It’s a Polish party. Led by Bartosz Kurek, who was the tournament MVP, Team Poland won this Sunday the 23rd edition of the World League beating the USA in the final by 3-0 (25-17, 26-24, 25-20) in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was the first time Poland won the World League and their first major in 36 years. The last major win was the gold medal at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Earlier, Cuba defeated Bulgaria 3-2 and won the bronze medal. Canada finished 12th and will play in the 2013 WL. The tournament has 16 teams. World number-one Brazil finished 6th, and last year champion, Team Russia, placed 8th.
Some commentators sustain that teams like Brazil, Russia, Italy (finished 11th) are saving the best for the London Games that will start in three weeks. Rising squads such as Germany and Argentina floored subs in many matches. Still, team Poland is definitely a strong contender. Head coach Andrea Anastasi and his assistant Andrea Gardini are two Italians that in the nineties took part in a historical squad called “Generazioni di Fenomeni”. Last year they brought their know-how to a talented group of players that used to choke in crucial moments. Not anymore. Poland will arrive in London as one of the main favourites to grab the gold medal.
The sad note about this successful tournament, broadcast to over 30 countries, was the behaviour of the fans in the host country of this year’s finals, Bulgaria. After the semifinal match Poland vs. Bulgaria (where the Poles won 3-0) some Bulgarian supporters threw lighters and plastic bottles at the referees and some Polish players near the mixed zone (press area). Later, some Polish fans complained that Bulgarians were spitting in them. The Bulgarian volleyball is in the middle of turbulence after their main star Matey Kaziyski, left the team when the coach Radostin Stoychev was fired for failing in the first attempt to qualify to London (Team Bulgaria made it later). Both Kaziyski and Stoychev accused the Bulgarian Volleyball Federation of corruption.
For Team Canada, apart the experience of competing at the World League after a five-year absence and getting started on the way to Rio Olympics in 2016, some good news. Experienced and victorious coaches, such as Anastasi or Bernardo Rezende, the Brazilian who turned his national team in the most successful squad in history, affirm Canada can arrive in Rio as a very competitive team. These two coaches and many foreign journalists quickly point opposite hitter Gavin Schmitt as Canada’s main weapon for the upcoming tournaments. Schmitt ended the pool play as one of WL top scorers.
Here’s the final standing: