Lausanne, Switzerland, September 6, 2018 – The Netherlands are back at the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship finals after a 16-year absence and their captain Nimir Abdel-Aziz has a good feeling about the team’s performance at the tournament in Italy and Bulgaria from September 9 through 30.
The Dutch team, silver medallist at the 1994 World Championship, did not qualify for the three most recent editions of the World Championships in 2006, 2010 and 2014, but in May 2017 won one of the CEV qualification pools, unbeaten in five matches, and advanced to the 2018 finals in Italy and Bulgaria.
“It is of course very special that we are back at the World Championship. This is a very special moment for the team and for all volleyball fans in the Netherlands,” Nimir Abdel-Aziz said in a volleyball.nl interview
. “But we do not dwell on that. We are going to the World Championship to leave a mark. We want to show everyone that we really belong there.”
The Netherlands will start the tournament in Pool B to be played in the Bulgarian city of Ruse, where they will be in the company of Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt and France. The captain believes his team has a good shot at one of the top four spots in the final pool standings to progress to the next round.
“It is very difficult to say where we are now, but there is a good feeling within the squad after our joint training sessions against our pool’s top favourites France and Brazil. They are both in the top three of the world and, of course, it was difficult, but we showed some good things,” Abdel-Aziz commented. “Against France we played very well and it was a nice fight. Brazil, however, were clearly a bit too strong, but we have certainly learned from this. Canada are also in the top eight of the world and did very well in the Volleyball Nations League. I think we should aim at beating China and Egypt. We are lower in the world ranking, but that does not mean everything. The goal is certainly to win against these two countries, so the two duels will be crucial.”
“If we get through the pool, then we will be in the top 16 of the world. That would be very nice,” added the 201-cm-tall opposite. “It is the hardest tournament in the world, with the highest level. For me, it is a great honour to be captain of the team at the World Championship.”
The Dutch won one and lost one of the two away friendly games against France. Then they lost three times against Brazil. In their most recent test matches, the Oranjes entertained neighbours Belgium for two games, in which the two sides exchanged five-set victories. The series of pre-World Championship matches for the Netherlands is not over yet. Coach Gido Vermeulen’s squad will have its last rehearsal before taking off for Bulgaria with exhibition games against Argentina on September 6 in Doetinchem and September 8 in Ede.
What gives Abdel-Aziz confidence ahead of the season’s most prestigious competition is the hard work he and his teammates put in during the preparation period before the event.
“We have worked very hard all summer and we are very eager to show something beautiful at the World Championship. At an event like this, you want to give everything to produce a good result. We have gained a lot of experience at the highest level and found our rhythm. There is great confidence within the team,” the 26-year-old Dutchman concluded.