With six wins out of six, Czech Republic finished first in Group 3’s Intercontinental Round last year before losing to hosts Bulgaria in the Final Four final. Playing in their third successive World Grand Prix, they will be hoping to rediscover the magic touch that carried them to the gold medal in the 2012 European League under the leadership of coach Carlo Parisi. They finished 14th on their World Grand Prix debut in 2013.
Bulgaria were also the opponents in that 2012 European League final. The Czechs’ 3-0 victory, after 12 straight wins in the pool stage, brought back memories of the days when, playing as Czechoslovakia, they were a force to be reckoned with. The team won a string of medals, including gold in 1955 in the European Championship and bronzes in the World Championships of 1952 and 1960. Until 2012, the European Championship bronze they claimed in 1997 was the solitary medal they had won since the Czech/Slovak split in 1993. They missed out on qualification for the inaugural European Games held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in June. However, there are encouraging signs for the Czechs, who took the bronze medal at the 2010 European Junior Championships.