During the London Olympics, I did a daily ‘Power Rankings’ after each round of matches. In the absence of any better ideas, I thought I would do the same again.
While my tips have been disastrous for the last couple of days of competition, I made one prediction that was spot on: That we would have a lot to talk about today. So let’s.
MEN’S OLYMPIC VOLLEYBALL POWER RANKINGS DAY 5
1 (1) ITALY – Having won every match until the last day and securing the top spot in the group, Italy had every right to approach the last match in the way that best served their own goals.
2 (6) BRAZIL – I have unilaterally decided that the Power Rankings should reflect the draw for the remainder of the tournament. As I have also unilaterally decided that Brazil is most likely to make the final from the bottom half of the draw they rise four places. When their backs were really against the wall they played their best match of the tournament, with Wallace being particularly outstanding. Brazil have made the final in the last 7!! major tournaments*. I think they will keep their streak alive.
3 (2) USA – I am not confident that the USA will beat Poland in the quarter final, but they are playing ever so slightly better at this point. I don’t think they will be able to physically dominate Poland with the serve and block in the way there were able to dominate France and Brazil.
4 (5) RUSSIA – Iran were not at their best yesterday, but Russia played the best match I have seen from them for some time. Mikhaylov and Grankin in particular seem to have found the rhythm that made Mikhaylov the best scorer and spiker for most international tournaments between about 2009 and 2012. In that form, they have a great chance to get a rematch of the last Olympic final. Which is what most people want to see.
5 (3) POLAND – I suspect that USA’s victories have been over better teams and Poland’s and for that reason alone I am leaving them in fifth spot. I think they are probably the third best performed team over the last week or so but they will have to beat the second best team in the quarters. Even then I think the game is almost exactly 50-50.
6 (4) ARGENTINA – They have had a great pool phase, although I think the loss to Poland is the most indicative of their ‘real’ place. The quarter final against Brazil will be a classic match up of traditional rivals. In volleyball history, all of Argentina’s significant victories over Brazil have come at the Olympics. They will believe they can repeat them but their style of play is too similar to Brazil’s, and Brazil is better at it. The coaching match up between Bernardinho and Velasco might be almost as much fun as the match.
7 (9) CANADA – A win against Italy put them in the quarter finals. They (or at least, I) say everything in life is timing. It matters when you play certain teams as much as it matters how or who you play. Canada created a chance by beating USA in the first match, and took it against Italy. Chapeau. They will have nothing to lose against Russia, and when they play with freedom they can be a match for anyone.
8 (8) IRAN – It seemed something was up with Marouf in the match against Russia. Perhaps he was sick. Perhaps there was some other reason. Without Marouf, they don’t have a chance to go further, but making the quarter finals is a respectable result.
9 (7) FRANCE – They call it the Group of Death for a reason. Someone has to die. Yesterday it was France. They paid the price for starting slowly against Italy and for never really finding their best form. Especially yesterday, I often had the feeling that they were not playing to their strengths or with the joie de vivre that produces their most stunning and effective volleyball. Perhaps the loss in the first match stole that joy and without it, they fall back to the pack a little bit. Enough to be going home earlier than many (or at least, I) expected.
10-12 (10-12) – Egypt (10/10) Mexico (11/11) Cuba (12/12) Nothing more to say. I have to be honest here and say that I would have been happier if there had been at least one more of the top teams in the world taking one of these places. We would have had more entertaining matches, particularly in Pool B. But that is life.
Italy, USA, Russia, Brazil. But I would not be shocked to see Poland and/or Argentina playing a semi final. Hopefully that is enough caveats. My tipping confidence has been rocked the last couple of days.
*I am referring here to World Championships and Olympics. For comparison, from 1974 to 1982 USSR played five finals in a row. The USA played three in a row in the 1980’s. And as dominant as we remember Italy in the 1990’s they also only managed three. Brazil have won four of those seven finals, but lost the last two. I have heard some criticism that they always lose finals. For comparison, the opponents in those seven finals were Russia, Italy, Poland, USA, Cuba, Russia, Poland. That is, no other country has managed more than one final in a row. I find that criticism to be dumb.
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