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          Team China keen to keep rolling at the worlds

          By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-26 09:32
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          Coach Wu urges players to maintain strong momentum of recent months

          China's Zhang Jingyin (right) celebrates with head coach Wu Sheng during their FIVB Volleyball Nations League win over Brazil in Brasilia, Brazil, on June 12, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

          With the Chinese men's team on a roll in recent months, head coach Wu Sheng has urged his players to raise the intensity another notch at the FIVB Men's World Championship, which starts on Friday.

          "If we aren't aggressive or don't give our all on the court, our opponents won't easily give us the victory. In previous matches, we sometimes lacked strong momentum to attack and aggressiveness," Wu told Xinhua.

          "Although we managed to keep a perfect record to win the Asian Cup, we are still not quite up to the standard of the top teams at the worlds. So it will be important for us to have the right mentality, be brave, proactive and aggressive."

          The team surprised fans at the 2022 AVC (Asian Volleyball Confederation) Cup in Thailand earlier this month when it ended China's 10-year wait to top the podium at the event with a perfect record.

          Managing to reach any step on the podium at the world championship is an altogether taller task, so Wu's 19th-ranked squad is first aiming to simply emerge from the group stage into the knockout rounds.

          Tough challenges await Team China in Pool E, where it will take on Turkiye on Saturday, before facing Canada and then Italy-the pool's highest-ranked team at No 6.

          "With the great result at the Asian Cup, we are now more united and are confident in ourselves to be more competitive on the court. The players were thrilled after winning the Asian Cup, but I think they are still very calm and clear about their situation," Wu added.

          "We are not overconfident after the win. In the very early stages when we were assembling this squad, there were so many problems. After more and more matches and cooperation with each other, the players know each other better and have gelled better. The team is a lot more mature."

          Wu's players are well aware of the sizable step up in class that awaits at the worlds.

          "We need to think about the AVC win from a different perspective. On the one hand, the victory has put a bigger spotlight on us, which is a great motivation," Zhang Zhejia, who was named one of the Best Middle Blockers at the AVC Cup, told CGTN.

          "But on the other hand, it also brings more pressure. With more attention and pressure, I hope we can continue to produce great results, so that more people can follow Chinese men's volleyball.

          "Now what we need to do is play the best game we can and show our skills."

          Team China fine-tuned its preparations for the worlds with a 10-day training stint in Serbia before arriving in Slovenia on Wednesday.

          The 14-man roster, announced on Tuesday, is a mixture of veterans and promising youngsters, such as Zhang Jingyin, who claimed the Most Valuable Player award and was also named one of the Best Outside Spikers at the AVC Cup.

          "There is no fixed starting lineup for this young team, and we make adjustments as we see fit depending on each match. But this is definitely our strongest possible roster. Right now the players are in good condition, and we have no major injuries to worry about," said Wu.

          "During the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in June, we had more young players than veterans, so the team's performances were not consistent enough. Since the AVC Cup, we've added more veterans to give us more stability."

          After months of tough training and competitions abroad, maintaining motivation levels is one of Wu's biggest tasks.

          "The team is actually a little bit tired as we have been away from home since the end of May. Three major tournaments-from the VNL to the AVC Cup and now the worlds-are a huge test of the team's endurance," said Wu.

          "For sure, the players are missing home. For many of them, this is the longest time they've been away training and competing. We are constantly adjusting."

          The hard work has been well worth it, with a VNL victory over third-ranked Brazil in June highlighting the immense potential of the squad.

          "We discovered many problems after the VNL. So we participated in the AVC Cup, as we needed to play more games to fix these problems, gel more as a team and prepare for the worlds," said Zhang Jingyin.

          "After winning the AVC Cup, the fans have higher expectations, which will motivate us and give us confidence at the worlds. We will try our best, and never give up in any match. We will do our best, so hopefully the fans will see an even better version of the Chinese men's team."

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