Brno / Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic, June 22, 2017 – On the eve of the 19th edition of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship, all 16 participating teams have already arrived at the two venues in Brno and Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic and tested out the competition courts during their training sessions. All is set for the tournament to take off and the first whistle will sound at 12:30 local time on Friday to mark the beginning of the ten-day race for World Championship honours.
For the first three competition days, the 16 teams are divided into four round-robin pools of four teams each. The winners and the runners-up of all pools will then continue the battles for the medals in Brno, while the rest will play for the distribution of the places from 9th to 16th in Ceske Budejovice.
The coaches of the eight teams playing in Brno
Pool A (in Brno)
Pool A is where the host team of the Czech Republic will start their campaign in the World Championship. In their first match, the Czechs, successors of the Czechoslovakian team that won bronze in the 1993 edition of the U21 World Championship, will face Canada, whose best finish so far in the competition is the fifth place from 1999.
Before that, Poland and Morocco will meet up in the opening match at the DRFG Arena. The European nation already have two gold medals on their tally, from 1997 and 2003, while the current generation of players won gold at the 2016 CEV U20 European Championship, which places them among the favourites at this championship. For Morocco this will be the fifth participation in the U21 World Championship with a 2005 ninth place finish as their best result so far.
Sebastian Pawlik, coach of Poland: “We want to play as well as we can and we want to win this championship. We must see all the teams because we have not seen them for two years. We can speak more about our chances after the first round.”
Mohammed Abdellaoui Maan, coach of Morocco: “We did not have much time for preparation. We could not play any friendly matches, because all players are students and they were busy with exams. This team will play at the U23 African Championship next year and after that these players will move on to the senior national team. Our mission is to gain experience at this World Championship.”
Ivan Pelikan, coach of Czech Republic: “Our goal is to advance to the best eight teams, i.e. to finish in first or second place in the pool. Then we will take it from there. The group is balanced - strong Poles and solid good Canadians, while Morocco are unknown, so let's see how we deal with it...”
Gino Brousseau, coach of Canada: “Now we are mostly focused on our first match. It is going be a tough match, because the winner is likely to advance to the top eight, which is our first goal. The Czechs are playing at home and we expect a noisy crowd, so we are preparing our guys for a big match. I would rather not talk about chances right now. We will play for each point and after that we will see the result.”
Pool B (in Brno)
Russia and Cuba will open the show in Pool B. Russia are the reigning champions and, on their own merit (six titles), and especially also as a successor of the Soviet Union (another four gold medals), are by far the most decorated team in the history of the U21 World Championship. They are hoping to add a fourth consecutive crown or at least an overall 16th medal to their record. The Cubans have never won the competition, but have two silver (1987 and 2009) and two bronze (1985 and 2005) medals so far. They qualified for this championship as the 2017 U21 Pan American Cup silver medallist.
The first competition day in Brno will close with a clash between Turkey and USA. Neither of these two countries have ever won a medal in the U21 World Championships. This is the third participation for the Turks, after they finished sixth at both the 2013 and the 2015 editions. For the Americans, who qualified as the 2016 NORCECA Junior Men’s Championship winners, this will be the seventh consecutive and ninth overall appearance with the fourth place in 2011 as their best achievement.
Vladimir Khromenkov, coach of Russia: “We have a good team and I know we want the gold medals. Our target is medals from this World Championship. We looked at only half of the teams. We do not know, how the other teams, especially Cuba and USA from our pool, play. I think our chances are better than at the European Championship. We have a good team and we want good performances.”
Nicolas Vives Coffigny, coach of Cuba: “We want to advance to the second round and then fight for a medal. We will try to do our best, but all four teams in our pool are at a very good level. We will see.”
Ali Kazim Hidayetoglu, coach of Turkey: “First, we want to play good volleyball. Second, we miss the medal – gold. This is the World Championship. Every team is ready to be the world champion and so are we. We have the opportunity and so do the other teams.”
Jay Hosack, coach of USA: “We must continue to do things as well as we can and minimize our weaknesses. Our chances are the same as anybody else’s.”
The coaches of the eight teams playing in Ceske Budejovice
Pool C (in Ceske Budejovice)
A power clash between Argentina and Ukraine will get the competition going in Ceske Budejovice. The South Americans have medalled at three of the last four editions of the U21 World Championship, most recently with a 2015 silver. Argentina arrive for their 14th appearance in the competition as the reigning continental champions from the 2016 South American U21 Championship. Ukraine have only played twice at the U21 World Championships and their best finish is the ninth place from 1999, but after snatching an impressive silver from the 2016 CEV U20 European Championship, they went unbeaten through the European qualification to claim a well-deserved spot at Czech Republic 2017.
In what promises to be a very strong pool, Italy will face Iran in the other match on opening day. The Italians have won five medals in the history of the competition (three silver and two bronze), but never the title. A 2007 bronze is the only podium finish for Iran in their 10 participations so far. They qualified for this edition of the tournament as the 2016 Asian U20 Championship runners-up.
Alejandro Grossi, coach of Argentina: “The level of volleyball played in South America is very high in both youth and senior categories. This team prepared very well for this competition. We practiced with teams from Brazil, China and Italy.”
Mykola Pasazhin, coach of Ukraine: “We are looking forward to this tournament. We are expecting to get the best results. We are only aiming for the best. All the teams in our pool are very strong so the matches promise to be a spectacle.”
Michele Totire, coach of Italy: “This tournament can be a very difficult one, not only for us, but for all the teams. In our Pool C, we will be facing very talented teams such as Argentina and Ukraine. All I ask for from our team is to try their best and play well. Volleyball is a big sport in Italy, so we come here to win!”
Behrouz Ataei Noui, coach of Iran: “This is a very big tournament for us. This pool is very difficult. For a start, we are aiming to move up to the top two places in the group. We are very much looking forward to this tournament. We want to show the audience some good Iranian volleyball.”
Pool D (in Ceske Budejovice)
A giant all-Asian derby between China and Japan will serve as the overture to the competition in Pool D. The Chinese have played at 14 editions of the U21 World Championship and have medalled at the very first one – a 1977 silver – and at the very last one – a 2015 bronze. They qualified for the 2017 edition as the 2016 Asian U20 Championship title-holders. In 12 appearances at the U21 World Championships, the Japanese have won one medal – silver from the 1989 edition.
The second most decorated team in the history of the competition, Brazil, and 2017 African U21 champions Egypt will close the first competition day at the Budvar Arena in Ceske Budejovice. The South American giants have won four gold, six silver and three bronze medals over their 18 participations. They have never missed a U21 World Championship. Brazil qualified for this edition as the title-holder from the 2017 U21 Pan American Cup. Egypt have participated in 10 editions of the U21 World Championship and this will be their sixth consecutive one without interruption.
Genyin Ju, coach of China: “We will show our strength and power in this tournament. The first match will be an Asian spectacle as we play against Japan. The group is tough, but we aim for the first place.”
Fumitoshi Tokunaga, coach of Japan: “With the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics in sight, this tournament is very important for us. Hopefully we will show the world we are worth a top-four placement. The players are young, so we have limited time to practice during the week when they are at school. We decided to focus on our defence skills.”
Nery Pereira Tambeiro Junior, coach of Brazil: “I am a new coach to this U21 men’s team, but Brazil has a great name in international volleyball. We will do the best we can to honour the tradition. The Asian teams have a different style. They are faster and have some movements that the rest of the world does not have in their skill set. We are planning on studying them during the match with China and improve from there.”
Maged Mohamed, coach of Egypt: “We are a team with little experience, so we have to trust ourselves and try to the best of our abilities to move forward in this tournament. I hope we play a good match against Brazil.”