Questions call for answers at Men's Club World Championship
Opole city nicely decorated to celebrate its 800 years with the 2017 FIVB Men's Club World Championship starting on Tuesday.
Defending champions Sada Cruzeiro of Contagem are up against hosts Zaksa Kedzierzyn-Kozle in Pool A in Opole, together with reigning Italian champions Cucine Lube Civitanova and Asian champions Sarmaye Bank.
Opole Arena ready to host Pool A of the 2017 FIVB Men's Club World Championship
Reigning European champions Zenit Kazan face Argentina champions Personal Bolivar as well as wild cards China champions Shanghai Golden Age and Poland's Skra Belchatow in Pool B in Lodz.
Atlas Arena in Lodz ready to host Pool B of the 2017 FIVB Men's Club World Championship
The top two sides of each pool will continue in Krakow on Saturday and Sunday for the semifinals and finals.
FIVB event director in Opole, Slobodan Milosevic, summed it all up perfectly in the official pre-competition press conference: "We have the best teams. We have the best players. Now it's time to promote volleyball."
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But as the competition gets ready to kick off, here's some nagging questions in all fans' minds, awaiting answers by the end of the competition.
Can Sada Cruzeiro claim the world title for the third time in a row and fourth overall?
The Brazilian side, from Contagem in the state of Minas Gerais, reigning South American and national champions, have been crowned world champions in 2013, 2015 and 2016 - but on all three occasions it was before a home crowd at Betim. Away from home they have been tested before, losing to Italy's Trentino Diatec in the 2012 final in Doha. Winning this tournament in Poland, will bring Sada Cruzeiro on par with Trentino, who are the winningest side in the history of the competition with four titles - all straight from 2009 to 2012.
Filipe Ferraz and Marcelo Mendez, captain and coach of Sada Cruzeiro Monday morning in Opole Arena. "I hope we'll go through to the final," said Ferraz.
Can Zenit Kazan finally make the break after finishing runners-up the last couple of years?
The Russian side from the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, reigning European and national champions, have been in the final of the last two editions of the Club World Championship, but lost on both counts in Betim to Sada Cruzeiro. Zenit have also been on the podium twice more, finishing with bronze in 2009 and 2011 - both times in Doha.
Zenit Kazan coach Vladimir Alekno at the pre-competition press conference: "This is a big opportunity for us to win the Club World Championship for the first time."
Can either of Poland's entrants bring the trophy to their country for the first time ever?
Reigning Polish champions Zaksa Kedzierzyn-Kozle and wild card entrants Skra Belchatow are playing before the great home crowds that Poland is famous for. If they manage to win the most coveted club title in the world, it will be a first for the country. Only clubs from Italy, Brazil and Russia have ever won the Club World Championship. Skra were runners-up twice, losing to Trentino on both occasions in Doha in 2009 and 2010 to Trentino; they finished third in 2012 also in Doha. A third Polish side, Jastrzebski Wegiel, were also runners-up to Trentino in Doha in 2011.
Zaksa Kedzierzyn-Kozle captain Benjamin Toniutti and coach Andrea Gardini in Opole Arena today. "I hope we can go through to the semifinals," says Gardini.
Can Cucine Lube Civitanova bring the title back to Italy for the first time since 2012?
Italy reigned supreme in the Club World Championship from the competition's inception in 1989, sweeping every single title until 2012, with Trentino claiming the last four straight. Since then Sada Cruzeiro have taken over, with a brief interlude by Russia's Belogorie Belgorod in 2014 in Belo Horizonte.
Can any player beat the all-time scoring record of the Club World Championship?
Bartosz Kurek of Skra Belchatow scored 33 points in four sets against Brazil's Cimed Florianopolis in 2009 in Doha and Bulgaria's Tsvetan Sokolov also bagged 33 for Trentino against Aregntina's UPCN San Juan in five sets in 2013 at Betim. The records still stand today. Kurek is not with Belchatow this season (having moved to Ankara this year), but Sokolov is appearing this year with Lube.
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