Korea serves surprises at FIVB World League

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Korea serves surprises at FIVB World League


Korean volleyball players celebrate during their FIVB World League Group D match against France in Suwon, Gyeonggi, on Sunday. [YONHAP]

The Korean men’s national volleyball team has never really impressed in the FIVB World League. In fact, the team lost all 12 of its matches last year, the only team among 16 in the tournament to not collect a single win.

But the Korea of old is no more and this year the volleyball guys are making history. The national team has already notched three important victories over the likes of fourth-ranked Cuba and No. 12 France, with its three-set sweep over Cuba the first win against that country since 1983.

Korea lost its second match but bounced back last week with two 3-1 wins over France. Korea is now second place in Group D behind Italy, who they face this weekend.

Before the World League began, just about everyone in the volleyball universe didn’t expect much from Korea because key attackers Moon Sung-min, Park Chul-woo and Kim Yo-han couldn’t make it onto the roster due to injury.

But it turns out Korea is doing just fine without them, making a surprise run with young rookies like Jeon Kwang-in, Choi Hong-suk and Kim Jung-hwan. Jeon and Choi are university students and Kim is sophomore in the Korean Professional Volleyball League.

Furthermore, the three players are not very tall as volleyball players (Jeon and Choi are 193 centimeters tall, or 6 feet 4 inches, while Kim is 196 centimeters) but they have covered for their disadvantages with speed. And it was their combined 40 points in the match against France on Sunday that helped Korea to a 3-1 win. After the game, French head coach Philippe Blanc said that these players were “full of energy and courageousness.”

For Korean head coach Park Ki-won, his team’s impressive performance is also a surprise.

“I never thought I could perform so well with this team,” Park said after the match on Sunday to Ilgan Sports. “I think the players gained confidence by beating Cuba.”

Park, who has also coached in Italy and Iran, attributes his team’s remarkable run to his team’s poise.

For Jeon, Choi and Kim, this is their first selection to the national team and Park said that because they don’t have the experience of defeat against world class teams, there is simply no fear. And even when they make mistakes, they quickly recover the rhythm.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all fun and games for Park.

“The young players are doing better than expected,” Park said. “But we aren’t showing the speed like we did during practice.”

Park, 60, always said “fast volleyball” is the core of his plan to reach the 2012 London Olympics. Because Korea doesn’t have powerful attackers in the lineup, Park said he has been trying to implement quickness into his team’s game and that means stable serve receives.

“If we can get good receives, then we can play fast volleyball and matchup well against tall players,” Park said.

Libero Yeo Oh-hyun and setter Han Sun-soo are two key players in Park’s speed-heavy game plan. Yeo, a 33-year-old veteran, helps the team most with his solid serve receives, with a receive percentage of 71.83, the most among any other players in Group D. But with good receives must come great serves.

“I emphasized strong serves during our practice sessions,” Park said. “To contain our opponent’s attack we first need to serve strong and shake their receives.”

Even though Korea is having a successful run in the World League, Park said that this is just the beginning for Korean volleyball and lots of work still needs to be done before the Olympics - Korea failed to reach the two previous Olympics.

“It’s good that our first step is on the right track but we have many other tasks,” Park said. “We will walk toward London one step at a time.”

By Jang Joo-young, Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [OSEN]
박기원 감독이 꼽은 男 배구 선전의 원동력
"빠른 배구, 강서브, 결과에 부담없이 경기에 임한 것이 주효했다".

월드리그서 한국 남자배구의 돌풍을 이끌고 있는 박기원(60) 감독이 선전의 원인을 꼽았다.

한국(세계랭킹 23위)은 2011 FIVB 월드리그 국제남자 배구대회 D조서 쿠바(4위)에 1승 1패, 프랑스(12위)에 2승을 거두며 4전 전승을 기록 중인 이탈리아에 이어 조 2위를 마크하고 있다. 쿠바에는 27년, 프랑스에는 8년 만에 거둔 승리기에 더욱 값졌다.

월드리그 전까지만 해도 대표팀의 선전을 예상한 사람은 많지 않았다. 이전까지 대표팀서 주공격수 역할을 했던 문성민(현대캐피탈), 박철우(삼성화재), 김학민(대한항공), 김요한(LIG손해보험)이 부상으로 대표팀에 합류하지 못했다.

박기원 감독은 4차전 후 기자회견서 기대 밖의 성적을 내는 이유를 꼽아 달라는 질문에 결과에 대한 부담없이 경기에 임한 것이 가장 큰 원인인 것 같다"고 답했다.

런던 올림픽 진출을 목표로 한 걸음씩 나가고 있는 박기원 감독은 자신이 추구하는 `빠른 배구`가 세계 무대서 통한다는 것을 월드리그를 통해 입증했다.

박 감독은 "서브 리시브만 되면 빠른 배구를 통해 상대 키 큰 선수를 상대할 수 있다"며 두 번째 원동력으로 빠른 배구를 꼽았다.

한국이 빠른 배구를 할 수 있는 이유는 `월드 리베로` 여오현(삼성화재)이 있기 때문이다. 여오현은 71.83% 리시브 성공률을 보이며 당당히 이 부문 1위에 이름을 올리고 있다.

한국은 세터 한선수(대한항공)의 다양하고 빠른 토스를 바탕으로 최홍석(경기대), 전광인(성균관대), 김정환(우리캐피탈)이 상대의 높은 블로킹을 뚫어내고 있다. 센터 신영석(우리캐피탈)의 속공은 더욱 빠르고 날카로워졌다.

박 감독은 세 번째 원동력으로 강한 서브를 꼽았다. 박 감독은 "상대방의 공격을 잡기 위해서는 서브를 강하게 넣어 리시브를 흔들어야 한다. 대표팀 소집 후 서브를 강하게 넣는 것에 중점을 많이 뒀다"고 설명했다.

박기원 감독은 현재 대표팀에 대해 더욱 빨라질 것을 주문하고 있다. 실전서 연습 때 만큼 빠른 배구가 안 나온다는 것이 박 감독의 설명이다. 또한 서브와 서브 리시브도 더욱 보완해야 한다고 강조했다.

박 감독은 월드리그서 좋은 성적을 내고 있는 것에 대해 "첫 발을 정상적인 길로 들어선 것에 의의가 있다. 앞으로 넘어야 할 산이 많다"며 목표인 런던올림픽 진출을 위해 한 걸음 씩 나아가겠다고 다짐했다.
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