“The definition of insanity is watching the last day of the first round in a major and expecting to see good volleyball”
Even after having personally sat through a morning of pointless matches at World League finals and having seen many, many such games on TV from all the big tournaments, I still sat down to watch the Poland-Slovakia match on the last day of the first round with some excitement. Then I saw the Polish second six and heard the words ‘…don’t want to play Russia in a quarter final…’ and uttered a profanity. It doesn’t matter how they organise the draws at these tournaments*, it always seems to be in someone’s best interests either to lose or not to try to win. However, being insane that hasn’t dampened my enjoyment of the tournament as a whole. We are up to the semifinals stage now and I’ve seen a few things.
– Russia is the strongest team by far. Every other team in the semis and (obviously) below has big holes, as also noticed by others. Italy doesn’t have strong reception and lacks experience at all positions and perhaps a little toughness. Poland is playing virtually without an opposite or a really good setter. Serbia doesn’t have a top quality setter. Russia has a very strong team from 1 through to 12. But Russia had the strongest team two years ago and still lost the semifinal after leading 13-9 in the fifth. Who knows…
– None of the quarter finals were particularly compelling. Despite everything, the top four are a fair way ahead of the losing quarter finalists. It is quite striking the lack of depth in Europe at the moment. It’s hard to see anyone outside Russia challenging Brazil for next year’s Olympics.
– Ivan Miljkovic is the best volleyball player in the world. Period. Full stop. End of story.
– Germany went with great expectations, probably too great, and finished poorly. Poland, even without an opposite just crushed them and they never recovered. The German federation has already made a point of announcing that the coach’s job is safe. Nobody had questioned the coach’s job. Mmm…
– There seem to have been a lot of sets in the high 20’s and 30’s. Many more than I seem to remember from previous tournaments. That would suggest a lot of teams of a similar standard.
– Actually there hasn’t been too much else memorable, just some pretty good, close, but not fantastic, volleyball.
I do have great hopes for the semifinals and finals though. Italy and Poland will be a tight match between two teams well prepared by Italian coaches. I suspect Kurek, …er Poland, will win. Russa is better than Serbia, but Miljkovic will test their nerve. I’d quite like to see Russia win the whole thing, partly without the confidence they would get from winning this tournament, next year’s Olympics might be a bit of a procession for Brazil. We’ll find out soon enough.
* This time they tried a playoff round to get into the quarter finals. At the last Olympics they drew some pairings out of a hat. At the last World Championships they tried … to get Italy to the semifinals…