World champions Poland are now the first team to qualify for the first 2016 Olympic qualification tournament - the FIVB Volleyball World Cup in Japan next year
Warsaw, Poland, September 22, 2014 - When more than 12,000 spectators in the Spodek Arena, Katowice, sang the Polish national anthem, it marked the end of what was the final of the most spectacular FIVB Men’s World Championship in history.
Hosts Poland ended the reign of defending champions Brazil, who had won the last three titles in 2002, 2006 and 2010, with a hugely popular 3-1 (18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22) victory in the 103rd and final match of a unique event. It was a triumph of willpower, but also a spectacular success story for former French volleyball star Stephane Antiga, who picked up the World Championship title in his first job as coach.
“This is an incredible story. But the success is primarily down to my players, who have been incredible these three weeks,” said Antiga. The hosts lost just one of their 13 World Championship matches – a 3-1 defeat to FIVB World League champions USA in the second round. The fact that the Americans, who came into the event as one of the favourites, missed out on the last six was proof of the exceptional standard of volleyball on display at this championship.
Poland, who are now the first team to qualify for the first 2016 Olympic qualification tournament - the FIVB Volleyball World Cup in Japan next year - won four successive five-set matches on their way to the title – a World Championship record. After defeating surprise bronze medallists Germany 3-1 in the semifinals, they then overcame world number ones Brazil for the second time, having previously won 3-2 in the third round. Nobody can deny that they were deserved champions.
Forty years after winning gold in 1974, Poland has now claimed the most important title in indoor volleyball – alongside the Olympics – for the second time. In doing so, the Polish players have made their entire country happy. Millions cheered on the host team during the World Championship, with fireworks celebrating its achievements in many towns and cities around the country.
On the day of the final, over 12,000 fans packed the Spodek Arena, while tens of thousands flocked to the public viewing in front of the stadium to watch events unfold on the large screen.
When MVP Mariusz Wlazly converted the match point, it was party time. “I could say that we have athletes, players putting on the show, but the crowds here in Poland are the big star! They were part of the show, they were singing all the time. I am so enthusiastic about what happened in Poland, everything worked so well,” said FIVB President Dr. Ary S. Graca F°.
The home team’s victory capped a brilliant tournament that included 18 days of competition, kicking off at the Warsaw National Stadium on August 30 in front of more than 62,000 loyal spectators – a unique event in the history of volleyball. In fact, more than half a million fans -563,263- watched the 103 matches, smashing the previous record in the competition. In Italy, four years ago, the total was 339,324, while in Japan in 2006 it was 298,352. The World Championship winning Polish team went out of its way to thank the fans. “They carried us through this tournament on a wave of enthusiasm,” said Wlazly.
With 233 points to his name, the attacker was the tournament’s top scorer and was deservedly presented with the trophy for MVP and a cheque for $30,000 from President Graca. Team-mate Karol Klos was named the Second Best Middle Blocker. Brazilians Lucarelli and Murillo earned the honours as Best and Second Outside Spikers, while France’s Jenia Grebennikov was the Best Libero. Germans Markus Bohme and Lukas Kampa received the awards for Best Middle Blocker and Best Setter. The two cheques for $10,000 for the best German players were just rewards for the German team’s first World Championship medal for 44 years. The GDR won gold in 1970, and this year’s team clinched bronze with a 3-0 victory in the third/fourth place match against France.“We have made history. I kept having tears in my eyes,” said Germany’s top scorer Gyorgy Grozer. As well as the German team, the fourth-placed French, with attacker Earvin Ngapeth, were among the tournament’s positive surprises.
The same went for Iran, who finished sixth to claim their best result ever. In contrast, Olympic champions Russia were not disappointed with their fifth place. The team featuring 2.18m Dmitry Muserskiy crashed out in the third round after defeats to Brazil and hosts Poland.
Technology was also one of the big winners of this unique World Championship. As well as the LED net - which was introduced off the court as a future innovation - the video challenge system was also a great success. “Technology is a necessity and, as a matter of fact, is a reality today. As you can see we didn’t have many problems with referees: generally the team that lost used to complain about the referee. Here, there were no complaints because technology solved these problems,” said Graça.
Immediately after the successful Men’s World Championship in Poland, the FIVB Women’s World Championship now gets underway on Tuesday with the opening match between defending champions Russia and hosts Italy.
President Graça: “They are under pressure, after this impressive World Championship here in Poland they have a lot of homework to do. But the cities in Italy are beautiful and we will have another great World Championship.”
Whatever happens, the record-breaking World Championship in Poland will go down as an unforgettable tournament.