Quarter final day at the Olympics is often the most entertaining day of volleyball at the Olympics. Teams are mostly at their best and the pressure is at its highest. If you lose today, you are done. But if you lose a semi final you can still win a medal. Of course, in this most contrarian of tournaments, yesterday was the least entertaining day of the tournament on the court, while continuing to be post surprising and unexpected results and performances. To make matters worse, my ‘Best Opposite Wins’ Theory, took a hit. Although in my defence I did say it wasn’t a very good theory. Anyway, onto the Rankings…
Olympic Power Rankings – Day 6
1 (3) – Russia. When Russians play like this, they have no weaknesses and are next to impossible to beat. Grankin set a great match, although their middles were so dominant in attack and their reception was so good that it was an easy game for the setter. If they can play two more matches like this one, they will win the gold medal.
2 (2) – Brazil. Unfortunately I didn’t see the match although it seems like they weren’t really tested. The loss of Vissotto to injury might not be such a bad thing for them. Wallace has been the best performed Brazilian opposite of the last two seasons in club competition and is an excellent player. They have an excellent record against Italy (having lost only once in the last seven or eight years) and a Russia-Brazil final will be fascinating in every conceivable way.
3 (6) – Italy. As coach Berrutto said ‘I found my team’, and in doing so blew my Opposite Theory out of the water. Lasko was completely outplayed by Stanley in the quarter final and his own setter treated him as an afterthought throughout the match. Savani and Zaytsev on the other hand played perfectly. Savani came out of his tournament long funk with a vengeance leading all scorers and serving bullets. They will have to serve at least as well to beat Brazil. It will be tough.
4 (4) – Bulgaria. To say they have exceeded expectations would be to understate the case by a factor of a lot. They have been riding the hot form of Sokolov as far as it takes them and so far it has taken them to the semi finals. Against Germany he was ridiculously unstoppable. Interestingly in the tournament statistics he is 2nd in points, 3rd in spiking and 2nd in serving; in each case one position behind Mikhaylov. That might be the decisive statistic right there. There will be no team in the semi finals playing with less pressure and more likely to embrace the moment.
5 (1) – USA. After four years of mediocre performances, it seemed they had found their form at exactly the right moment. But under the greatest pressure, those four years of uncertainty came rushing back culminating in the moment that Stanley and Suxho let a ball bounce that should have been an easy high ball set. But maybe that was the key – they had a lot of high ball setting opportunities as their passers never came close to controlling the Italian serve. Even before the Italians got on a roll, they missed some relatively easy chances in the first set, and after that roll started… Unfortunately Anderson who had been great all season, had his first below par performance since the qualification tournament. In that match Priddy and Stanley’s experience showed that way. Yesterday it was not enough. They finish ‘5th’ on the back of their great first round.
6 (5) – Poland. There will be no greater recriminations for losing that those in Poland. Against Russia they never had a chance. Their nominal weakness, the opposite position, was easily their best player and star Kurek and especially Winiarski never showed their best form. In fairness, of all the losing quarter finalists they put up the best performance, but not by much and completely in vain. The loss to Australia really, really hurt their chances. When it comes to volleyball, Poles are not famous for their patience and understanding (see Castellani, Daniel) so it will be interesting how the next weeks and months play out.
7 (7) – Germany. They seemed overawed by the occasion and potential match winner Grozer never got into a rhythm. In a sense they had already achieved their victory by reaching this stage which the German press repeatedly acknowledged all the while expressing their disappointment at how it ended. They have formed the nucleus of a team that should improve over the next couple of years if they can consolidate. In a month, when they look back they will be happy.
8 (8) – Argentina. I can’t speak about the match as I didn’t see it but I suspect there are a few Argentinians sitting around wondering what happened over the last twelve months. After a top four finish in 2011 World League people all over the world touted this team as a potential threat at the Olympics, with young stars like De Cecco and Conte. They are still very young, so this performance doesn’t need to be devastating but they have regressed both individually and as a team. If they had been in the other group they would never have got through, or maybe even if they had played Australia later in the tournament. The group still has potential, as yet unrealised.
9 (9) – Australia.
10 (10) – Serbia.