Turin, Italy, September 25, 2018 - Coaches, team captains and journalists got together today in Turin for a Media Meeting, ahead of the 2018 FIVB Men's World Championship Final Six, starting Wednesday here and featuring the six teams that emerged from the previous two rounds of play in cities across Italy and Bulgaria.
And all agreed that that there's no easy way out of the final round pools and into the semifinals.
The two pools are:
• Pool I: Brazil, Russia, USA
• Pool J: Italy, Serbia, Poland
Captains of the FIVB World Championship Final Six teams, at the official Media Meeting (left to right): Ivan Zaytsev (Italy), Sergey Grankin (Russia), Taylor Sander (USA), Michal Kubiak (Poland), Bruno Rezende (Brazil), Nemanja Petric (Serbia).
Italy coach Gianlorenzo Blenginni summed up the opposition to the hosts: "Serbia are very strong, full of Italian League superstars and we know how challenging that championship is. Poland don't surprise us, either: They're rightfully in the top six, as all others, with the only exception of France. But we are confident because we can feel an entire nation supporting us."
Brazil coach Renan Dal Zotto agreed that the best teams in the world are present in Turin: "We start the Final Six with the right spirit: great desire and the will to play at our best. We are happy to be here in a special moment: the team is particularly fit, and psychologically ready. The groups are very balanced: the six top teams are here, France the only one missing."
"This is the final and most competitive stage of the tournament and that means that all teams are just equally as strong," added Russia coach Sergei Shliapnikov. "We want to play a good game, show good volleyball, regardless of the opponent. We feel ready to take on the game with Brazil as well as on those to follow."
Serbia coach Nikola Grbic discusses his team's chances with journalists at the Media Meeting on the eve of the 2018 FIVB World Championship Final Six.
And Serbia coach Nikola Grbic sounded a warning to his team's opponents: "We are in the top six and I wouldn’t pick one as a favourite. We must never look at the face of our opponent if we want to be the world champions. We are emotionally stronger after a long path and a danger for anyone in our way."
USA coach John Speraw, meanwhile, dismissed any suggestion that any of the two pools is better than the other: "Every time a competition enters the final phase there is always a conversation about the group draws: I don't think there is an easier group, Italy and Serbia are playing so well. And I haven't seen Poland very much but when Kubiak is on fire it's always hard. Our group is challenging, but that challenge can make us better."
But, as is often the case, Poland's Belgian coach Vital Heynen came up with the best quip: "I feel tired, old and stupid," he said. "Tired because we have been travelling for 12 hours from Bulgaria to Italy, stupid because I'm the only coach here unable to speak the language of my own team, and old because I'm the only coach here for the second consecutive World Championship."
• Get more pictures from the Media Meeting in the Photo Gallery.
Vital Heynen, of defending champions Poland gets interviewed by Polish broadcaster Polsat at the Media Meeting ahead of the 2018 FIVB World Championship finals.
The final phase of the FIVB's flagship competition features the six teams that emerged from the previous two rounds of play in cities across Italy and Bulgaria. It is the first time that a World Championship has been co-hosted by more than one country.
The six qualifiers have been divided into two pools of three teams each. Unlike in Round 2 (when teams carried over their results from Round 1), all six will be starting from scratch, looking to snatch one of the two top spots in each pool that will see them through to Saturday's semifinals.
This final round involves a total of ten matches, all of which will be played at the 15,700-capacity Pala Alpitour in the complex that was the hub for the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games in the capital city of Italy's Piedmont region.
Tickets for the matches have all been sold out months in advance, as Italy supporters are expected to give a huge boost in their team's quest for a fourth world title.
Italy last won the World Championship in 1998 - their third in a row. Russia (as Soviet Union) are most prolific title-holders, with a total of six - though last time was back in 1982.
Of the other sides in the Final Six, Brazil have been crowned world champions three times (as with Italy also in a row, from 2002 to 2010). USA (in 1986) and Poland (1974 and 2014) have also won the trophy before.
Italy captain Ivan Zaytsev at a one-on-one interview for host TV broadcaster RAI, at the Media Meeting ahead of the 2018 FIVB World Championship finals.
Quick links - Volleyball:
FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship Italy-Bulgaria 2018
Results and ranking