Final Six – the best 6 teams in the world?

Tuesday, 25 Sep 2018
Lawrence Fernandez - Editor - @lancefernandez

Eighteen teams have bid farewell to the competition as only six teams remain in the FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship 2018. Four of the teams are from the European Volleyball Conferederation (CEV) while another one represents the Confederación Sudamericana de Voleibol (CSV). Completing the last six is a squad from the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA).

FIVB Men’s World Championship 2018 – Third Round Draw

A draw for the final six teams were held last September 24 and leading the proceedings were European Volleyball Confederation President Aleksandar Boricic and FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship tournament director Renato Arena. Here’s how the draw went:

Pool I – Brazil (Pool F winner), USA (Pool G winner), Russia (assigned to pool as first best runner-up)

Pool J – Italy (Pool E winner), Poland (Pool H winner), Serbia (assigned to pool as second best runner-up)

Team Serbia – last but not the least

Serbia might be the lowest-ranked of all the teams that qualified in the third round. However, this does not mean that defeating them is an easy task. After posting a 4-1 record in Pool C, they stormed in the second round by defeating France in five sets and Argentina in straight sets. While they lost their final game of Round Two to Poland, they have clinched a spot in the last six by having a better record than runners-up Belgium and Canada.

The Serbs will rely on their one-two punch of Aleksandar Atanasijevic and Uros Kovacevic who has combined for 174 attack points. They will also need the all-around game of Srecko Lisinac who has ten service aces and a team-leading 15 kill blocks to go with his 54 spikes. Helping him on net defense are Marko Podrascanin who has 13 blocks and Marko Ivovic who has blocked 11 spikes for scores. Running their offense is setter Nikola Jovovic who is also the team’s best digger with 32.

Team Russia – looking for two in a row

Russia is looking for more success after winning the inaugural Volleyball Nations League earlier this year. However, they are coming into round three as the top runner-up despite having a 6-2 record including a perfect run in Pool E wherein they only dropped two of nine sets. Their last game was a straight-sets victory over Finland and the squad of coach Sergei Shliapnikov seems to be peaking at the right time.

Maxim Mikhaylov will pace the Russian attack with his booming spikes and forceful serves. Setter Sergey Grankin will also look to involve Dmitry Volkov and Egor Kliuka who has 60 spike points each to their name. Ilyas Kurkaev is their solid wall on net defense with 18 kill blocks while libero Alexey Verbov has been terrific with his digs and receptions. The Brazilians and the Americans will be pushed to the limit by this squad.

Team Brazil – climbing to the top

Yes, they are the top ranked team in the world. But it would be better to back it up with a World Championship. Many doubted the squad when they lost to the Netherlands. Without a doubt, they used that setback as motivation to play as the world’s best by going on a five-game win streak over Canada, China, Australia, Slovenia, and Belgium. But as the competition gets deeper, the opposition gets stronger as well.

If they are to make it to the semifinals, they will heavily rely on Wallace De Souza and Douglas Souza who have 102 and 94 spikes, respectively. Mauricio Souza will fend off enemy attacks as he tries to add to his team-best 12 kill blocks. Lucas Saatkamp and Luiz Felipe Marques Fonteles are two players that setter Bruno Mossa Rezender can look out for. Aside from Douglas Souza, their floor defense is fortified by Thales Hoss.

Team USA – playing for perfection

The United States of America remains to be the only undefeated team in the FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship 2018. That could be a cause of concern for coach John Speraw for they haven’t been taken to five sets by any opponent yet. But to give them credit, the experience of this squad enables them to score victories by reducing their errors. Likewise, the variety in ball distribution ensures that the spikers have a fair chance of making a kill.

In the eight games that they have played so far, setter Micah Christenson has activated Matthew Anderson and Aaron Russell with roughly even opportunities that they have connected on 90 spikes. Meanwhile, Taylor Sander is not far behind with 71 and he’s also the team’s best server with 13 aces. Aside from running the plays, Christenson is also a force in blocking together with Maxwell Holt. Sander and libero Erik Shoji are their gems on floor defense.

Team Italy – gunning for a home championship

There’s no place like home. That’s the advantage that the Italian national team has enjoyed throughout this competition and it has helped them tally a 7-1 record coming into the third round. After finishing round one at 5-0, they suffered their only loss in a five-setter against Russia. They channeled their frustration to defeat the Netherlands in their succeeding game to strengthen their grip on the top spot of Pool E.

The wards of Coach Gianlorenzo Blengini are led by Ivan Zaytsev who has 95 spike points to his name and Osmany Juantorena with 89. Zaytsev’s hammer of a serve has netted him 14 aces while Juantorena and Daniele Mazzone have ten apiece. Simone Anzani is their force on the net with 17 successful blocks. Meanwhile, their floor defense is anchored by Juantorena, Simone Giannelli, and Massimo Colaci.

Team Poland – aiming for two straight

Poland is hoping to become only the fourth nation to win at least two consecutive back-to-back FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship titles. Sad to say, their recent results are not pointing toward their favor. After being unblemished in the first round, the Poles lost to Argentina in five sets and to France in four. If not for their straight-sets victory over Serbia plus their 5-0 record that was carried over to round two, they might have been eliminated by now.

Still, they have a chance to make it to the finals if they maintain their dominance in blocking. They are the only team left with five players posting double-digit block points. Artur Szalpuk, Bartosz Kurek, and Jakub Kochanowski each have 14 while Piotr Nowakowski and Michal Kubiak have 13 and 12, respectively. Szalpuk is also their king of spikes with 83 while Kurek has 10 service aces. Pawel Zatorski is the leader of Poland’s floor defense as he leads the team in digs and receptions.