Lausanne, Switzerland, June 16, 2016 - There are titles up for grabs in Plovdiv, Bulgaria (Group 2) and Almaty, Kazakhstan (Group 3) this weekend as the 24th edition of the FIVB World Grand Prix resumes. There will also be 18 Group 1 matches from Friday to Sunday including the top twelve teams in the competition.
“We are really looking forward to the Final Round in front of our home fans. We will have to be on top of our game and fully focused in order to have any chance of winning,” said Bulgarian captain Eva Yaneva. Her team suffered just one defeat - against the Dominican Republic - in six Group 2 Preliminary Round matches. Bulgaria face Poland in the second Group 2 semifinal on Saturday.
“We are happy to have qualified for the Final Four. The plan is fulfilled,” said Polish captain Joanna Wołosz.
The other semifinal will see the Dominican Republic take on Puerto Rico, who are riding the crest of a wave after qualifying for the Olympics. The Puerto Ricans have stormed into the Final Four on the back of six wins and no defeats, and are hungry for their next success. Captain Yarimar Rosa said: “Our goal for the Final Four is to advance to Group 1, but first we need to improve our consistency, we need to have a good serve and return, because then we can count on every player not only one or two – we need all of these attributes in order to beat the better teams.”
In the Group 3 Finals, the first semifinal will see Peru (six wins from six games) take on Croatia (5 wins).
In the second semifinal, Kazakhstan meet Colombia. Colombia’s coach Eduardo Gillaume said: 'It's our second time in the Final Four, but this time we will arrive in better form. We go into the semifinals with ambition and we hope to win and get into the final. That aside, we're happy because the team has grown and is already established in Group 3.” The fact that they have finished ahead of three-time Olympic champions and two-time FIVB Grand Prix winners Cuba is evidence of their class.
Other former winners of the FIVB World Grand Prix will play to progress to the Group 1 Finals from July 6 to 10 in Bangkok, Thailand. Olympic hosts Brazil (10 titles), Russia (3 titles) and China (1 title) all won all three of their games on the opening weekend of Preliminary Round Group 1 action. Defending FIVB World Grand Prix champions and world champions USA (6 title) and the Netherlands (1 title) have scored two wins each – like Italy.
Favourites Brazil and China meet at this weekend’s Group 1 Preliminary Round tournament in Macau.
Brazil wing spiker Natália Pereira said: "It was good to taste a bit of the Olympic feeling in the first Grand Prix week in Rio. We know that we will have four more difficult weeks, but I am happy with our performance up to now. We still have things to improve but we are heading the right way." Olympic participants Serbia and Belgium will also be in action in Macau, having each lost their first three matches in the competition last week.
Unbeaten Russia face Thailand in Bari, as well as tournament hosts Italy and the Netherlands, both of whom will join Russia at this summer’s Olympics. “We are happy to play at home. We are at the start of the Grand Prix so we are trying a new system, with new players, and I am sure that we will benefit from these experiences. We will improve week by week, that is natural,” said Italian coach Marco Bonitta.
In the third Preliminary Round tournament in Group 1, hosts and defending champions USA are favourites against Germany, Turkey and Japan in Long Beach. “We have to get better from week to week to have a chance of taking Gold at the Olympics in Rio,” said US coach Karch Kiraly. The FIVB World Grand Prix is the perfect place to hit top form ahead of the Olympic Games. Related information: