Another exciting day of Olympic competition, another wildly fluctuating day of Power Rankings. Just when you think the teams have settled into some kind of form, they go and do that!! The current rankings take into account quarter final matchups. Luckily I’m not a professional tipster.
1 (1) – USA. They played their subs and won easily against Tunisia to finish top of their group. And yet they still lost? On paper, Italy is a tougher quarter final opponent than Argentina would have been. But they will still be very confident.
2 (3) – Brazil. Untested against Germany. Some players got to rest, some got to play. They are the most experienced group and it is coming up to money time. Argentina is historically a tough opponent but I still foresee a semi final spot in their future.
3 (4) – Russia. Took care of business against Serbia. Now they have to do it again against Poland. They have made the semi finals at least in the last four Olympics. They should do it again.
4 (=5) – Bulgaria. After Poland’s game, Bulgaria and Italy were playing for top spot in the group. Bulgaria embraced the chance. Sokolov was great again. To think he has been the second opposite at Trento for the last two seasons. They must have had competitive practices! They have already exceeded expectations but are on track for their first semi final berth since 1980.
5 (2) – Poland. I have to admit I was massively wrong about Poland. With everything on the line, they turned in their worst performance of the last few years. Without having seen the game, only the stats, my feeling is their lack of a true opposite to lead them might have been telling. They now have to play Russia in a quarter final. That will be very, very tough, especially as it involves bouncing back from that last match, both the performance and the criticism that would have followed.
6 (=5) – Italy. Italy were truly diabolical against Bulgaria. Incredibly, they seemed to give up without much of a fight. They have lacked cohesion for the whole tournament and really paid for it yesterday. Really only Zaytsev and Fei seem to have been consistent performers. They will have a hard time against a confident and motivated USA.
7 (7) – Germany. They were already assured of fourth place before yesterday’s match, so they could make some changes freely. They have exceeded their own expectations (or at least those of the German volleyball public) by reaching the quarter finals for the first time since DDR (East Germany) won a silver medal in 1972. Their opposite Gyorgy Grozer has been quoted multiple times as saying that he won’t be satisfied until they are in the final. In this tournament, even more than normal, a firing opposite can have a decisive impact, plus they have already played Bulgaria six times this season and know them very well. Everything is in play.
8 (8) – Argentina. Italy’s last performances aside, I think Argentina is the weakest of the final eight. While they have a proud record against Brazil in the Olympics (see 1988 – Bronze Medal Match, 2000 – Quarter Finals), I can’t see them winning this quarter final.
9 (10) – Australia. I wish I’d seen those last two games live. The object in tournaments is to get better with each match and Australia has done that exceptionally well. If there were a playoff for ninth…
10 (9) – Serbia. They would have hoped for a better performance against Russia, but can’t be too upset with the result of either that match or overall. They had the tougher group and a young, talented and interesting team. You can put them down as medal chances in 2016.
So to my tips… Many years ago I developed a theory that predicting a tournament was simply a matter of deciding who had the best opposite. It wasn’t a very good theory, not least because it doesn’t explain how Brazil have won everything for the last 10 years, but this tournament has made me revisit it. The best four opposites in this tournament are Stanley, Mikhaylov, Sokolov and Grozer. Sokolov and Grozer play against each other in the quarters, so only one can go further. That leaves us conveniently with three medallists? To the match ups.
QF1 – Sokolov (+Nikolov) beats Grozer. But between them they serve 17 aces.
QF2 -Mikhaylov beats Bartmann. Mikhaylov scores 24 points at 56% and you don’t remember a single one of them.
QF3 – Vissotto beats Pereyra. And the coaches get into a sledging match on the sidelines.
QF4 – Stanley beats Lasko. And Anderson crushes everyone else.
SF1 – Mikhaylov beats Sokolov. In a tough match with Nikolov playing quite a bit.
SF2 – Stanley beats Vissotto. In an ugly, tense but very hard fought game.
Bronze – Sokolov beats Vissotto. As the curtain goes down on the Brazilian dynasty.
Gold – Mikhaylov beats Stanley. Maybe.
Alternatively it could be completely different.