Lausanne, Switzerland, May 19, 2016 – With the FIVB Volleyball World League Group 1 teams now unveiled, work now begins on building towards the premier annual men’s volleyball event.
Defending champions France have kept faith with the heroes of their 2015 campaign. Led by last year’s MVP Earvin Nagpeth, 2015 Best Setter and captain Benjamin Toniutti and the high-scoring Antonin Rouzier, 13 players were also part of last year’s squad that defeated Serbia 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-23) in the final.
Of the 2015 winners, only Yoann Jaumel is missing from coach Laurent Tillie’s squad. France put together a sensational winning run last year and, after winning Group 2, also went on to claim overall victory in the tournament for the first time ever before following up with triumph at the European Championships.
“Right now we are focused on qualifying for the Olympics, but the FIVB World League will be a very important part of this season,” says Tillie.
The 21-man squad for this year’s tournament also features legendary libero Hubert Henno, who turns 40 this year.
However, he is by no means the oldest player among the 12 teams in Group 1.
Sergey Tetyukhin, who is 41 this year, will take a central role for Olympic champions Russia as captain. “He is the only player guaranteed a place in the team,” coach Vladimir Alekno revealed.
Alekno’s squad features two notable comebacks. Firstly, 2.18-metre giant Dmitriy Muserskiy returns following his surprise absence at the European Olympic Qualification Tournament in January – Russia still won the tournament and secured their ticket to Rio without him. Taras Khtey is also a shock inclusion in the squad of 21. He captained the Russian team to Olympic gold at London 2012, but a spat of injuries has prevented him from appearing for the national team since.
Brazil will once again bank on their array of stars, with the exception of Dante Amaral, with few surprises in coach Bernardo “Bernardinho” Rezende’s side. The team will also be led by a man who turns 41 this year; legendary libero Serginho. As well as the coach’s son, Bruno “Bruninho” Rezende, the squad also features the likes of Wallace de Souza, Murilo Endres, Ricardo Lucarelli and Eder Carbonera.
“There is no space for anything but collectiveness,” Bernardinho reiterated. “Everyone involved has to understand this. People are important, but the whole group is even more important.”
Having taken the silver medal at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the team’s main goal in 2015 is – unsurprisingly – to claim Olympic gold on home soil in Rio de Janeiro. However, success at the dress rehearsal – the FIVB World League – is also important: Brazil may be the most successful nation in the history of the competition, with nine titles and 18 medals, but they have not stood on the top step of the podium since 2010.
Italy is the second most successful nation in the FIVB World League, with eight titles to its name, but the Italians have had 16 year gap since their last triumph. The team is led by stars Ivan Zaytsev and Osmany Juantorena – the making his FIVB World League debut for Italy having last featured at the 2005 edition for his native Cuba, winning bronze in the process. The squad also features a newcomer in the form of 17-year-old Riccardo Sbertoli.
USA are also among the favourites following their sensational FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Cup success last year, a first title for the side at the tournament in 30 years. World Cup MVP Matt Anderson, World Cup Best Setter Micah Christenson, World Cup Best Libero Erik Shoji, Taylor Sander and Olympic gold medallist and captain David Lee are just a few of the big names in the squad.
World champions Poland are led by outstanding hitter Bartosz Kurek, captain Michal Kubiak and Mateusz Mika. The 2016 FIVB World League is particularly important to the team – after all, Poland hosts the Final Round and the team is hungry to repeat its success of 2012.
Last year’s FIVB World League finalists Serbia also include a host of well-known names in their squad, spearheaded by acclaimed hitter Aleksandar Atanasijevic. Having missed out on qualification for the Olympics, the FIVB World League is now the highlight of their season – just as it is for Bulgaria. The team can once again call on the services of star hitter Tsvetan Sokolov.
Argentina also have their top players on board, in the form of captain Luciano de Cecco and Facundo Conte, Australia will hope for great things from the outstanding points scorer and captain Thomas Edgar, while Intercontinental Group 1 newcomers Belgium are captained by their outstanding player Sam Deroo. A familiar face leads established players like team captain Saeid Marouf, second-best middle blocker at the 2015 FIVB Men's World Cup Seyed Mohammad Mousavi, and opposite Amir Ghafour in the Iranian team. Raul Lozano, who guided Poland to silver at the 2006 World Championship, is the team’s new coach.
The preliminary round of Intercontinental Group 1 will take place over three tournament weekends from June 16 July 3, each featuring three pools of four teams. The finals will take place in Krakow, Poland, from July 13 to 17.