Stars in transition to shine in Cairo


Pavl Pankov of Russia goes for a hat-trick of MVP awards at the FIVB age group World Championships.

Cairo, Egypt, August 17, 2017 - Twelve teams from across the globe are on the line for the start of the 2017 FIVB Men's U23 World Championship here Friday, as a plethora of star players in transition between junior status and their countries' full senior National Teams get to showcase their skills.

Cairo is hosting an FIVB competition for the first time since the 2001 Boys' U19 World Championship, when Egypt qualified to the semifinals only to finish fourth - though the Egyptian capital has seen World League action several times inbetween. All matches will be played in two of the four high-level, competition-compatible halls of the Cairo National Stadium Complex.

The compact, yet extensive in facilities and inrastructure, complex is arguably one of the top venues in the world, with the main hall (which will host matches of Pool A) boasting a capacity for 20,000 spectators, extendable to 30,000 if the floor area is used.

The main hall of the Cairo National Stadium Complex, ready to host the 2017 FIVB Men's U23 World Championship.

Russia are the strong favourites coming into the event, with this particular age group having swept all previous competitions they took part in.

Led by setter Pavel Pankov, this same Russian group won the gold medals at both the 2013 U19 and the 2015 U21 World Championships.

Pavel Pankov with the gold medal at the 2013 FIVB U19 World Championship in Tijuana.

Pankov himself, the son of 1988 Olympic champion Marina Nikoulina and younger brother of Russia's women's National Team two-time European champion setter Ekaterina Kosianenko, picked up the MVP awards in both the previous age-group World Championships of 2013 and 2015. He is now eying a historic hat-trick.

Russia are also the defending champions of the U23 Worlds, having won the 2015 edition in Dubai with a 3-1 win in the final over Turkey. Brazil had won the inaugural edition in 2013 in Uberlandia with a 3-2 victory in the final over Serbia.

Fans at Cairo's National Stadium Complex two halls will also get to see in action five Rio 2016 Olympians, including Brazil's gold medallist outside hitter Douglas Souza. And Cuba have as many as four players who were at Rio 2016 - Osniel Malgarejo, Javier Concepcion, Adrian Goide and Miguel Lopez.

Brazil's Douglas Souza in action at the 2015 FIVB Men's U23 World Championship.

Most of the Dream Team from this year's U21 World Championship in Brno will also be present in Cairo over the next ten days. This includes outside hitters Anton Semyshev of Russia and Bartoz Kwolek of Poland; middle blockers Aleksei Kononov of Russia and Jose Masso of Cuba; and opposite Miguel Gutierrez of Cuba.

Poland's Bartosz Kwolek spikes through the Cuban block of Jose Mosso and Miguel Gutierrez in the final of the 2017 U21 World Championship in Brno.

From the side of the locals, attention will be focusing on the home team of Egypt. With Brazilian coach Marcos Miranda at the helm, Egypt will be looking at improving on their previous best 9th-place finishes in both the 2013 and 2015 Men's U23 World Championship.

"We have a good squad of players capable of achieving good results during this competition. Enthusiasm and fighting spirit are our top weapons for the tournament," said Miranda.

This particular Egyptian group had ranked 15th at the 2015 FIVB Men's U21 World Championship and 12th at the 2013 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship - both in Mexico.

The U23 World Championship in Cairo will be a testbed for a new scoring system that the FIVB is currently reviewing, with matches played to best-of-seven sets to 15 points each.

Excitement has been building up in the Egyptian capital over the past weeks and hundreds of staff and volunteers have been at work, sometimes round the clock, to put up a show that all participants will remember for years to come.

Quick links - Volleyball:
FIVB Volleyball Men's U23 World Championship 2017
FIVB Volleyball Men's U23 World Championship 2017 - Schedule
FIVB Volleyball Men's U23 World Championship 2017 - Teams - Volleyball
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