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New age category ready for first run-out

The coaches ready for the challenge of becoming U23 world champions
Uberlandia, Brazil, October 5, 2013 - On the eve of the first Men's U23 World Championship, managers and coaches from the 12 participating teams shared their thoughts on their teams, the tournament and the new U23 age category.

The 12 teams are representing five confederations, and are divided into two pools of six, with the top two teams from each pool advancing to the semifinals. The teams that finish third and fourth in the pool will also play off for 5-8 positions.

The teams competing in pool A are hosts Brazil, Argentina, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Egypt and Dominican Republic, while pool B contains Russia, Serbia, Iran, Australia, Mexico and Venezuela.

Pool A

Roberley Leonaldo, Brazil head coach: "Brazil is one of the favourites in this competition, but for a new category the reference is the last competition, [U21] in 2011 when Russia, Argentina and Serbia were on the podium. Looking at the situation from an adult level, we are among the favourites."

Alejandro Grossi, Argentina head coach: "We have been preparing for the last five months, so we feel ready. We expect not only doing a great tournament, but also to be fighting for a place in the semi-finals. However, we know this is going to be a very even competition, with a new system being tested and also in this new category [U23] that I think is essential for coaches and players."

Dragan Ivanov, Bulgaria head coach: "We had a training camp for one month and I expect to see the same game the team showed me during the training process. We think these players are the best in Bulgaria for this age limit. I will be happy if we play the final four, but the problem is that nobody can see these [U23] teams before, it was not possible to scout these teams."

Mohamed Mounir Gara, Tunisia head coach: "Our goal here in Brazil is to reach the second round. We haven't had a big preparation for the tournament, but I'm sure that the players will do everything to represent our country as best as possible in such an important competition."

Gaber Abouzeid, Egypt head coach: "Our team is a young one, it's made of a mix between many young players and some others from this [U23] category. Of course we came here looking for a good result, but in the end I hope we can play good games here, in a very important place for volleyball like Brazil, and with the best teams of the world."

Osiel Vázquez, Dominican Republic head coach: "For us it's very important to be here, as our country has not played this [world] competition for over 10 years. We are looking forward to seeing the players with a great attitude towards every match and we dream of being among the top eight countries, even though we know it's a very difficult task."

Pool B

Sergei Shliapnikov, Russia head coach: "In Russia the situation is very good for volleyball. The junior national team are champions of Europe and world champions, and the senior team won the Olympic Games and the European championship, so now the situation is very good from the perspective of volleyball. In junior school much more people are going and playing volleyball."

Laslo Lukac, Serbia team manager: "We are so happy to be at the first World U23 Championship. We will try to be one of the two best teams in our group and then in the semi-final to see if we can get a medal. We have a difficult group, but we have the biggest ambition."

Payman Akbari, Iran head coach: "Considering this is the first tournament in this agegroup [U23], it is a very good team to participate in this competition. This is the same team, our junior team, from two years ago in Brazil. That team has grown up in that time, and we were sixth in that competition."

Grant Robertson, Australia head coach: "We have a young team, with an average age of 19, but we believe that our guys will perform very well. We played some great matches in Argentina recently, including even beating them, so we're confident that we can go out there and play well. And, hopefully, surprise a few people along the way."

Jorge Miguel Azair Lopez, Mexico head coach: "We're very happy to be here. We know it's going to be a very tough tournament for us, but we hope to make it into the next round. We achieved some good results in the U19 tournament back home and in the U21 [World Championships] in Turkey, so now with this new agegroup we're trying to keep steadily growing and link this process with the senior team."

Ivan Nieto, Venezuela head coach: "From a development point of view, this tournament is going to be important for us as we have players that have gone through all the previous categories. For the competition, we want to climb as high as possible. We think we can perform really well in our pool, so the goal is to advance as the tournament goes on."


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