Don’t write us off as volley wallies say unlikely hosts

As the men’s European Volleyball Championship gets underway today, the national side know they won’t win but hope they can survive a relatively easy group

On paper, Poland was a logical choice to host the men’s 2013 European Volleyball Championship, which starts later today. Ranked fourth in the world, they won the 2009 edition and finished third in 2011. Less logical, perhaps, was the choice of its co-hosts: Denmark. Ranked 68th in the world, and the lowest of the competing 16 nations, they are 1000/1 (with Ladbroke’s) to win the tournament.


Troubled waters ahead?

In fact, the last time Denmark competed in a European Volleyball Championship was in 1971. That year, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ won a Grammy and topless hippies congregated in Kongens Have. They came 20th out of 22 teams.  The Soviet Union won the tournament.

From September 20-29, Denmark will host group matches in Herning and Odense, and knockout games in Aarhus and Copenhagen, which will host the final at Parken. The tournament promises to offer a high standard of volleyball. Six European teams are currently in the world’s top ten, including Russia, the reigning Olympic champions. But according to Fred Sturm, the Danish national coach, his team are not here to “make up the numbers”.


A coach with pedigree

Sturm, whose volleyball pedigree is unquestionable, was appointed coach in 2003. He played for the US national side in the 1970s and led the USA to bronze at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.He insists that his side, who have been training together since May, are up to the challenge. “We are in the competition to win,” he said. “When we step on the court we play to win every point, every set, every match.”   

Despite the optimism, however, Sturm is realistic about his side’s chances. “It is possible to play well and not win,” he admitted. “We will focus on playing good volleyball. It is an opportunity to seize in every way possible. If we are a better team at the end, and we have gained momentum and experience, then we have achieved our objective.”

His employers at the Danish Volleyball Association (DVA) understand that it could be a difficult road ahead. “There is no doubt that the team will have a hard time,” said spokesperson Jakob Wärme Hansen. “The team does not expect to win the European Championship title. But on a good day and with some luck, the possibility to proceed to the play-offs is there.”

To reach the play-offs, a round of games contested by the four teams that finish second in the four team groups and the four teams that finish third, Denmark theoretically only need to win one game. But this is unlikely to come in their opening fixture against the Italians, who are ranked third in the world, later today in Odense, the venue for all of Group A’s fixtures. And last year’s Europa League winners, Belgium, the world number 41, who Denmark play in their final group game on September 22, also pose a stern threat that Denmark will struggle to overcome. So realistically it will be against Belarus, the world number 53, on September 21 that Denmark stands its biggest chance. Nevertheless, in terms of the continental rankings, Denmark, ranked 25th, are not that far behind Belgium (18) and Belarus (20), so they have every chance of not finishing last.


Poor recent form
Unfortunately, the Danish side’s recent form doesn’t bode well for a successful campaign – they have lost their last five games. Sturm, ever the optimist, sees it differently however. “Results are not the best way to measure progress,” he insisted. “We have played against strong teams in order to prepare us – we are going in the right direction in terms of benefiting from the experience of playing against top-level teams.”

Bringing top-class volleyball to Denmark is after all why it is hosting the tournament. The sport’s ruling body in Europe, the Confédération Européenne de Volleyball, awards the hosting rights to bring the sport “to all parts of Europe and promote the growth of the sport”.

It was northern Europe’s turn to host, and Denmark, according to Sturm, saw an opportunity to co-host with Poland who are “more experienced in the area of organising large competitions” – like football’s Euro 2012, for example.  “The amount of publicity the tournament will generate is good for a relatively small sport,” noted Hansen. “We hope that volleyball will expand after EuroVolley 2013 and attract more players as well as spectators and interest from sponsors.” All it will take, it seems, is a win. Is that too much to ask for against the teams ranked 41st and 53rd in the world?




Pool A
Arena Fyn, Ørbækvej 350, Odense
(Travel info:


Denmark’s games:

vs Italy
Fri 20:45 (live on TV3 Sport 1)

vs Belgium
Sat 18:00 (Highlights TV3 Sport 1, Sun 12:30)

vs Belarus
Sun 15:00 (live on TV3 Sport 1)


under-12s: 99kr, over-12s: 200kr, weekend pass: 275/495kr, under-3s: free adm


The Final Four:
Semi-final 1: Sat Sep 28, 15:00; Semi-final 2: Sat Sep 28, 18:00; Bronze-medal game: Sun Sep 29, 15:00; Final: Sun Sep 29, 18:00

all four games at Parken


under-12s: 99kr, over-12s: 150-350kr, weekend pass: 275/295-895kr, under-3s: free adm



For more information/tickets  visit or

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