World Cup fever hits Japan

Hiroshima, Japan, November 3, 2011 – All 12 teams participating in the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Cup have

arrived in Japan on the eve of the quadrennial event, which doubles as a London 2012 Olympic Games qualifying tournament and starts on Friday in Hiroshima and Nagano before visiting four other Japanese cities – Toyama,

Sapporo, Okayama and Tokyo.

Defending champions Italy have joined hosts Japan, debutants Algeria as well as Argentina, China and the Dominican Republic in Hiroshima while Olympic champions Brazil, and World Grand Prix title holders USA will start their campaign in Nagano with Germany, Kenya, Korea and Serbia.

Needless to say, Olympic qualification will be on the minds of every player and although it will be the top three teams that earn a ticket to the UK capital next year, make no mistake, everyone will be seeking to end the tournament with a gold medal around their neck.

The round robin format makes the World Cup arguably one of the most popular tournaments in the FIVB’s collection

and with 11 games for each team over 15 days, it will be a true test of strength, character and mental ability,

guaranteeing no shortage of storylines.

With the women’s edition taking centre stage first (the men will play from November 20 to December 4), can Italy

successfully defend the title they won four years ago for the first time, or will Brazil seal their first World Cup? After their amazing World Grand Prix bronze medal will Serbia follow it up with a podium finish or maybe USA’s successful run in the World Grand Prix over the last two years will give them the momentum to improve on their World Cup bronze medal outings at the last two editions.

One thing is certain, there is sure to be excitement, thrills and spills for all. With seven of the 12 women’s teams in the top 10 of the FIVB world rankings, it can be nothing else.

Brazil will once again start an FIVB tournament as favourites knowing full well that the pack containing the other countries is closing in fast. The world No. 1 last lifted an FIVB trophy at the World Grand Prix in 2009, since then it has been a run of silver medals – Grand Champions Cup, World Grand Prix, World Championship and World Grand Prix again. Brazil easily qualified for the World Cup after seeing off Argentina in the finals of the South American Championship and will be the team to beat however, having lost the World Grand Prix final to USA on the last two occasions as well as the World Championship to Russia, they will be looking to regain their tournament winning habit, especially when it comes to games against their big opponents. Their opening match against long-time rivals and recent bogey team USA will be one of the highlights of the tournament.

Following recent success, the Americans look to be definitely on track for the Olympic Games, as per tradition. Two World Grand Prix titles in the past two years will be particularly encouraging for coach Hugh McCutcheon and his staff, however the team will be under no illusions that gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games is the ultimate goal. With an opening game against Brazil and a history of starting tournaments in a slow fashion all eyes will be looking to see if the world No. 2 Americans can improve on their past two World Cup outings where they picked up bronze.

Hosts Japan, ranked fourth in the world, can never be discounted. Their last triumph at the World Cup might have been in 1969 and last medal in 1977 but playing in front of their home fans has always helped Japan find an extra gear. Look no further than their bronze medal victory at the 2010 Women’s World Championship, their first FIVB medal since 1978. As hosts, they automatically qualified but proved at the Asian Women’s Championship that they are more than capable of making it to the tournament the hard way, finishing second to China. Having never missed a World Cup, and being regulars at all other FIVB competitions, they have experience on their side however injuries to some key players could affect their quick attacking game, something all opponents will be looking out for.

Other main contenders include defending champions Italy, who are proving to be inconsistent recently with a seventh

place at the World Grand Prix earlier this year, preceded by a fifth at the 2010 Women’s World Championship and a

Grand Champions Cup title in 2009. Surprise European Championship runners up Germany and Serbia, who are

having a brilliant year having collected a bronze medal on their World Grand Prix debut and their first ever European

Championship title, are also definitely in the mix.

Meanwhile, the most successful side to ever compete at the World Cup China can never be written off, despite some

disappointing recent form. Having won the title 1981, 1985 and 2003 as well as silver in 1991 and bronze in 1989 and

1995 China will be looking to return to those dizzying heights with a new set of younger players. They will have been boosted by their Asian Championship winning performance which qualified them for the World Cup.

First matches start at 11:00 (local time) on Friday with China playing Algeria in Hiroshima and Serbia taking on Korea in Nagano.

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