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World Champs qualification starting in Europe with 12 tournaments

Pieter Verhees was one of the best players in the match that Belgium claimed on Thursday to kick-start the European qualification for the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championships

Luxembourg, May 24, 2013 – On Thursday the qualification process for the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championships got started in Europe with the first matches played in Kortrijk, Belgium, but there is much more to follow as a total of 12 tournaments – six per gender – are set to run through this weekend.

The winners of the first-round will advance directly to the third stage of the qualification process scheduled for early January 2014 while the second-ranked teams will continue their campaign along the way to Poland and Italy – hosts of next year’s World Champs – via the second round slated for October 2-6.

Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb, hosts Pool A where the local heroes are set to play Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina and the winners of last year’s CEV Volleyball European League, the Netherlands. In Pool B hosts Slovenia are the clear-cut favourite of the group starring also the likes of Hungary, Israel, and Moldova; Pool C – taking place in Rakvere – will see the home heroes of Estonia play Belarus, Latvia and Denmark. Sweden’s Volleyball superstar Marcus Nilsson will be the one to watch in Halmstad where Sweden will be taking on Norway, Iceland and Greece (Pool E).

In Pool F, the hosts of the F.Y.R. of Macedonia are set to play Albania, Ukraine and Montenegro.

As for Pool D, actions got started yesterday in Kortrijk where the local heroes of Belgium could best Austria 3:1 (25-13, 19-25, 25-14, and 25-19) in their opening match while Romania cruised past Northern Ireland in three straight sets (25-12, 25-15, and 25-12) in the other game of the day.

Six first-round tournaments are set to be played also for the women’s competition with a similar format, i.e. the winners and runner-ups will move to the third and second round respectively. Croatia is the real pre-favourite in Pool A where this side will be testing out the likes of hosts Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and the F.Y.R. of Macedonia. Belarus will have a much more demanding task in Mogilev as Pool B includes the likes of Israel, Finland and Denmark, all teams that have been steadily progressing and improving their standards in recent times.

Ukraine will be the one to watch out for in Lutsk – venue of Pool D – where the hosts are set to play Albania, Moldova and Hungary. Slovakia have clearly stated their intention to finish first in Pool E thereby exploiting the home advantage to have the upper hand in their fixtures with Austria, Greece and Liechtenstein.

Pool F will see Latvia play at home in Daugavpils and host there the national teams of Estonia, Iceland and Lithuania. Pool C was the first one to get started on Thursday in Kortrijk where Switzerland bounced back after a relatively slow start to edge Portugal 3:1 (27-29, 25-19, 25-23, and 25-22).

Two more tournaments taking place in Limassol (Cyprus) for men and in Cospicua (Malta) for women will complete in June the program of the first round European qualification for the 2014 Worlds.

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