The semifinals of the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship is upon us with two seismic match-ups. It won’t be a surprise if these games go the distance. Serbia and the Netherlands will battle for the first final slot while Italy and China will compete later in the day. The fifth place match between host team Japan and USA will happen after the two semifinal matches.
Serbia versus Netherlands
The Dutch have been riding the talents of Lonneke Sloetjes throughout the competition and that won’t change now. She was very instrumental in their come-from-behind victory against the United States by scoring 38 points. However, the Netherlands must activate their other spikers such as Celeste Plak and Yvon Belien because Serbia has menacing net defenders like Milena Rasic, Ana Bjelica, and Bianka Busa.
Meanwhile, the Serbians can also pack devastating attacks led by Tijana Boskovic and Brankica Mihajlovic. The Boss edged Italy’s Paola Egonu in scoring, 29-28, during their third round encounter which the Serbs won in four sets. Head coach Zoran Tercic will look to activate her two ace spikers to confuse the Dutch defense. It’s a tall order containing Sloetjes but that would be the main key to victory for Serbia. As for the Netherlands, fortifying their floor defense will help neutralize the Serbian onslaught.
The Netherlands defeated Serbia in straight sets during their second round match-up. However, that was a game that Boskovic did not play in. due to an abdominal injury. With a full roster in place for Serbia, expect a dog fight between these two European squads.
Italy versus China
Egonu and Sylla. Two names that will haunt the Chinese in this match-up. Egonu has been consistent throughout the tournament regardless of opposition while Sylla can bring the damage when left unmarked. What’s scary about Italy is that their best spikers are skilled blockers too. Egonu has 23 blocks while Sylla has stopped 16 shots in the net. They are not even the best in that category for Coach Davide Mazzanti for Anna Danesi has 36 while Cristina Chirichella tallied 29.
But if there’s one team that can match the Italians in blocking, it’s China. Ni Yan leads the team with 32 while Xinyue Yuan follows her with 28. Xiangyu Gong, Changning Zhang, and Zhu Ting have 20, 15, and 14, respectively. Yet in their Pool B encounter, Italy outclassed China in blocks, 19-9, en route to a victory. The result would have gone China’s way if only they capitalized on the 22 errors that the Italians committed.
With the stakes getting higher, this will turn into a defensive match-up. The team who can dominate in blocks will win this game. Likewise, China must impose an offensive game that is not just about Zhu Ting. Even Ting must activate her down the line spikes because the Italians will be watching out for her cross-court attacks.