“Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Beginning with a 45 minute drive from hotel to stadium, beds that were too small for the players, bad food, no balls for training and a badly laid floor, to playing the wrong National Anthem” . So went the quote from the German camp after playing in Milan yesterday. Oddly, the Italian press focussed on the game, not least the fact that 6000 people came to watch it. The game didn’t go any more smoothly for the Germans with Italy winning 3-1. Like the second match with the Russians last week, they got blown out in the fourth set. It wasn’t a completely bad experience though, as they did manage to beat Italy 3-2 on Friday, thanks in part to an injury sustained by Mastrangelo. Hopefully for him it’s not too serious, but Italy can’t be too excited about the way their preparation has gone so far. Mastrangelo is only the latest injury/illness problem and their matches have been far from convincing. But one shouldn’t read too much into the results of non competitive matches.
One that basis, one can be relatively certain that the Spanish team preparation is going badly. After losing at home to Belgium in the first leg of the last European Championships qualifier, ie actual competition, they also lost the second leg in Belgium. That puts them out of the tournament that they won only three years ago. Coach Julio Velasco will certainly have some work to do on technical issues in the next two weeks if his team are to make an impact on the World Championships. In the other Euro qualifiers between non World Champs team, Holland was thrashed at home by Estonia, proving that their win against Brazil in World League was a fluke. Turkey also qualified at the death by beating Greece twice. The money being invested into the Turkish league seems to be bearing fruit.
In Belgrad, Serbia, the hosts met with Russia, Cuba and Bulgaria in a friendly tournament. Russia won the tournament by winning all three matches. Interestingly all matches were close with Russia seemingly finding a way to win each time. That bodes well for the real games coming up. Cuba finished second, while Bulgaria beat Serbia to finish third. All matches were close, with players being rested and coaches using multiple lineups. Grbic and Miljkovic, for example, didn’t play all matches. All these teams will be near the top in Italy.
On a lower key, Czech Republic easily beat Tunisia three times. This week they will play against Canada at home.
On an even lower key, the USA played their second public scrimmage which was won again by the red team. Although a different red team from the week before.
A couple of teams have announced their final rosters. Brazil will take 14 players, including five receivers and and only three middles. Cuba will take only 12 players, one of which is of course the ?? year old Wilfredo Leon fresh from his triumph at the Youth Olympics.