Russia and the returning Gamova out for a hat-trick of titles
Lausanne, Switzerland, September 23, 2014 – The FIVB Volleyball Women’s Volleyball World Championship Italy 2014 opens with 12 matches on the first day of competition in Rome, Bari, Verona and Trieste.
The World Championship involves 24 teams competing in the first round with four venues hosting round-robin events with six teams each.
Olympic gold in 2012, historic 10th title at the World Grand Prix less than a month ago, the Grand Champions Cup and South American Championship in 2013: Brazil’s volleyball ladies have won all of these titles. Which makes it almost impossible to believe that the skillful South Americans are still waiting for their first ever World Championship title. Naturally they want to change this at the 17th FIVB Women’s World Championships, held in Italy from this Tuesday to the 12th October.
“After the dream year in 2013 and the recent 10th victory in the World Grand Prix, it goes without saying that we will be striving to finally get our hands on this title,” said Brazil’s successful coach Ze Roberto before Tuesday’s opening match against Bulgaria in Trieste. However, a glance at the history of the World Championship reveals exactly why Ze Roberto is wary of the threat posed by one team in particular: defending champions Russia. The Russian giants have twice defeated Brazil 3:2 in the final to win the World Championship title in 2006 and 2010, meaning that the Brazilians’ three silver medals (including 1994) remain their greatest success to date in the World Championship.
The task has been made all the more difficult by the fact that the lady widely regarded as the best female volleyball player in the world, Ekaterina Gamova, is making a surprise return to the Russian national team. Gamova had retired from international volleyball after the bitter quarter-final defeat to fierce rivals Brazil at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, when the Russian team failed to convert match points. Now die 2.02-metre tall attacker is back, and just in time for Tuesday’s first match against Thailand in Verona. Her return is not money-motivated, but because she wants “to win another title with my native Russia”. The match-winning player of the last two World Championship finals now has her sights set on a hat-trick of titles.
To date, only the predecessor state the Soviet Union has achieved this feat – at the first three FIVB Women’s World Championships in 1952, 1956 and 1960. In addition to these two top teams, there are numerous other teams who are hoping to win the title. On the up again are the Japanese. They won their first Grand Prix medal this year on home soil and challenged the dominant Brazilian team till the final match. They are hungry for the title, having won the last of their three World Championship golds back in 1974.
Two-time world champion China has made remarkable progress in a short time under the guidance of the returning “Jenny” Lang Ping, who won silver as the US coach at her home Olympics in Beijing in 2008. Turkey showed really strong performances this year and was the only team in this year’s World Grand Prix to beat Brazil. Germany could also be good for a surprise – the team won the international tournament in Montreux at the end of spring, ahead of top nations such as Brazil and Russia. It goes without saying that Olympic silver medallists the USA, whose most recent success at the World Championships came in the form of second place in 2002, are always a hot favourite.
Marco Bonitta is someone who knows how to win an FIVB Women’s World Championship title. He led the Italian women to victory at the showdown in 2002 and has been charged with the task of repeating this legendary success in front of the home crowd. It's for this reason that he has been called up as coach once again – and he will start this mission on Tuesday in Rome against Tunisia in the first round of the championship. A lot of “old stars”, like setter Eleonora LoBianco, Carolina Costangrande and Francesca Piccinini, are back in the hosts’ team.
Bonitta: “The first round will be fundamental, so we will have to win a lot. The format for this World Championship is an excellent one and I am enthusiastic about it. I think the final will be interesting and hopefully Italy will be part of it.” It will be a first for the great volleyball nation: Italy has hosted many women’s competitions in the past - the FIVB Junior World Championships in 1985, four European Championships (1971, 1991, 1999 and 2011) and three finals of the FIVB Grand Prix (2003, 2004, and 2006) – but this is the first time that the FIVB Women’s World Championships will be held here. The 17th staging of the title showdown is set to become the biggest celebration of women in the history of volleyball.
FIVB President Dr. Ary S. Graça F° is confident that “the marvellous country” of Italy, with its great tradition of sport and culture, will host one of the best World Championships ever. “We are pleased to have Italy host such an important event. The country is known for its passion for volleyball and its commitment to producing top notch action,” said Dr. Graça: “Italy’s volleyball will produce an unforgettable event.”
The 24 teams that qualified for the highlight of the year in Italy are divided into four pools of six teams for the first round, which will start on the Tuesday with a round-robin. Four cities (Rome, Trieste, Bari and Verona) will each host a pool. The top four teams in each pool will advance to the second round (in Bari, Trieste, Verona and Modena), where the 16 teams will be split into two pools of eight (top two in Pool A and B, third and fourth in Pool C and Pool D), with the top three in each pool advancing to the third round.
This round will consist of a round-robin system, with the top two teams in each pool advancing to the semi-finals. The 103rd and last match of the tournament will be the final, which will take place in Milan on 12th October. At the latest, the finals will show whether Brazil's women can secure their first World Championship title – or Russia a historical hat-trick.
Germany and Dominican Republic provide good opening day challenge – Two top 10 teams in the world meet on the opening day of the FIVB Women’s World Championship as No. 9 Germany face No. 10 Dominican Republic for the seventh time at the premier FIVB event. The Germans have won four meetings, including the most recent encounter 3-0 in 2006. Germany can win their 22nd World Championship match since the German reunification in 1990. That would be one more than the 21 matches they won as West Germany. They also won 30 matches as East Germany.
Host Italy look for fast start on home soil – Italy are looking to become the first hosts to win the FIVB Women’s World Championship title since Japan accomplished the feat in 1967. The Italians are already the last team to win the tournament on their home continent as they claimed the 2002 title in Germany. Italy have faced Tunisia once before in the World Championships, a 3-0 victory in 1978.
Key European Battle on the first day – No. 8 Serbia will have their hands full against No. 11 Turkey to start Pool B. The two teams have met twice, both coming in the two most recent World Championships. Serbia won the first meeting in 2006, while Turkey won in 2010. Serbia has lost their last two World Championship matches and has never lost three times in a row.
Brazilians seek early momentum against Bulgaria – Brazil, which won the recent 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix, have won 21 of their last 23 World Championship matches with the only two defeats coming to Russia in five-set matches in the 2006 and 2010 championship match. Bulgaria seek to halt a three-match losing streak in the World Championship. The two teams have gone head-to-head six times at the World Championship with both teams winning three ties. The most recent meeting was in 2002 that ended in a 3-0 win for Brazil.
Russia starts World Championship defence vs Thailand – Russia have won the last two FIVB World Championships and have placed on the podium in each of the last six World Championships (3 golds, 3 bronzes). Overall, Russia have won 22 of their last 23 World Championship matches since winning bronze in 2002. Thailand will be facing Russia for the first time in World Championship competition.
NORCECA rivals travel thousands of miles to open World Championship against each other – The USA and Mexico have faced each other four times in the World Championship, but Mexico has won the two most recent matches held in 1974. The USA seek to break a three-match losing streak in World Championship play, falling in the semifinal and bronze medal matches in 2010.
Japan fares well away from home soil – Japan have hosted the World Championships a record four times, including the last two editions in 2006 and 2010. Nevertheless, they have a better winning record outside of Japan (74 percent, 60-21 record) than on home soil (67 percent, 22-11). Japan and Azerbaijan meet for the time during World Championship play.
Cuba look to rebound – Cuba finished 12th in the last World Championship edition in 2010, their worst finish ever. They will look to get off to a good start in their first-ever meeting with Belgium to start this year’s World Championship.