Star clubs get Kobe 2017 Wild Cards
Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul will be in Kobe in May to defend their FIVB Club World Championship title.
The appointment of the European clubs is pending the outcome of the 2017 Champions League (April 22-23 in Treviso), from which the winner is also guaranteed a spot in Kobe.
The four clubs, all of which have featured on the podium of past FIVB Club World Championships, join hosts Hisamitsu Springs of Kobe and reigning Asian champions NEC Red Rockets of Kawasaki and reigning South American champions Rexona Sesc Rio de Janeiro. The Red Rockets only last weekend beat Hisamitsu Springs for the 2017 Japan V.Premier League title.
Regardless of how their European adventure pans out, Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul will get the chance to defend their 2016 world title in a quest for their third consecutive gold in the competition.
Eczacibasi, currently in the semifinals of the Turkish League and competing in the Champions League Playoffs, won the 2016 FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship in Manila after a five-set win over Italy's Pomi Casalmaggiore. A year earlier in Zurich they had defeated Russia's Dinamo Krasnodar 3-1 for the 2015 title.
Eczacibasi's crosstown archrivals VakifBank were world champions in 2013 in Zurich, after a 3-1 win the final over Rio de Janeiro. That was after a silver medal in 2011 in Doha (second to Azerbaijan's Rabita Baku). Last year in Manila, VakifBank beat Volero 3-1 for the bronze medal.
They finished top of the Regular Season table and are now in the semifinals of the Turkish League, as well as up against Volero in the Champions League Playoffs.
VakifBank Istanbul celebrate their last FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship gold in Zurich in 2013.
Volero had two unsuccessful attempts at a podium finish in 2013 and 2014, before finally beating Rio de Janeiro 3-0 in the bronze medal match of the 2015 edition. They have won the Swiss national championship 12 times in the last 13 years and are heading for their 13th in this year's Playoffs in parallel with their European Champions League obligations.
Volero dropped off the podium last year in Manila, after losing to VakifBank in the bronze medal match.
Volei Nestle Osasco were crowned world champions in 2012 in Doha after shutting out Rabita Baku 3-0 in the final. They have also won a couple of silver medals in 2010 and 2014, as well as bronze in 1994 and 2011. They are the most prolific club in the medals table and second only to Eczacibasi in the ranking by colour of medals.
Osasco are currently competing in the semifinals of the 2016-17 Brazilian Superleague, after finishing second to Rio in the Regular Season.
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