VOLLEYBALL WORLD LEAGUE
Cuba battles the giants
team makes great effort to reach the finals
IN a year in which the Cuban men’s
volleyball team possibly had few opportunities of
reaching the finals of the World League, the
youthful squad has given its fans an excellent
surprise by being included in them.
The Cubans celebrate their win
Passer Isbel Mesa, one
of the youngest players.
After losing the possibility of
qualifying for the London Olympics, a very young
Cuban team began its undertakings in the League, the
strongest annual contest organized by the Volleyball
The Cubans lost against the host
team in the Berlin Pre-Olympics, but that was a
battle of battles in which the Germans secured their
pass to London in a game which went to five sets,
winning the last 20-18 against a Cuban line-up in
which the key positions – the two middle blockers,
for example – were occupied by rookies.
Thus the Cuban team initiated its
course in Group A of the World League, seemingly
with slight chances, taking into account that their
opponents would be the 2011 champion Russia, and
Serbia, two of the finest teams in the world, plus
The first round in Hamamatsu, Japan,
was the first sign of what would be a performance by
high-quality players. The Cubans completed that
round with just one defeat, by Serbia, and two wins,
over the Russians and Japanese.
The next stage, in the Dominican
Republic, was a convincing display of the Cuban
players’ intention to obtain more coherent results,
and they left having won all three of their games,
and placed first in their group.
TEAM OF NOVICES
Rather than continue describing
proceedings in the two following weeks in
Kaliningrad (Russia) and Novi Sad (Serbia), it
should be said that the Cuban team has only one of
the men who took the silver medal in the World
Championship in Italy in 2010, its captain, Wilfredo
León, given that the other outside hitter, veteran
Yenry Bell, and passer Yoandri Díaz (the team’s
second in the championship) barely saw any action in
Italy. The current middle blockers, Isbel Mesa,
Danger Quintana and David Fiel, have little
international experience, particularly the last two,
elevated from the junior teams to the complex zone
three, where players have to combine the art of
attacking with aplomb, reading what the opponents
will do and blocking at the net.
In these conditions, and few
substitutions on the benches in the middle of
challenges where a relief capable of giving the star
players a break without reducing the game’s quality
is essential, the Cuban team made its way through
the four-week qualifiers, to place itself firmly in
the finals in Sofia, Bulgaria, July 4-8, thanks to a
favorable balance of 10 wins, two defeats (one to
Serbia and one to Russia), and 28 points which their
rivals were unable to meet.
There are six contenders for the
finals. Poland, leader of group B, with its 10 wins,
two defeats and 29 points, exceeded those of a
regular medalist in the League, Brazil, who came
second (8-4-26). However, Brazil also qualified for
Sofia, as its points place it as the runner-up of
the four groups.
The U.S. team, Beijing Olympics 2008
champion, made the grade in Group C, with 9-3-26,
while in Group D, Germany once again demonstrated
its class with 10-2-30.
These five teams are joined in the
host country by the Bulgarian line-up, which won
8-4-22 in the preliminaries.