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Australia looking to build up team as World League approaches

Australia lost three of their four games against Iran
Tehran, Iran, May 21, 2014 – Australia stopped off in Tehran last week for four practice games against the Iran national team. The games were to help Australia prepare for the upcoming FIVB World League.

Iran took the first three games 3-0 before losing a five-setter to the Aussies.

Afterwards, Australia coach Jon Uriarte and captain Aidan Zingel reflected on the games, their opponents and the World League. 

Australia coach Jon Uriarte
Q: How did you find the Iranian team from a technical point of view?
A: The Iranian team has improved a lot in the last few years. It's very consistent and competitive, and in the competitions they play with high standards. 

Q: Why did you choose to stop in Iran en route to Europe? 
A: We wanted to have a good competition on this trip. In two weeks, we are going to play in the World League and it was a great opportunity to come to Iran and work together. 

Q: What do you think about the change of coach for Iran? 
A: Iran has always had a beautiful base and strong national league. A while ago, they just needed to take a new step and Velasco was the right person to do this. He was part of the process for something similar in Argentina 30 years ago when he was the assistant coach of the Korean head coach at that time. Argentina finished in third place in the World Championship in 1982. At that time he was very young and the coach of one of the main clubs in Argentina. He understood the whole process. He took over the Iranian national team at the right moment.
Q: Do you think Slobodan Kovac will continue down the same path or will he lead the team in his own direction?
A: I think Kovac will bring his own capabilities, which are high. I think the most important thing is about the whole community, specifically the federation and that the players have understood the concepts which are important to be competitive. When you absorb all this knowledge, then you are talking about new standards. 

Q: How do you evaluate the friendly matches against Iran?
A: We are dealing with different situations inside the group. A couple of players are recovering from different surgeries. We need to get back to our best level gradually. In this period, it's about building the team. We do not have a bunch of volleyball players in Australia. Volleyball in Australia is much smaller that it is in Iran and every time we need to get a new player, we have to wait for a while.

Australia captain Aidan Zingel 
Q: Why did your team choose Iran for their preparatory games ahead of their World League matches? 
A: We’ve always had a rivalry with Iran, the strongest team in Asia at the moment. With being so far from Europe, it’s difficult to have competitions there, so on our journey to Europe, Iran is the perfect stopping point in preparation for our team. So, we’ve had excellent and high quality matches. 

Q: Did you ever play against Iran before? 
A: Yes, this is the sixth time I have been to Iran. I never played Iran during my youth and junior years. I started with the senior team. It seems that we’ve had friendly matches or come across each other in competitions every year. 

Q: How did you find Iran team during these years?
A: Always strong. They’ve always had a strong group and high-level players. Every year we come back, there are new names and new faces, but they fit in the same positions at the same level. 

Q: What about opponents in Europe – is there any similarity with playing Iran? 
A: The teams in Europe play such powerful games, play very athletic and they have the height as well. So, it’s a lot different from typical Asian teams. [Iran] have a different style, more European.  

Q: Based on what you said earlier, you played against Iran when Julio Velasco was the coach; how do you see the Iranian team during and after Velasco?
A: It’s very difficult to tell, because we arrived in Iran two days before the new coach did. So, we spent more time here than he did. 

Q: I think the objective of these friendly matches is to gain more experience and get ready for the matches ahead, but Australia lost 3-0 in the first three games. Why?
A: It was obviously not intentional. We have a small group and we had a big turnover after the Olympics with our players. So, we need to step up and play against high-level teams. Our players have been working together just two or three weeks, so it's going to be difficult, but we are progressing and training as well. Both teams are showing a lot of positives in their own direction. 


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