African volleyball teams face litmus test at World Cup

Source: Xinhua| 2019-09-11 08:14:31|Editor: Liu
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NAIROBI, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- African teams face a daunting task to stamp their authority at the volleyball World Cup, which starts in Japan on Sept. 14-29.

Four of Africa's best sides Kenya and Cameroon in the women's competition and Egypt and Tunisia in men's will battle out for the honors.

However, Kenya's head coach Paul Bitok has ruled out the continent from contesting for the medal's ramp.

"We have a wide gap in quality, standard and techniques of playing volleyball. When we accept that, then we will have no pressure as we head to Japan on Wednesday for the 2019 World Cup," said Bitok on Tuesday in Nairobi.

However, Bitok has challenged Kenya team to exploit any chink in their opponent's defense and establish themselves as potential stars, which may earn them professional call-up to top European and American clubs.

"I look at the World Cup as an exposure competition for the youthful Kenya team," said Bitok.

Kenya, United States, Argentina, the Netherlands, Serbia and Brazil will play their matches in Hamamatsu, while host Japan, Cameroon, Russia, South Korea and the Dominican Republic will be based in Yokohama.

During the last World Cup in 2015, China claimed women's gold, followed by Serbia and the USA.

In the men's competition, it was the USA, who dominated, with Italy taking silver and Poland bronze. The World Cup will see the 12 teams face off in a single round-robin format over 11 match days.

However, Bitok says whereas winning at the World Cup would be an added bonus, his main focus will be to build a formidable team that will carry the day at the Africa Olympic qualifiers set for January.

Kenya has not qualified for the Olympic Games since 2004 and the former Rwanda tactician believes the country, after winning the Africa Games title for a second time in a row, will get good exposure in Japan, which they will use to dominate the continental qualifiers and secure their ticket to Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

"We are going to face the best teams in the world and this will be a good platform to prepare my team for the Olympics qualifiers. I will give every player a chance in Japan because we have over 10 matches to play there," Bitok adds.

Kenya volleyball team, who are the nine-time African nations champions, have been training in Nairobi since their return from Morocco for the Africa Games.

"Asian, American and European teams have invested heavily in the game for many years. We will try our best to win three matches as we look to improve from our last outing (2015) where we won only two matches," Bitok said.