Cuba against Russia: Mission Impossible in Havana?
Havana, Cuba, June 26, 2013 – The Russia national team has arrived in Havana, Cuba, where the host team hopes to get at least one victory out of the reigning Olympic Champions. The perceived Mission Impossible goal will be facilitated by Cuba’s newest weapon: their loyal crowd at Ciudad Deportiva Coliseum.
Russia’s players looked confident during their first training session on Wednesday, and were not concerned about the hot weather in Havana. Instead, team manager Ivan Artamonov says his biggest worry is about the high humidity of the city, well known as one of the greatest scenarios of the World League.
"We are focused on reaching the final round,” Artamonov said, while acknowledging the great shape his players have shown so far in WL 2013. “Once we get to Mar del Plata, it will be a whole new story.”
Last week, Russia struggled to cope with Italy's excellent blocking in Sergut, but the next day they took a sweet revenge against the Olympic Bronze medallist.
“Italia is a great team, their players know each other very well, and they have excellent communication on court,” Artamonov said.
Artamonov confirmed that Cuban audience will be able to see on action Olympic champions Nikolay Apalikov, Sergey Grankin and Dmitriy Ilinykh. Some players of the Olympic squad are out of shape or injured, but that don’t seems to be a problem against the inexperienced Cuban team, last place in Pool B of WL 2013.
2012 World League finalist Cuba has not won a single game this year, but they are optimistic. The young squad is full of potential, but lacks international confrontation. Head coach Orlando Samuells promised nothing but the best of his players.
Samuells added that Cuba's goal against Russia is to learn and get better.
There may be some changes in Cuba’s line up for this weekend. A technical meeting is scheduled for Thursday, at Meliá Havana Hotel, prior to the press conference ahead of this weekend matches.
Cuba and Russia meet Friday and Saturday at 00:40 GMT.