Lausanne, Switzerland, June 02, 2004 - Twelve of the best international men's Volleyball teams are preparing for the start of the 2004 World League, the FIVB's premier international men's Volleyball tournament, on Friday in six different venues around the world.
With $13m in prize money the World League is the richest and most significant annual FIVB tournament and this year's competition is no different with the crème de la crème of international men's Volleyball doing battle.
World champions, world cup holders and defending World League champions Brazil head what is a riveting competition with three pools of four teams. The South Americans are joined by Olympic hosts Greece, last year's World League finals hosts Spain and Portugal in Pool A.
In Pool B, world championship bronze medalists France, who qualified for the Olympics last week, are joined by Eastern European super powers Bulgaria, Japan and Poland, who will also be at the Olympics.
The final pool, Pool C, sees World Cup runners up Italy joined by China, Cuba and last year's World League silver medalists Serbia and Montenegro.
This weekend's opening round is the opening phase of a six round competition over six gripping weekends - three rounds at home and three rounds away.
The opening weekend of matches see Greece host Brazil, Spain entertain Portugal in Pool A, while in Pool B France travels to Bulgaria and Japan welcomes Poland and Pool C matches see Italy take on China at home and Cuba host Serbia and Montenegro.
There are two matches each weekend for each team against the same opposition to make a total of 12 matches for each team.
The best classified team from each group in the Intercontinental Round will join hosts Italy for the four-team final round, which will be held in Rome from July 16-18.
In 2003, Brazil beat Serbia and Montenegro in an extraordinary World League final in Madrid 3-2 (25-16, 21-25, 19-25, 25-23, 31-29) while Italy claimed the bronze medal.