Volleyball fans all over the world will keep an eye on Canada this coming weekend as Toronto will be one of the four cities to host the first stop of 2012 FIVB World League at RicoH Coliseum. Team Canada returns to the WL after a five-year absence. The Canadians start their journey on Friday, 4:00 p.m. EST against an efficient team from Finland. Rogers Sportsnet One will broadcast Canada-Finland on tape delay at 11:00 p.m. EST.
On Saturday at 4:00 p.m. EST Canada takes on Brazil, number one on FIVB rank and nine time World League champions. The match will be broadcast live on CBC. Finally on Sunday at 8:00 p. m. EST, the Canucks play Poland (ranked 4th in the world) carried live on Rogers Sportsnet One. Sixteen squads take part on WL split in four groups. This year, each participant hosts a weekend where they play in a round-robin format. The finals will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria, July 4-8 with six teams made up of the: Host, the four pool winners and the best second place.
After being denied a spot in the London Games after losing the final of NORCECA qualifier against USA, Team Canada has the WL as the main tournament of 2012. The Canadians made an impression last week in California during the Olympic qualifier when they beat Cuba in straight sets. Canada also showed a solid block, passing and defense throughout the week.
“The World League is a great opportunity for us to improve our team, to get more experience playing the big guys, to gain international exposure, it will be fun”, says Dustin Schneider, one of the setters on Team Canada’s roster. Despite the squad excitement and the undeniable improvement, advancing to the finals will be a tough task once Canada plays two powerhouses.
Number-one Brazil will use the WL as a preparation for the Olympics. Recently the volleyball world got surprised with the shocking news about the return of Ricardo Garcia to the Brazilian team. Considered by many the best setter ever, Garcia was cut out by legendary coach Bernardo Rezende after the 2007 WL where Garcia was named MVP. Some internal issues caused the break up and since then Garcia has never played on the Brazil national team. Although Brazil kept on winning titles, they lost a few important ones mainly the 2008 Olympics getting a silver medal. Some injuries on key players, but especially Ricardo Garcia’s absence were pointed by the Brazilian press as the main reasons for the loss. He is back and Toronto will mark his first appearance with the yellow-green jersey since 2007.
The Brazilian team arrived this Tuesday in Toronto missing two famous and important players. Multi-champion left side Gilberto “Giba” Godoy Filho (awarded MVP in several major competitions such as the Olympics and the world championships) stayed in Brazil recovering from a surgery after a tibial stress fracture during the 2011 World Cup. Murilo Enders, best player in the world in 2010, chosen MVP at WL and world championships, also remained in the Brazilian training centre treating an injury shoulder. Coach Rezende complained his team didn’t have the chance to play friendly matches, so this first stop in Toronto will be used for adjustments and to see the performance of new faces that joined the team.
Under the command of Italian coach Andrea Anastasi, Poland stood out in 2011. The team reached the podium in every competition last year, bronze at WL and European championships and silver at World Cup. After a disastrous season in 2010, where they placed 13th at the worlds, the Poles have raised their game. Left side Bartosz Kurek helps carry the load with the support of veterans Krzysztof Ignaczak (libero) and Pawel Zagumny (setter). Poland has a real chance of a medal at WL and the Olympics. Most of their athletes play in the strong Polish league and they prepared to WL with a friendly series against Australia. The Poles flew to Toronto with their main roster. Anastasi takes Brazil game style as an example of excellence and he has been trying to speed up the Polish game.
Just like Canada, the Finnish team played in an Olympic qualifier last week. Finland was eliminated in pool play at the European trials in a group with Italy (eventual champion), Germany (runner up), and Slovakia. The 2012 WL represents the start of a new cycle to the Finns, looking forward to Rio 2016. Coach Daniel Castellani said after the European Olympic qualifier he will give some rookies a chance to play in the WL. Setter Antti Esko (one of the best in the world) and opposite Mikko Oivanen are the main Finn players.
Last week, Team Canada most constant starting six was Fred Winters and Toon van Lankvelt (left sides), Justin Duff and Steve Brinkman (middles), Gavin Schmitt (opposite), Josh Howatson (setter), and Dan Lewis (libero). In the semifinal against Puerto Rico, Dallas Soonias (opposite) and Dustin Schneider (setter) had an important role. Soonias was kept for the final against USA while Schneider, who has been in the line-up in previous tournaments, is still recovering from a knee injury. Head coach is Glenn Hoag, who led the team to a remarkable improvement in the last two seasons and now targets the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Tickets to the WL can be purchased before the event or can be obtained at the door. For more information visit www.volleyball.ca/content/world-league-2012-0 or contact Volleybal Canada at (613) 748-5681 ext. 233.
World League – Toronto Schedule
(All times are in EST)
Friday May 18th
4:00pm Canada vs Finland
8:00pm Brazil vs Poland
Saturday May 19th
4:00pm Canada vs Brazil
8:00pm Poland vs Finland
Sunday May 20th
4:00pm Brazil vs Finland
8:00pm Canada vs Poland
World League – Pools composition: