All four are eager to begin on a high note after watching the other 12 teams start their campaigns last weekend, with Argentina and Bulgaria starting favourites while Germany will be counting on their home support and Portugal will bank on a few upset victories.
This year the World League has a revised, compact format, running initially from May 18 to July 1, with the finals set to take place in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia from July 4 to 8.
While the World League still features 16 teams, for the first time in the tournament’s history the Intercontinental Round will be played across four weeks with each country hosting all four teams in their respective pool on one weekend each.
Germany counting on passionate fans
Germany will hope their home support will give them an extra boost as they begin their World League. They have a new coach in Vital Heynen and will see the tournament as a pre-cursor to their quest for a London 2012 Olympic Games berth.
The hosts have a 3-1 win-loss record overall against Portugal and have never lost to Argentina in a FIVB tournament in the five matches they have contested. However, Bulgaria pose a big threat having lost nine out of the last ten 10 encounters with their European rivals.
-Yet to lose to Argentina in the World League
Argentina aim to keep future alive
A young Argentina side surprised many by almost claiming a bronze medal during last year’s World League, losing out to Poland in front of their home fans, so they will hope their dismal disappointing performances against Germany and also Bulgaria – who they have never beaten in World League competition – are a thing of the past.
-Beat Bulgaria for first time in World League history in 2011
–Never beaten Germany in World League and only ever beaten Germany (GDR) once at the 1982 World Championship
Solidarity key for Bulgaria
Bulgaria come into the competition with little pressure as they are assured of a place in the Finals as hosts. But they will want to bounce back after missing out on Olympic qualification through the CEV Continental Olympic Qualification tournament.
Radostin Stoychev remains in position as coach and will be keen to prove a point.
-Never faced Portugal in the World League
-Suffered their first loss competition loss to Argentina during last year’s Finals
Portugal out for an upset
Portugal, having seen the form book turn on its head in a few of last weekend’s matches, will be keen to add a few surprise victories of their own in Frankfurt. They have never beaten Bulgaria in a FIVB tournament, have a 1-3 win-loss ratio against hosts Germany and last defeated Argentina during the 2002 World League. However, they also don’t have the pressure of an Olympic Qualification tournament to prepare for so will look to play with freedom.
-Have lost their last matches against all three other pool teams
-Haven’t beaten Argentina in any FIVB tournament since the 2002 World League