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World League 2002 - Previews & Reviews
Battle of the Giants in 1st Intercontinental Round FIVB World League

LAUSANNE, Switzerland June 30 - The giants of volleyball emerged victorious this weekend, gaining the edge in the first Intercontinental Round of the $15m FIVB World League, the richest prize in the sport.
World league title-holders Brazil secured two decisive victories (3-1, 3-0) over traditional rival Argentina in a South American Derby, before 12,500 enthusiastic spectators. Argentina won only one set in the two matches, with Brazilian spikers Giba and André Nascimento playing inspired volleyball to wrap up a successful weekend for their side.
In other action Pool A action, Portugal defeated Poland 3-2, with the sides due to meet later on Sunday night for their second match.
In Pool B, visitors Italy scored two resounding victories (3-2, 3-0) over China, while Spain demolished Venezuela 3-0, 3-0
Pool C saw two clear victories for Russia over a young and largely untried Cuban formation. The hosts waltzed over the visitors 3-0 in the first match. Cuba scrambled back into the action in the second match, serving and attacking strongly to take the first and third sets. Tomas Aldazabal and two young players Yosleider Cala (17) and Yasser Portuando (19) were outstanding for Cuba in the second tie, with Roman Lakovlev was the best for the Russian team.
Germany had mixed fortunes in their Pool C draw with the Netherlands but were unable to follow the euphoria of their 3-1 win on Thursday. They went down 3-0 to the Dutch side in the second match.
France seized the initiative twice to demoralize Yugoslavia in the opening Pool D matches, scoring a clear 3-0 victory at home in Paris over Olympic champions in the opening match on Friday. 
Yugoslavia started with more promise on Saturday in the second match, taking the first set. But despite good defense work, they failed to level the tie and France wrapped up a successful weekend with a 3-1 win over the Olympic champions.
Greece shut out Japan in straight sets in the first of their two matches in a packed stadium in the city of Lamia. Greece out-served and out-blocked the visitors and Nikos Roumeliotis was the top scorer with 16 points. They meet later on Sunday for their second match. 
Intercontinental rounds continue for six consecutive weekends to determine the top 8 teams to meet for the final round in Brazil (Aug 13-18)

16 elite teams poised to contest the 2002 World League

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, June 25, 2002 - Sixteen of the world's elite volleyball teams are poised to battle out the 13th edition of the FIVB World League, an annual series over six weekends for a total of $15 million prize money.
The first round (June 27-30) will see tense clashes expected between last year's winner, Brazil, and Argentina, China and Italy - which has dominated World League in recent years, volleyball giants Russia and Cuba, as well as France vs. Olympic Champions, Yugoslavia. In other matches, Portugal meets Poland, Spain plays Venezuela, Germany plays and The Netherlands and Greece meets Japan.
The "League" - as it is affectionately known to aficionados, is comprised of Pool Play over 5 consecutive weekends, culminating in the final round on the sixth week, this year hosted by Brazil in the cities of Recife and Belo Horizonte (August 12-18). In the past 12 seasons, the World League has amassed a huge following of spectators and millions of television viewers. It has distributed a staggering $76 million in prize money, with Italy taking the lion's share of $11.5 million. Perhaps the best indication of the tournament's dynamic growth is that the purse has grown from a mere one million dollars in 1990, when the competition first started.
Last year Brazil swept through to the final match as the only undefeated team in the final eight in the Polish city of Katowice. They had dropped only four sets in four matches over Poland (3-1), Yugoslavia (3-1), France (3-0) and 3-2 in the semifinal against Russia. Italy, the team with eight World League titles to its name, had also been in magnificent form but then lost 2-3 to Russia in what was arguably the best match of the 2001 series. 

When Brazil met Italy in final, it was a samba sensation with the Brazilian powerhouse powering over the court with enough speed and rhythm to take a three set victory over the wilted Squadra Azzura. It also served to soothe the pain of a disappointing sixth place at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Perhaps one of the biggest attractions this year is that the League offers 15 of the 16 competing teams the perfect opportunity to size up their opponents ahead of the World Championship in Argentina (28 Sept - 13 Oct.). Germany is the only team contesting the World League that will not be in Argentina and this coming weekend's shakeout will be the first indication of which of the sport's elite sides will emerge as the star lineups in 2002.