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Tunisia’s men out to make Africa proud at the World Championship

Although Tunisia's captain Hfaiedh Noureddine is one of the more experienced players, the team's encouraging performance meant that the younger team members also got a chance to show their mettle at the World Championship qualifiers

Lausanne, Switzerland, March 11, 2014 – Having accomplished their mission in style, a delighted Tunisian men’s volleyball team posed for photos with their thumbs up.

The hosts of the final qualifying tournament on the African continent came through their four qualifying matches at the Palais des Sports hall in Tunis without dropping a single set to secure their ticket to the FIVB Men’s World Championship in Poland from August 30 to September 21.

In the deciding match, Tunisia superbly dispatched the previously unbeaten team from Congo Brazzaville 3-0 (25-11, 25-17, 25-17) in just 62 minutes. That performance alone demonstrated the superiority of the experienced North Africans.

“Our team’s strength lies in its well-balanced collective,” said successful coach Fethi Mekaouer. “We will try to do Africa proud at the World Championship.” That will certainly not be an easy task for the men in red shirts: as the top African team in the FIVB rankings, Tunisia will be grouped along with defending champions Brazil, dark horse Germany, Korea, Finland and the second ranked team from NORCECA at the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship finals. However, the world number 13 team does boast a wealth of experience at major events. This is the fourth time in a row, and eighth altogether, that the Tunisians have lined up against the best teams on the planet in the World Championship.

The Tunisian men ended the last championship in 2010 in 19th place, while the best result so far was a 15th place finish in 2006. Back then, they impressed with victories against South Korea, Kazakhstan and Puerto Rico en route to the second round. And the three African men’s teams – Egypt and Cameroon have also qualified for the Championship – are looking to challenge the world elite again this time around. “If the three African teams are well prepared going into this kind of event, then they can hold their own and even cause the odd upset,” said Cameroon’s coach Peter Nonnenbroich.

Tunisia’s men certainly have the perfect preparation for the highlight of the season. They will make their debut in the FIVB World League, where they will face top-class opponents like Cuba, Turkey and Mexico in the preliminary round. Tunisia is one of five debutants in a record-breaking season: the FIVB Volleyball World League heralds a new era in 2014.

The unique competition, which features the world’s top volleyball teams and has been thrilling fans around the world since 1990, will be bigger than ever for its 25th anniversary. Rather than the previous record of 18 nations in 2013, 28 teams will line up in this year’s event. And Tunisia is making its first appearance.
“Playing teams with international experience will definitely help the team continue to develop,” said coach Mekaouer, whose team was also the only African outfit at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The qualifying tournament for the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship Poland 2014 in its native Tunisia was not exactly a major challenge for the team, who with eight titles at the African Championship holds the continental record. Before beating Congo Brazzaville 3-0, the men in red had triumphed just as convincingly against Niger, Senegal and the Seychelles. The 25-19 score against the team from the Seychelles, which eventually finished third, was the closest set of the tournament for the dominant hosts.

This degree of dominance allowed coach Mekaouer to give all the players in his team, which is built around the experienced Hfaiedh Noureddine, a chance to gain experience. After securing the ticket to the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship, the celebrations both in the hall and in the country’s newspapers were relatively low key – after all, they were expected to succeed.

In all 19 of the 24 teams for the FIVB Men’s World Championship Poland 2014 have now been confirmed: Bulgaria, Serbia, Germany, Belgium, Finland and France qualified at the beginning of this year. They are joined by hosts Poland, Olympic champions Russia and Italy from Europe. The four Asian vacancies were filled by Australia, Iran, China and Korea, while Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil took the three spots reserved for South America. More recently Egypt, Cameroon and Tunisia were the three Africa countries that qualified for the Championship.

The NORCECA confederation will hold four qualifying tournaments (each with four teams) scheduled to take place in Cuba (May 12 to 18), USA (May 13 to 19), Canada (May 14 to 20) and Puerto Rico (May 20 to 26). The FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship Poland 2014 NORCECA playoff which will take place either in Mexico or Puerto Rico from July 14 to 20 and will determine the last of the five NORCECA teams to book their place at the World Championships this year.

Tunisia can sit back and relax: the country’s volleyball teams have met their targets on two fronts. Just two weeks before the men, Tunisia’s ladies had also sensationally qualified for the first time in 28 years for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship that will be held from September 23 to October 12 in Italy. Tunisia joined Cameroon as the second African team in the pot at the Drawing of Lots that took place in Parma on Monday.

With the two African teams, 18 of the 24 teams for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship have now been decided. Beside Tunisia and Cameron, seven European teams had already come through their qualifying tournaments on the first weekend of 2014: the winners of the five third-round qualifying tournaments – Turkey, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia, and Bulgaria – as well as the top two second-placed teams Serbia and the Netherlands. They joined hosts Italy, defending champions Russia and Germany from Europe, Brazil and Argentina from South America, and Japan, China, Thailand and Kazakhstan from Asia.

The NORCECA confederation will hold five qualifying tournaments (each with four teams) scheduled to take place in Cuba (May 12 to 18), USA and Dominican Republic (May 13 to 19), Canada (May 14 to 20) and Puerto Rico (May 20 to 26). The winner of each group will qualify for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 while the runners-up will go through to a play-off for the fifth and final place from June 2 to 9 in Trinidad.


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