Coaches pick France and Poland as top contenders at men’s Olympic qualifiers
All foreign teams and the local contingent are all fired up to race for the four available slots for the top ranked Asian squad and the top three ranked teams at the Men’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tokyo.
Eight teams will treat the fans with a lively display of volleyball skills, as they get a final attempt to reach the Rio 2016 Olympic Games through the World Olympic Qualification Tournament, which fires off on Saturday at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
At a press conference held on Friday at the Keio Plaza Hotel, the coaches have collectively concurred of their goal to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The coaches also assessed their rivals and had the same opinion that France and Poland are the top contenders in the tournament.
Australia are back eyeing another Olympic qualification, after qualifying to London 2012 as the top ranked Asian squad. They will be taking on a field that is a lot tougher than the last one they participated in.
“All eight coaches here have the same idea – to qualify for the Olympics, Australia coach Roberto Santilli said. “Our condition and preparation is good. With the start of play we will compete and perform at our maximum.”
“The European teams – Poland and France – have something over the other teams,” Santilli added. “All of the other teams are at the same level. It will be difficult for us to win the tournament. Our focus has been on the philosophy of the team. We did not have much time to organize the physical aspect. The focus in our preparations was on attack and defence.”
Iran missed out on the two available spots in the last Olympic qualification tournament after they fell third behind Serbia and Australia, but the four spots available in the tournament give them a fighting chance to make it to their first-ever Olympic Games.
“We are here to give our best performance,” Iran coach Raul Lozano said. “We expect to qualify for the Olympics. France and Poland are the strongest teams here. One is a World League champion and the other is a world champion.”
Like Iran, France also missed the chance to be at the last Olympic Games as they only placed second at the qualification tournament in Bulgaria. France coach Laurent Tillie is confident that his squad will perform well.
“I see this competition as very important,” Tillie said. “It’s a great honor to compete here and have the chance to qualify for the Olympic Games. Our condition is good. It has been a long season but we had a good camp and we are confident. As for our opponents, Poland is a world champion and is the toughest team in this competition, but the other teams are equally tough.”
The other teams have prepared well and are in great shape to contest for the available spots.
“We have fully prepared and we are in our top form,” China coach Xie Guochen said. “This is an important competition for all teams and players with the Olympic ticket at stake.”
“The condition of our team is good,” Japan coach Masashi Nambu said. “I think it is important that we get off to a good start and get into a good rhythm.”
Poland coach Stephane Antiga knows very well the importance of maintaining a good level in the competition.
“It is important to keep a good level for all seven matches as there is no semifinal or final,” Antiga said. “France is certainly a favorite but we have respect for all our opponents and we expect them to compete well to qualify for the Olympics.”
Venezuela will try to put on a strong performance to be able to give their players experience on facing strong teams.
“We hope to play strong volleyball and put on a strong performance,” Venezuela coach Vincenzo Nacci said. “We want to give our players experience and we hope to learn from stronger teams to enhance our level.”
Nacci and Canada coach Glenn Hoag complimented the Asian squads’ brand of play, which will make the competition more interesting.
“Australia and Japan are strong teams,” Nacci said. “They play good volleyball technically and physically. It will be difficult for us to be the top team here but we will do our best.”
“France and Poland are strong off their recent results and quality of their athletes,” Hoag said. “Australia, China and Japan have also done great things in the recent past, so I think this will be a great tournament.”