Koc.
As well as Cuba, who find themselves in a phase of rebuilding, Pools F and G also include the teams lower down the world rankings. Cuba are joined in Pool F by debutants Tunisia, Turkey and Mexico. Pool G sees Slovakia, Puerto Rico, China and Spain go head to head. Both pools will play two stand-alone tournaments per pool involving four teams.
The first tournament for both groups takes place from June 6 to 8. The Final Four for Pools F & G will take place from June 27 to 29 in Bursa, Turkey.
Click here for the Group 1 preview
Click here for the Group 2 preview
Click here for the team lists