The most important (and richest) friendly tournament began it’s final round today in Argentina, with matches between Italy-Russia and Brazil-Argentina. Volleyball fans in the stadium, on the worldwide TV partners and laola.tv, were treated to high standard two five matches. Well, I assume they were because I only actually watched the Italy-Russia match. They were definitely both five setters though. The Italy-Russia match was a really good one. For some people (mostly those with no knowledge of volleyball history), Russia are favourites to win the event and Italy, after a slow start, are playing at their highest level since at least the 2008 Olympics and possibly longer. Aside from blowouts in the first and fifth sets, the level was really high. The teams were led by their respective setter/captains. Grankin showed his continuingly improving maturity and a great feel for his middle blockers. On the other side of the net Vermiglio was at his best; constantly cajoling, imploring, sledging, arguing and getting the best out of his team. The most impressive player for the Russians was young, 2.15m middle blocker Musersky, who happens to have the best armswing and one of the best serves on the team. Once his blocking improves, he could become one of the dominant players in the world. For the Italians, old stager Fei top scored with 20 points, while Savani hit some great pipes (although did get blocked by Musersky standing on the ground).
The Brazil-Argentina match was also close but Brazil got over the top in the end. I don’t think I would read too much into this result for two reasons. Brazil often play their worst game of the tournament in the first match, while Argentina are playing a) at home, and b) against Brazil. As for the tournament, I imagine Brazil and Serbia being 1st and 2nd in Pool E, with Russia and Italy 1st and 2nd in the other Pool, with a Brazil-Russia final, that really only has one possible outcome: a ninth World League title for Brazil.
In an unrelated note, the quality of the TV broadcast shown on laola is high, with some great closeups and slow motion sequences. In light of the presentations I’ve made in the last couple of weeks on service reception, I found it particularly interesting to see some of the individual closeups of players receiving. In real time it often seems like the platfrom breaks almost simultaneously on contact but the slow motion really shows how long the players hold their platform firm and strong. Interesting indeed.