World Olympic Qualification Tournament
Porto, Portugal

Poland and Portugal Enjoy Winning Start

Porto, Portugal, May 21, 2004 -Poland justified their standing as
pre-tournament favorites as they comfortably downed Venezuela in straight sets in the opening match of the Men's Olympic Qualifying event in Porto on Friday evening.

Pic: Block of Blanco and Cedeno (VEN) over the eyes of Szczerbaniuk (POL)

Poland defeated the Pan American champions 25-21, 26-24, 25-22 and will face Portugal on Saturday in a match that is likely to decide which team secures the one qualifying spot on offer for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Hosts Portugal kept alive their hopes of qualifying for their first ever
Olympics as they eased past a disappointing Kazakhstan 25-16, 25-18, 25-19, the Asian side clearly not at their best owing to the time difference experienced traveling to Porto.

"That was a very important first game for us to win," said Poland coach Stanislaw Szczerbaniuk.

"Usually weメre nervous in our first match, but we started very calmly and the players followed my instructions and tactics very well.

"Venezuela also played very well and that makes our victory even more satisfying."

The South Americans, who are also playing for their first Olympic
appearance, were unable to cope with the superior teamwork and power of their European opponents.

Dawid Murek proved the pick of the Polish team with 12 spikes and two blocks, edging out Venezuela captain Ernardo Gomez as the most effective player of the opening day.

Despite his teamメs comfortable victory, Portugal coach Juan Diaz is under no illusions that they face a far stiffer challenge against Poland in their second match.

"There are no easy games at this level but that was a comfortable victory for us today," said Diaz.

"But we have Poland tomorrow, who are the favorites - if they win then they are practically in Athens. I think the pressure will be on them because they people will expect them to win."

Kazakhstan will play Venezuela in the opening match on Saturday, followed by Poland against Portugal.

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