USA is slightly the favourite in NORCECA Men’s Olympic Qualifier


CAGUAS, Puerto Rico, January 2, 2008.- The 2008 NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualification Championship will be played January 6-11 in the city of Caguas, with USA as the top favourite of the eight-team event to be held at Hector Sola Bezares Coliseum.


Following its fourth-place finish at the FIVB World Cup, Team USA’s world ranking has improved from fifth to third behind Brazil and Russia. Nevertheless, it can expect a battle from several NORCECA teams, particularly Canada, Cuba and Puerto Rico, which defeated the United States in four sets at the World Cup and went on to finish sixth.


The other teams that have confirmed their participation in the qualification championship are Mexico, Dominican Republic, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago. All competed at the 2007 NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship in Anaheim, California.


Only the winning team at the NORCECA qualifier will earn a spot at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.


Puerto Rico qualified for the World Cup by finishing second to the United States at the NORCECA championship. The United States was the only team to beat Puerto Rico in that tournament.


Teams will be divided in two pools with the winner of each division advancing directly to the semi finals round. Teams placed in second and third will meet in crossed matches in the quarter finals phase.


The USA (3rd), Puerto Rico (8th), Barbados (32nd) and Dominican Republic (35th) will compete in Group A. Cuba (17th), alongside Canada (18th), Mexico (37th) and Trinidad & Tobago (38th) complete Group B.


Playing Puerto Rico at home will be difficult, said U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon. “We expect Puerto Rico’s fans to be out in force,” McCutcheon said. “It will be like playing Poland in Poland or Brazil in Brazil.”


Puerto Rico’s Hector Soto was the overall leading scorer at both the NORCECA Championship and World Cup tournaments.


“It won’t be easy. The competition will be tough but our chances of qualifying are there,” stated Soto. “We will be at home and if the other teams want to qualify they will have to beat us first.”


"This Olympic qualifier has a full spectrum of eligible teams from the NORCECA Zone and will prove to be a tough qualifying process," commented Canada's Head Coach Glenn Hoag. "Our team is focused and looking forward to playing after many months of training. Our attention will be focused on the task at hand."


“Our guys are very enthusiastic and they are going to battle for the qualification. Cuba has participated in six Olympic Games, but none of the current players have been present in an event of this magnitude. They are young with good potential but without experience at this level, despite some participations in the World League,” said Orlando Samuels, the Cuban coach.


Preliminary Round Schedule

January 6

12:00 Canada vs Trinidad & Tobago

14:00 Dominican Republic vs USA

16:00 Cuba vs Mexico

18:00 Opening Ceremony

19:00 Puerto Rico vs Barbados

January 7

14:00 Trinidad & Tobago vs Mexico

16:00 USA vs Barbados

18:00 Cuba vs Canada

20:00 Puerto Rico vs Dominican Republic

January 8

14:00 Trinidad & Tobago vs Cuba

16:00 Barbados vs Dominican Republic

18:00 Mexico vs Canada

20:00 USA vs Puerto Rico

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