With the match schedule of the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix 2014 now confirmed, world No. 1 and current Olympic gold medallists Brazil will be going for a record 10th title in the annual women’s tournament when they meet world No. 5 China (the second equal most frequent confrontation in World Grand Prix history tied with China vs. USA. Japan vs. Brazil is the most played encounter with 35 matches), Italy (WR 4) and the Dominican Republic (WR 8) in the first weekend of Pool C play.
Brazil and China last met in the 2013 Finals, where China had to contend with a silver medal after a three set loss to Brazil, which brought their 13 match winning streak in last year’s edition to a close. Their ninth straight defeat against the South Americans in the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix also put an end to China‘s 19-match winning streak under the guidance of legendary coach Jenny Lang Ping.
Two time defending world champions, Russia (WR 6) will take on USA (WR 2) in the first match of Pool D in Sao Paulo, Brazil on August 8 at 14:00 GMT. The FIVB World Grand Prix matches this year are a important precursor to the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014, for which Russia and 14 other teams have qualified to date.
This year’s FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix, which will be staged from July 25 to August 24, will feature 28 teams for the first time in its history, split into three groups, which will culminate in their own Finals. Groups 2 (Pools J to O) and 3 (Pools P to S) will start their Preliminary Round action on July 25 followed by Group 1 (Pools A to I) on August 1.
The tournament will be launched with a Pool P match between Croatia (WR 24) and the Czech Republic (WR 25) that will take place at 09:00 GMT on July 25 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
After three weekends of Preliminary Round action, the tournament will enter Finals mode with Group 2 taking place in the Kaozalin Sports Hall from August 15 and 16, Group 3 being staged in Arena Somokov from August 15 to 17 and Group 1 taking place from August 20 to 24 in the 10,000 capacity Ariake Collesium, which has hosted World Grand Prix and World League matches over the last seven years.
Following in the footsteps of the FIVB Volleyball World League, the number of countries competing in the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix has increased from 18 in 2013 to 28 in 2014.
The 28 teams have been split into three groups based on world ranking (with the exceptions of Belgium and Cuba, who had qualified via continental qualification tournaments, and Australia who participate as part of the Oceania development program). A Drawing of Lots was conducted on December 2, allocating teams into the respective pools (by group) based on a predetermined formula.
Group 1 (Pools A to I) features 12 teams including defending champions, London 2012 Olympic winners and world No. 1 Brazil, USA, Japan, China, Russia, Italy, Serbia, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Korea, Turkey and Thailand.
Group 2 (Pools J to O) includes eight teams - Poland, Peru, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands, Argentina, Canada, Cuba and Belgium.
Group 3 (Pools P to S) also includes eight teams - Kenya, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Bulgaria and Australia.
The Group 1 Finals will feature six teams – the four best in the Preliminary Round ranking, the Finals host Japan and the winner of the Final Four from Group 2.
The Group 2 Final Four will consist of the three best from the Preliminary Round ranking and the host of the Final Four Poland. The last ranked team after the Preliminary Round from Group 1 could be relegated if the winner of Group 2 can meet the promotion requirements set by the FIVB.
Group 3 will feature two weeks of Preliminary Round action before four teams will participate in the Final Four, which will include the three best from the Preliminary Round ranking and the hosts Bulgaria.
The host cities of the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Finals have been confirmed with Tokyo, Japan hosting Group 1, Kozalin, Poland staging Group 2 and the Group 3 Finals being held in Samokov, Bulgaria.
photos Janos Schmidt