Poland retains the crown

Tuesday, 02 Oct 2018
Lawrence Fernandez - Editor - @lancefernandez

You have to feel for Brazil. In the FIVB Men’s World Championship 2014, they lost the title to hosts Poland with a margin of eight points in three sets. They were primed for payback for the 2018 edition in Italy. However, the same team defeated them in straight sets. The game could have gone either way. But just like four years ago, the Brazilians came up shot yet again. This time, the Polish defense was the antidote to an efficient Brazilian offense.

In the first set of the match held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin, Italy, the Poles took a hotly-contested first set, 28-26. From there, it was all Poland as they capture the second, 25-20, and the third, 25-23. While the score line in the third set suggests a tight match, the squad of coach Vital Heynen had full control of the game. They were able to neutralize Brazil’s Wallace De Souza and Lucas Saatkamp with a commendable reception game courtesy of outside hitter Artur Szalpuk and libero Pawel Zatorski. In total, Poland had an unbelievable 69% reception rate.

Not only are they excellent on ground defense for they were able to contain the spikes of De Souza, Evandro Guerra, and Luiz Felipe Fonteles in the net. Szalpuk, Michal Kubiak, Fabian Drzyzga, Mateusz Bienek, Piotr Nowakowski, and FIVB Men’s World Championship 2018 Most Valuable player Bartosz Kurek shadowed the Brazilian attackers to register ten kill blocks. Service aces also went Poland’s way, 4-2.

When the ball is on their side, Kurek made the Brazilians pay by scoring on 20 spikes and two aces to go with his two blocks. Kubiak added 12 (10 spikes, two blocks) while Szalpuk came in at third with ten (eight spikes, two blocks). Nowakowski, Drzyzga, and Jakub Kochanowski all had three markers apiece while Mateusz Bieniek contributed two (one spike, one block). On the other hand, De Souza led Brazil with 14 (all spikes) and supporting him was Douglas Souza with 11 (all spikes). Guerra, Fonteles, and Saatkamp had seven, six, and six, respectively.

Third title for Poland

The recent victory gave Poland its third FIVB Men’s World Championship after winning it all in 1974 and 2014. This triumph will help them improve their place in the FIVB World Ranking as they aim for a third straight title in 2022. Heynen had nothing but praise for his team that does not have marquee names to begin with. He said, “Simply, we kept playing and playing as the pressure rose. Other coaches have great players, I have a great team, able to play the very best match of the tournament in the Final. Thanks to my players and to my staff. We would not be champions without them.”

Poland’s completion of back-to-back titles is strong credence for four of their players to be named in the FIVB Men’s World Championship 2018 Dream Team. Kubiak was hailed as the first best opposite hitter while Nowakowski cracks the line-up as second-best middle blocker. Zatorski is the tournament’s best libero while Kurek is named MVP after tallying a tournament-high 171 points, eight more than second-place Matt Anderson of the USA. He is also the second Pole to win the award after Mariusz Wlazly is named MVP in the previous World Championship.

In other news, the United States won the bronze medal after defeating Serbia in four sets: 23-25, 25-17, 32-30, 25-19. The Americans had a huge 65-45 advantage in spikes as well as an 11-4 edge in service aces. They also led in blocks, 9-7. Excellent digs (40-31), receptions (33-22), and sets (14-9) all went USA’s way. However, the 35 errors committed by the John Speraw-coached team allowed the Serbians to stay in the game.

Matthew Anderson led all scores with 29 while Aaron Russell, Maxwell Holt, and David Smith had 16, 14, and 11 respectively. Taylor Sander, Micah Christenson, and Jake Langlois added nine, five, and one point, respectively. The Americans also contained Serbia’s Aleksandar Atanasijevic to only seven points. Leading the Serbs are Drazen Luburic with 12, Mark