Lots of American sports websites produce what they call ‘Power Rankings’ for the major sports on a periodic basis. While I don’t know for sure, I suspect the reason for this is twofold. Firstly, because the leagues are large and teams and split into conferences and divisions and which play each other different numbers of times, there is no single table that fans can look at and say this or that team is the favourite or the best. Secondly, sports websites need lots and lots of content and ‘Power Rankings’ are as good as anything else. For the hell of it, I thought it might be fun to do for the Olympics. I have no idea what it will look like as it goes, but maybe that actually makes it more fun.
Olympic Power Rankings – Day 1
1 (last position – 1) – Russia. They did what they had to do, impressively, winning comfortably against a top ten team that was coming into the Olympics in good form. 11 team blocks, 65% in attack for Mikhaylov and the last two sets to 18 and 17. I only saw bits of the match, but they looked very, very solid. It was interesting to see Butko has supplanted Grankin as the starting setter.
2 (2) – Poland. Poland clearly had the performance of the day picking up exactly where they left off at World League. Winiarski and Nowakowski both played great, but they had a lot of friends including Zygadlo who set a very nice game. Anastasi has them playing with a pretty good balance of patience and risk. They stay second for today, but…
3 (3) – Brazil. Beat Tunisia. I didn’t see it. I can’t make any judgement about it.
4 (4) – Italy. For about two and half set, Italy looked like they were ready to make a statement. But as so often happens when a team is playing at their limit, there is a moment when the dam breaks and the match is over. That happened early in the fourth against Poland. They had been playing with a relatively high level of risk but at that moment it all crashed down with Savani in particular making a series of direct errors. Having missed a big chunk of World League they should improve over the tournament, but after today they are still fourth.
5 (5) – USA. USA played about as well as I’ve seen them for a few years. Anderson was great, the block was exceptional and they were organised and disciplined. On the flip side, despite being clearly better they were still prone to giving up runs of points and had their own troubles with the Serbian block. A good start, but not enough to climb the rankings, yet.
6 (6) – Serbia. Didn’t have much to be happy about after the first day. They were essentially chanceless against the USA although they did have some good periods in block and defence. They stay in 6th because the teams below them weren’t tested and because their block was excellent.
7 (7) – Argentina. They were never able to put Australia away, although they were never in any serious danger. They remain ahead of Bulgaria because they got a little better as the match went on and their middles (Sole and Crer) were excellent, hitting 17/20 between them.
8 (8) – Bulgaria. Bulgaria had to put up with some resistance from Great Britain in their first ever Olympic match. GB could easily have won the third set with a little more luck or experience. Bulgaria didn’t do anything to suggest they will be better than the teams above them, although Nikolov remains an excellent player.
9 (9) – Germany. I could just as easily switched them with Serbia in 6th place, but as only one of them can make the quarter finals it seems silly to have them both in the top eight. I’ll leave them here for now. Their match against Serbia should be a pretty close one to decide the fourth quarter final spot in that group.