By the numbers – Italy defeats Japan in FIVB Men’s World Championship 2018 opener

Tuesday, 11 Sep 2018
Lawrence Fernandez - Editor - @lancefernandez

The Italian senior men’s volleyball squad did not disappoint their fans as they defeated Japan to open their FIVB Men’s World Championship 2018 campaign on a positive note. But even though the home team won in straight sets, the 25-20, 25-21, 25-23 score line shows that the result could have gone the other way. Here’s how Italy defeated Japan based on the stat sheet.

Italian block party

The discrepancy in kill blocks is noteworthy especially because the Italians connected on some of them during key moments of the match. The squad of coach Gianlorenzo Blengini collected nine blocks out of 41 attempts as compared to Japan’s lone block out of 18 tries. Coming into the game, it’s obvious that the home team will win this department given their height advantage. But for this match, they were able to telegraph Japan’s attacks with double or even triple blocks.

Captain Ivan Zaytsev, Simone Anzani, and Daniele Mazzoni had two blocks apiece. Yet despite the domination in blocks, the Japanese were still able to hang in every set. The next part will tell you why.

Make no mistake about service errors

While Japan had one less service ace than Italy (3-2), they were more efficient in doing so. In the first set alone, Zaytsev got three service errors due because his forceful attempts did not clear the net. In return, that’s three easy points for Japan that kept the set close. These errors are part of the 25 total errors that Italy committed as compared to Japan’s 21. As the competition gets tougher, the Italians must convert more on their serves for errors might cost them a set.

Firing from multiple zones

Setter Simone Giannelli did a fantastic job distributing the ball to his teammates who then converted on 63% of their attacks. They were particularly great in utilizing Zaytsev and Osmany Juantorena in back line attacks which kept the Japanese guessing on defense. While the Italian captain lead the team in scoring with 13, the output of others was close: Juantorena and Lanza had 11 apiece while Mazzoni and Anzani had nine and eight, respectively. Even Giannelli scored twice to keep the Japanese defense honest.

The scoring distribution of the Italians parlayed to all three sets. While Zaytsev scored six of his 13 in the first set, he tallied three and four in the next two. Lanza and Juantorena also got four points in the deciding set while Mazzone and Anzani scored two apiece. While the Italians used only seven players excluding libero Massimo Colaci, they can depend on everyone when their number is called.

How the outdoor conditions affected the match

The atmosphere at the Foro Italico in Rome is downright breath-taking especially when the 11,000-strong crowd turned their mobile phone lights on. However, playing in outdoor conditions had some effect on the result. In the post-game interview, Zaytsev apologized to the fans for not being able to play faster. Was it because any wind that was flowing through the venue alters the flight of the ball?

The Italian national team captain added that the conditions are atypical that finding reference points was not easy because the ball was travelling at a slower rate. In that case, is it possible that Italy could have dominated the match if it was played indoors? But regardless of venue, the best ones always adjust to come out on top and thus Italy collected a full three points and a 75-64 advantage in total points.

Commendable composure from Japan

No one can say that Italy had an easy time against the Japanese. As the game progressed, the guests mounted stronger opposition by keeping their cool and sticking to their game. They even gave the Italians a scare in the third set before the hosts recovered. Though facing a disadvantage in height, the Japanese spikers did well in finding the gaps in the zones to score points. That’s why they converted on a number of cross-court attempts especially because the Italian back line tends to play deep.

What’s next for both teams?

Both Italy and Japan will get three days’ rest before the hit the court again on the 13th of September. Coach Yuichi Nakagaichi and the Japanese squad will face the Dominican Republic while Italy is set to battle against Belgium.