Finland have sight set on first World Champs appearance in 30 years
Their head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo failed five times to achieve this goal during his long competitive career but this time wants to break that negative trend. Sammelvuo is confident that Finland stands a good chance to make it to the World Champs coming up next September in Poland.
“The team is feeling good and all players are in a great shape. We only had a very short time to prepare for the World Champs qualifier, but everything went good. A place for the Final Round of the World Champs is our only goal” Sammelvuo says. The Finns first got together in Kuortane before they traveled to Ljubljana to play two friendly matches with Slovenia at the Tivoli hall. Through January 3-5 Finland will then play Ukraine, Greece, and hosts Slovakia for a spot in the Final Round of the World Championships. “We are going to play three tough teams but they all are within our reach. Ukraine and especially Greece remain big question marks to me at the moment” Sammelvuo adds, recalling that the final lists of 12 players will be known only on the eve of the first competition day.
The Finnish mentor can count on some experienced players including Mikko Esko and Olli Kunnari who are embarking on their third attempt to make the Worlds. Nine out of 12 players have already registered more than 100 caps with the national team.
On the other hand, there are four rookies who never played the World Champs qualification before: setter Eemi Tervaportti, libero Lauri Kerminen, and wing-spikers Elviss Krastins and Niklas Seppänen.
The other players retained by coach Sammelvuo for the World Champs qualifier in Poprad are: Mikko Esko, Matti Oivanen, Jukka Lehtonen, Konstantin Shumov, Olli-Pekka Ojansivu, Urpo Sivula, Olli Kunnari, and Antti Siltala.
The last time Finland played at the World Championship was in 1982 as the group around Heikki Montonen finished 17th at the competition held in Argentina (Rosario and Buenos Aires).