World League Group Stage came to an end. Which player deserved to be nominated to top 7 of the phase and which played below their potential? Which teams should be praised or disappointed? Check it out!
Brazil (25 points, 8/1)
Arguably not so strong, not so impressive and attractive like several years ago, but Brazil is still Brazil. Despite “Canarinhos” has already played without Giba, Sergio or Murilo, they easily reached the summit of Pool A. Perhaps, Brazil was not playing thrilling games and making many unforced mistakes, but it was always enough to claim three points. Only France made problems for vice-Olympic champions. This season confirms so far that Bernardo Rezende does not have to worry because he is bringing up a new generation of stars. It is meant Ricardo Lucarelli, who has already become a leader of Brazil and one of the best in World League.
Bulgaria (19 points, 7/3)
Not complicated way of play, two guns on the left and right wing and good block can be a recipe for World League Final Six advance. Bulgaria mastered the style which is not nice, more is frequently ugly, but very effective. However, if you have such a player like Tsvetan Sokolov, you must take advantage his skills and potential. This player exactly took Poland away three points in the first match on Friday and booked tickets to Argentina. What prospect for the finals? Bulgaria will face Argentina and Italy and as the host are not in great shape, they can be located in top 4.
France (15 points, 5/5)
“I wish we did not played well at the beginning” – this statement may be articulated by majority of French players and the head-coach Faurent Tillie. France was one of the most elegant and pleasant for watching of all World League 2013 participants. Multiplicity of digs, various counterattacks system , spectacular and technical solutions in attack could really impress. However, “Les Bleues” fell very poor start with four failures in a row what influenced greatly on the final Pool A layout. Especially, a defeat in the United States turned out to be fateful and closed the door to the top 6, because they led 1-2 and 19-22 to lose finally in tie-break. The French, after several years of stagnation, finally stood up and for sure will be extremely dangerous for everyone during the European Championships. Under the leadership of Ervin Ngapeth or Jenia Grebennikov, France may come back to the successes of the beginning of the 21st century or even shine brighter.
Poland (14 points, 4/6)
London’s demons reborn. One of the worst season in history of “Polish “ participation in World League came true. The defending champion lost six matches not playing any good game over the whole competition and is among two teams, that was not able to get a promotion to the Finals a year after winning the trophy. No doubt, Poland was bad prepared for the tournament in particular as far as the physical aspect. All players were jumping lower, striking lighter and wailing in key moments. Polish fans were frustrated by Piotr Nowakowski and his awkwardness. Zbigniew Bartman was making them laughter missing attack without opponents over the net while Bartosz Kurek still did not faced his competitor, but himself. Only Pawel Zatorski, who played just 6 games, is allowed to be happy with himelf. The young Skra Belchatow player was faultless in reception and added a lot of vital digs, thus, he deserved to be nominated to the best libero title. The head-coach, Andrea Anastasi, shoved again a lack of taking a risk ability and unreasonable “clinging” to individual player. World League 2013 pointed plenty of weaknesses in Poland’s play. It finally proved that Poland (Andrea Anastasi) needs to change a “preparatore fisico” and call to Mariusz Wlazły to the rescue.
USA (12 points, 4/6)
Hey, hey USA! As this is not Olympic season, you could expect USA will not be so competitive like one ago, especially that the U.S. new head-coach, John Speraw, introduced a few new players so far unknown on the international “market” and started up a journey to Rio De Janeiro, because it is always the main aim for Americans. However, new faces, Carson Clark or Kely Caldwell supported by team leader Matthew Anderson, met the new challenge fighting till the last ball in every game. Nevertheless, that was not the time or place to think of Final Six promotion, but USA has potential for great play in the future, particularly in 2016.
Argentina (5 points, 1/9)
Argentina is one of the most disappointing team of this year’s edition. Right, “Albicelestes” have finals on home soil, but it is not any alibi to take the struggle only in three or four games. The South American team suffers from internal troubles and interpersonal conflicts including ex team captain Rodrigo Quiroga, who conspires against the head-coach Javier Weber. All these happenings enhance the impression that Argentina will not be able to reconstruct mental and physical shape in Final Six and will only worsen its matches ratio in World League 2013. What in the future? Until Facundo Conte come back in great shape, Argentina will not be able to fight with top teams.
Italy (19 points, 7/3)
“Squadra Azzurra” mercilessly took advantage all problems its opponents claiming the first place in Pool B. A lack of Aleassandro Fei, Luigi Mastrangelo or first of all Michal Lasko was imperceptible, because Mauro Berruto brought up a new team leader Ivan Zaytsev. Italia, based on Lube Banca Macerata players , won seven matches while included only 3 setbacks and seems to the main willing, with Brazil and Russia, to conquer the World League.
Russia (19 points, 7/3)
In spite of playing without many amazing players like Maxim Mikhalov or Alexander Volkov, Russia exhibited its unlimited potential and is going to Argentina to claim the World League trophy lost one year ago. “Sborna” surprised all experts losing against Cuba, as a results, fought for the advance till the last leg , but finally confirmed its access in finals thanks to Iran’s victory over Germany. Nikolay Pavlov successfully replaced his more titled predecessor and he will power Russia in Argentina being accompanied by spontaneous and uncontrollable Aleksey Spiridonov. Perhaps “Sporna” will not arrive to Mar Del Plata in optimal squad, but certainly with desire to stay to on the top after Olympics.
Germany (17 points, 5/5)
Germanys were so closed to take a promotion to Final Six. They probably used 100% of their abilities beating i.e. Russia, however, missed a chance to second consecutive advance to finals in Iran last weekend. Nevertheless, Vital Heynen discovered a new team leader on the position number 2. Denys Kaliberda, it is about him, occurred to be one of the most valuable receiver not only in reception, but also in offensive actions. When Gorgy Grozer returns to the national team, they may become very, very strong.
Serbia (16 points, 5/5)
Serbia passed another unsuccessful performance in international tournament. After taking the European Championship in 2011, they are not able to return on the right track and fail every more important exam playing against someone of the top in spite of having a few talented and already experienced players. Aleksandar Atanasijevic in not enough. As long as Nikola Kovacevic comes back to great disposition and Marco Podrascanin or Dragan Stankovic show their best, Serbia will not succeed. However, the most disquieting of Serbia is a setter. Vlado Petkovic is not able to maintain high level even not mentioning about reaching Nikola Grbic.
Iran (15 points, 5/5)
Chapeau bas to Iran and Julio Velasco for their attitude this year. They were generating outstanding volleyball performances many times and were making a progress game by game what consumed in a winning duel against Italy. Plenty of volleyball fans were impressed by Iran’s self-confidence and incredible physical preparation despite it was one of few plays outside of their native continent. World League 2013 ensured great promotion for Iran’s players and some of them really glistened. Mohammad Mousavi occurred to be one of the most valuable middle-blockers in the tournament. Not only, did he become the best blocker, but Mousavi also contributed effective attacks and powerful serves. No one should be astonished, if he will be tempted by European clubs i.e. Turkish.
Cuba (4 points, 1/9)
Cuba is in a deep crisis which will be very hard to overcame. After discarding such players like Wilfredo Leon, Fernando Hernandez or Yoandry Diaz, there are not any positive news for the future. The actual young players are not as gifted as these previous one, so it seems that Cuba may fall out of the world leaders for more than 2 or even 4 years. In World League 2013, Cuba achieved just one win coming off all remaining team in pool B, however, the team of the “Hot Island” probably would have embarrassing problems with winning even in group C.
Canada (23 points, 8/2)
Long-term cooperation with Glenn Hoag yielded results. Canada advanced to the finals by presenting a good and smooth play despite some problems like an injury of the team leader Gavin Schmitt. The “Maple Leaves” are not a miscellany of stars, but a group of players convinced about their value creating a collective. In group stage, they withstood a pressure exerted by the Netherlands and overtook them to the finish line. For sure, Canada will not a favorite of finals in Argentina, however, they are always self-confident and feels like advance to semis.
The Netherlands (22 points, 7/3)
The Dutch can be one of the most disappointed team of all. Having won seven games, they were an architect of their own fate in the last round with a need in order to overcome Finland claiming three points and gain tickets to Argentina. Unfortunately, “Oranje” did coped with this work wasting a chance to return to the saloon of world volleyball after about 15 years. In spite of this setback, Wytze Kooistra and all the rest shoved quite attractive way of play with an emphasis on offensive. However, they sometimes need more balance between attack and defense particularly including block and defense relation. Nevertheless, Holland National Team is a mix of youth and experience with great potential and prospects for the future. A setter, Nimir Abdel-Aziz for a long may be one of the best players on his position and the Dutch real play creator, if only he is making progress in Turkey.
Korea (13 points, 4/6)
A setter, Sun-So Han led Korea to the quite good result taking into account their physical potential and a Sung Min Moon’s injury already in the premiere game. First of all, they overtook Japan in standings and it is their great achievement, as internal rivalry between continental opponents is crucial in Asia. What is more, Korea jumped Finland gaining the third palace in pool C. The best impression of Koreans exerted Sun-So Han. He was the best setter of the group stage not only statistically, but also practically due to numerous outputs in the field of competitive middle-blockers.
Finland (12 points, 4/6)
It seems that inevitably comes the decline of the Finn team which could face every single opponent in the world or for instance to beat Brazil. Team leader, Mikko Esko, is older and older what is visible to the naked eye. That is why “Suomi” included a few bloopers inter alia against Japan twice despite they were a major candidate to get a ticket to Argentina from Pool C. They did not find any new offensive player, who would be in charge of ending up high ball. Aforementioned Mikko Esko probably did not manage to combine his play in Russia and the national team, therefore was not a “strong point” of Finland. He simply disappointed.
Portugal (11 points, 4/6)
Portugal was invited to the World League in place of Egypt plunged into political crisis and came up to all expectations. No one probably thought they will involve to the struggle for advance, but they wanted to pick up what can be. Portugal in part promoted Alexandre Ferreira who, has been signed by Trentino Volley. In fact, this player was a machine holding his team to four victories.
Japan (9 points, 3/7)
Even the American school of volleyball is not enough to pull Japan out of impasse. Perhaps, Gary Sato set up a new way of trainings, but he cannot create a valuable team having just 2 high-level players. No one would do it. Furthermore, if an Asian team gives way its opponents in defense, reception or technical play, the squad cannot dream about any win. This is still characteristic to Japan. Anyway, the team of Country of the Raising Sun made two significant surprises beating Finland twice, but if they had lost these games, there would not be any astonishment. This is the right strength of Japanese volleyball.
Group Stage Dream Team:
Team of Disappointments: