Star player Cepeda to lead Cuba back to the world elite


Lausanne, Switzerland, May 19, 2016 – FIVB Volleyball World League Group 2 is set to be as competitive as ever with promotion to Group 1 on the line once again.

The group contains many teams with a history of great success in world volleyball, with two former FIVB World League champions in the Netherlands (1996) and Cuba (1998). In fact, the team from the Caribbean even finished third in 2012 to claim a ninth medal. Only the elite trio of Brazil, Italy and Russia have more medals in the history of the competition. Now the young Cuban team is making gradual progress back towards the world’s elite. 

This year, the 21-strong squad for the FIVB World League will be led once again by the experienced Rolando Cepeda Abreu. The opposite spiker was the fourth-highest scorer in Intercontinental Group 2 with 192 points – considerably better than France’s Earvin Ngapeth (151), who was later voted MVP after the “Equipe Tricolore” triumphed in the FIVB World League for the first time.

The squad selected to represent the Netherlands, Olympic champions at Atlanta 1996, includes many new faces alongside such experienced players as Kay van Dijk and captain Jasper Diefenbach. 

Other nations with a proud volleyball history are Asian giants Japan, South Korea and China. All three are making their way slowly back up the rankings. The Japanese team, 1972 Olympic champions, seem to have the best chance of success in this year’s FIVB World League season, calling on strong players such as top scorer and captain Kunihiro Shimizu, young hopeful Yuki Ishikawa and setter Hideomi Fukatsu.

South Korea’s new coach Namsung Kim plans to return to the top flight with a mixture of experienced and young players. 

China, promoted from Group 3 last season, will rely once again on successful points scorer Yuan Zhi and captain Jiao Shuai. 

Slovakia has also stepped up a level since last year. New coach Miroslav Palgut is placing his trust in numerous foreign-based players, such as Emanuel Kohut. The experienced veteran was the top points scorer for Slovakia last year.

The man who trained Slovakia last season, Flavio Gulinelli, this year head up Egypt. Of course, the new coach will be reliant on Badawy Mohamed Moneim, who was the top points scorer by some distance in the last FIVB World League season. Turkey is also making an appearance in Group 2, led by captain and setter Ulas Kiyak. 

But Canada will undoubtedly be the favourites this year. In Gavin Schmitt the side has one of the most feared opposites in world volleyball, while captain Frederic Winters and other stars play their trade in the Polish league and boast plenty of international experience.

But a host of European teams will not make life easy for the boys from the great white north. 

The cool Finns and their rowdy fans will be led in the tournament by setter and captain Eemi Tervaportti. Last year’s top points scorer Urpo Sivula is not taking part, but a number of young players will be given a chance after the team failed to qualify for the Olympics.

The Czech Republic is a nation with a long volleyball history: world champions twice, Olympic runners-up in 1964 and fourth-placed team in the 2003 FIVB World League. Spanish coach Miguel Angel Falasca Fernandes can call on familiar faces like captain Ales Holubec and Michal Finger. 

The FIVB World League has particular importance for Portugal this year – the team will host the Final Round. Returning coach Francisco Santos is counting on experienced players such as Hugo Gaspar, Valdir Sequeira and captain Alexandre Ferreira.

The twelve teams in the Intercontinental Group 2 are competing in a total of nine tournaments, on three preliminary round weekends from June 17 to July 3. The three best teams, plus hosts Portugal, will qualify for the final round on July 9 and 10 in Matosinhos. The winner has the opportunity of promotion to the Intercontinental Group 1 in 2017.


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