Lublin, Poland, July 31, 2015 – The tension mounts ahead of the World Grand Prix Group 2 Finals in Lublin, Poland. One day before the start of the last World Grand Prix group finals, the captains and coaches met for the traditional press conference. On Saturday and Sunday, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Puerto Rico and hosts Poland will battle for the first place of Group 2.
Experts see the Netherlands as biggest favourites for the Group 2 crown as they had only lost one point during Preliminary Round. The Oranjes, led by their Italian coach Giovanni Guidetti, aim to return in World Grand Prix Group 1 by winning the Group 2 finals this weekend.
“We aim to promote for World Grand Prix Group 1 but we know that our opponents are strong teams”, said the Netherlands coach Giovanni Guidetti. “We don’t expect easy matches, but we are here to win and to play in the first group next year.”
Dutch captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues added: “We know we are one of the favourite teams. We played many matches against the Czech Republic and we guess it will be a tough match on Saturday. Nevertheless, we’ll focus on our strength and power.”
After two years of absence, the hosts from Poland would like to return to the World Grand Prix Group 1 as well. The White-and-reds, with their new coach Jacek Nawrocki, have started their season with a valuable success – the silver medal of the first European Games in Baku. That victory guarantees them a spot in the continental Olympic qualifications for Rio de Janeiro 2016.
“We are still trying to improve and rebuild our team”, explained Poland coach Jacek Nawrocki. “I have selected some new players but I still can count on some experienced athletes who can play a crucial role for our team. It is for sure a big opportunity for us to play in front of our home crowd.”
“We came here to win this tournament”, added Poland captain Joanna Wolosz. “We are the hosts so we hope that the audience will be our seventh player. We haven’t had a lot of time to train together but we know each other from previous matches and seasons.”
Obviously, the Netherlands and Poland are not the only teams with their eyes set on the main prize in Lublin. With good results in the past, Puerto Rico showed their strength and potential for a promising result here in Poland as well. In their Intercontinental Round matches against some top opponents, the Puerto Rican proved to be focused and determined. On the other hand, the team of coach Jose Mieles has experienced some unexpected troubles with weaker rivals.
“We are happy to be back in Poland to play the finals here the second time in a row”, said Jose Mieles. “This season was hard for our team, especially the last month with many matches. However, we are focusing on our goals and we do our best to win Saturday’s semifinal against hosts Poland.”
Puerto Rico captain Yarimar Rosa complemented: “We are very excited to start the competition. Poland have some new players in their line-up and it will be a tough match tomorrow. Nevertheless, we keep our fingers crossed to make it to Sunday’s final.”
“It is maybe a surprise for some fans and experts to see the Czech Republic attending the Final Four tournament of the World Grand Prix Group 2”, stated Czech Republic captain Helena Havelkova at the press conference. Indeed, it may not be that easy for their fans to predict the true potential of the Czech team. In the previous rounds, they have managed to steal a point from Puerto Rico and one set from the Netherlands but have suffered many difficult situations as well.
“It is an important experience for us playing this final tournament of the World Grand Prix Group 2”, said Czech Republic coach Carlo Parisi. “We know it will be hard but we’ll try our best versus the Netherlands. Gaining experiences on high level is crucial for our team.”
The action gets underway in Lublin’s Globus Hall on Saturday with the Netherlands taking on the Czech Republic at 15:10 local time before hosts Poland will challenge Puerto Rico at 18:10 local time in the second semifinal of the FIVB World Grand Prix Group 2 Finals.
Only the winner of the FIVB World Grand Prix Group 2 Finals will secure a ticket for Group 1 in FIVB World Grand Prix 2016.