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.
Sometimes quarter final day is gripping because the cost of losing is so high. If you lose a semi final you still have a shot at everything. Yesterday was not one of those times. All the matches were clear, with the favourites winning. Still, it should lead to some compelling semi final matches. But before we think about those, we are legally required to reveal our Power Rankings. There they are…
MEN’S OLYMPIC VOLLEYBALL POWER RANKINGS DAY 6
1 (1) ITALY – Watching Osmany Juantorena being the most important player on the court in an Olympic quarter final for the team that is (mabye, probably slight) favourites for the gold medal does leave one wondering how a team in which he was the veteran, bench leader might have gone in this tournament. But that is a story for another day. Challenged in the first set, they were slightly tougher at the end and got even better as the match went on. I can’t wait for their semi final.
2 (2) BRAZIL – After everything that happened in pool play, things have dropped out pretty well for Brazil. Argentina was for stylistic, historic and geographic reasons the perfect opponent. I didn’t catch the match. Wallace is in great form and they have the crowd. Bernardinho qualified for his sixth consecutive Olympic semi final as a coach. He will know what to do to win his seventh Olympic medal.
3 (3) USA – If USA end up winning the gold medal, the tournament will be able to be encapsulated by a timeout taken by John Speraw in the second set of their quarter final match against Poland. Trailing at the time, he exhorted / implored / encouraged his team to continue to serve with the same intent regardless of the situation. His team responded and turned a 13-18 deficit into a comfortable win. Beating the USA requires negating the serve advantage they have through solid reception and great high ball management. Two of Italy’s strengths.
4 (4) RUSSIA – Like the USA, Russia are getting better as the tournament goes on. Against Canada their attacking was especially good, over 60% overall, with the middles a combined 11/13. If they continue in that vein they could well beat Brazil in Tetyukhin’s sixth consecutive Olympic semi final. Just let that sustained excellence sink in for moment.
5 (5) POLAND – The post match analysis in Poland was the Polish serving was weaker than the Americans. My sense is that they are mostly referring to their jump serving. But if the USA have one area that causes them problems it is in float serve reception, and the Polish could not even keep their float serves in play. In the past this has been a strength for Poland and maybe even won them a World Championships. With no serve pressure and no support for Kurek on the outsides, they were no match in this quarter final. On the balance of performances, if not final placing, they should be reasonably satisfied.
6 (6) ARGENTINA – Argentina’s greatest victories have all been against Brazil at the Olympics. For this reason alone they would have been confident they could win their quarter final matchup. It turned out maybe they could have. They were certainly close to a fifth set at least. And without the injury to Conte, which restricted him to just 17 attacks, maybe they would have*. Like Poland, I think they will be reasonably satisfied with a quarter final spot and a win over Russia. De Cecco certainly intimated as much in his post match interview.
7 (7) CANADA – They will go home knowing that they beat at least one of the eventual medallists, but they will still be going home. Despite all their spirit and fighting quality they were never going to be a real chance against Russia unless Schmitt had a huge match. He didn’t. I still think they will be happy their efforts though.
8 (8) IRAN – Over the last three years or so, Iran have had some excellent results not least this week by making the quarter finals of the Olympics. They receive well and have in Marouf and Mousavi two world class performers. However, in big events they have always fallen short. They fought hard against Italy especially in the first set but they lack the fire power to really make the next step. If Marouf, as reported, retires from the National Team it will be interesting to see what happens with this team.
9 (9) FRANCE
10 (10) EGYPT
11 (11) MEXICO
12 (12) CUBA
Italy over USA, Brazil over Russia. But don’t quote me.
*A previous version of this post was written without the knowledge that Conte was injured during the match. My apologies.
Olympic great Vyacheslav Platonov reveals his coaching secrets here.