The Individuals – The thing that I will most remember about this World Championships is the individual performances. I don’t recall any previous tournament (which is not the same as it never happened before) in which individual players so completed dominated individual games. Four performances stick in my mind (from the games I saw).
Dimitri Muserskiy: Russia v Bulgaria, Round 1 – I turned on this match when Bulgaria was leading 2-0, so his first two sets might have been ordinary. But this is probably the only match where he really showed why he is (normally) the best player in the world. Russia fought back to win a pivotal match which essentially guaranteed a place in the top six. Muserskiy’s stat line? A quiet 23 points; 11/13 in attack, 6 blocks, 6 aces.
Earvin N’Gapeth: France v Germany, Round 3 – The French coach told me that his team played a perfect match against Germany to more or less book their semifinal berth. Of course, that was hardly a shared confidence, he said exactly that in the press conference. He also said in the press conference that N’Gapeth was MVP of the match. An outrageously talented player, playing to the maximum of his ability in the most important moment. If France had won the semifinal I would have chosen that match. Needless to say he had a good tournament overall.
Georg Grozer: Germany v Iran, Round 3 – At the end of the match I tweeted “That might be the best a human being ever played three sets of volleyball.” Nothing has happened in the meantime to make change my mind.
Mateusz Mika: Poland v Brazil, Final – This was probably the most improbable of the great performances, but ultimately the most important. The other players mentioned could have been predicted to have great performances. Mika had never played National Team before this season and in some circles might even have been considered a surprise selection for the tournament. But he grew is stature over the course of the tournament and in the final had a match for the ages. At times it seemed that all he had to do was to touch the ball and it would be a point. I am sure at times I read a slightly bemused look on his face. Maybe it was just the beard.
Honourable Mentions: Antonin Rouzier: France v USA, Round 1. At one point he was on such a roll his teammates were just laughing. Denys Kaliberda, Germany v Bulgaria, Round 2. 15/16 in attack. Enough said. Mariusz Wlazly, Poland v France, Semi Final. 31 points, every problem solved.
The Best Player Awards – In the 1977 World Cup in one of the biggest travesties in sporting history, the tournament jury recognised Soviet setter Vyacheslav Zaitsev as the Best Receiver. At around this moment, perhaps independently, perhaps not, some people at FIVB realised that they needed a slightly more objective method of choosing the best player awards. Fast forward to 2014, after much tinkering, we have a system based around statistics that chooses not the best players, but a best team. The selected team of Kampa / Wlazly : Luccarelli / Murilo : Böhme / Klos : Grebinnikov is by any (every?) measure a very, very good team. But how about my completely subjective team of Toniutti / Grozer : N’Gapeth / Kaliberda : Saatkamp / Muserskiy : Grebinnikov. Mmm… only one player from the top two teams…
More to follow…
Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.