The trinidad Guardian / T&T’ senior women’s volleyballers will come up against two-time Olympic champions Brazil as well as European powerhouse Serbia in the 2018 FIVB Women’s World Championship which is scheduled for Japan from September 29 to October 20.
T&T is in Pool D of the 24-team and is the only team which will be making its debut in the event after qualifying as one of the seven teams from NORCECA on Sunday at the National Cycling Centre in Couva, as runners-up to Mexico.
The Krystle Esdelle-captained 34th ranked T&T will also meet Bulgaria (17th world ranked), Turkey (12th) and Azerbaijan (24th) in its round-robin pool play.
Commenting on the draw which was based on the teams FIVB World rankings as of August 7, 2017, Mushtaque Mohammed, president of CAZOVA was quick to point out that T&T, the record seven-time Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) champions, inclusive of six-in-a-row will not have it easy.
He stated, “The Brazilians, ranked fourth in the world are former Olympic champions and also are coming off a recent victory at the World Grand Prix, while world third ranked Serbia was second at the last Olympics and third at the Grand Prix, as has been force in European volleyball for some time now. Turkey also placed 11th at the Grand Prix while Bulgaria and Azerbaijan are expected to be good playing teams as well.”
|”What is good for the T&T team is that they have played Brazil before at the Pan Am level, and while it may be a higher level of competition, some of the players may be familiar to them. “So going into the competition we (CAZOVA) have to be realistic and cannot expect that T&T, the first ever English-speaking Caribbean team to qualify to the World Championship will top the group or win many matches.”
He added, “What we can hope for though, is for the team to get full support in its preparation for the elite competition and take as many points as it can from its opponents and embrace the experience.”
As a former President of the T&T Volleyball Federation, Mohammed said he was also proud to see the investment made in acquiring the services of Cuban-born coach Francisco “Panchee” Cruz is paying off.
“Under my presidency Cruz was introduced to the local programme close to over ten years ago, and since then the team has been able to make steady progress.”
“They are the dominant team in CAZOVA and have made great strides in being competitive at the NORCECA and Pan American levels and qualified last year to their first ever FIVB World Grand Prix competition,” stated Mohammed
Defending champions USA, which qualified automatically will compete in Pool C alongside rivals Russia, Argentina, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Kenya, Pool B comprises China, Italy, Korea Republic, Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico while Japan, Netherlands, Dominican Republic, Germany, Cameroon and Cuba will compete in Pool A.
Russia which will be competing in a record 17th World Championship of the 18 editions of the FIVB’s flagship competition, having only missed out in 1967 is the most accomplished team in the tournament’s history with seven gold medals, including as USSR.
FIVB WORLD RANKINGS
Pool A: #6Japan, #8Netherlands, #9Dominican Republic, #13 Germany, #18 Cameroon, #25 Cuba Pool B: #1 China, #7Italy, #10 Korea Republic, #13 Puerto Rico, #19 Canada, #26 Mexico Pool C: #2 USA, #5 Russia, #11 Argentina, #16 Thailand, #21 Kazakhstan, #33 Kenya Pool D: #3 Serbia, #4 Brazil, #12 Turkey, #17 Bulgaria, #24 Azerbaijan, #34 T&T.