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.
For the last rankings I will count down from bottom to top, and in two parts. If you make it to the end, you will see why.
MEN’S OLYMPIC VOLLEYBALL POWER RANKINGS DAY 6
12 MEXICO – If you believe the Olympics should be a showcase for the best of the best, the volleyball world should be a little embarrassed about the presence of Mexico. If you believe the Olympics should be governed by a philosophical idea that values participation equal to competition, then you should celebrate Mexico’s presence. Neither of those positions should impact how you feel about the team itself who were presented with a task and with their full attention and passion took the chance to fulfill their life’s sporting goals. Their Olympic final was on the first day when they took on Brazil and won the first set. In this context they leave Rio as winners.
11 EGYPT – Africa is rightly guaranteed a position in the Olympics. Egypt confirmed themselves as Africa’s best men’s volleyball nation and deservedly won their first match in Olympic competition. Having competed against them in Sydney in 2000, I can see clearly how they have improved their level of play (and their level of fitness). They also leave Rio as winners.
10 FRANCE – A reader posed me the question yesterday if my Power Rankings (TM pending) would strictly follow the final rankings. I replied that for the most part there isn’t really any compelling reason to use a different ranking. France might argue that they should be one or two places higher, but it wouldn’t be a strong argument and they couldn’t back it up well. Not making the quarter finals was a big loss for volleyball fans, but they rarely showed their best form for extended periods of time. I had the feeling that the very late qualification hurt them as they were not able to rest their players for an extended period of time in the lead up to the games. As they rely so heavily on their starters, this left them struggling physically and emotionally. At least it seemed that way to me. Or maybe it was the pressure of the big(gest) stage. Either way, they didn’t reach their expectations but will surely bounce back stronger.
9 IRAN – Iran took advantage of the weaker pool to qualify for the quarter finals in their first attempt. They played their best against Poland for reasons that might have been more to do with personalities than anything else. They played their worst against Russia in the last pool match in which Marouf seemed less than fully engaged. They didn’t really have a chance against Italy in the quarter final. Of course, everything could have been different if they had won the first set, but ultimately they didn’t and this result seems to be pretty close to their ‘real’ level. Still they leave Rio as winners. It will be interesting what happens with them from here. Will Marouf really retire? Will Lozano stay? Would anyone else coach them?
8 CANADA – Given that they won against two medallists it could be argued that Canada should be at least one place higher on our final Power Rankings. But given that they won against two medallists I don’t think they really care a lot about anything that I might write in this imaginary list. The match against USA must have been the highlight of the tournament, especially as it came against such a strong regional rival against whom they had had so much heartache in the past. In the quarter final, when everything was on the line, they were not able to match that performance. A fully fit Gavin Schmitt might have made a difference but all those rods and screws in his legs obviously affected his ability to back up. Still they majority of their team will be around in four years time so they will consider this result a first step, even if Glenn Hoag steps down from his post.
=6 ARGENTINA – I will take the easy way out here. Argentina as top of their group deserve at least 6th in our Power Rankings. But seeing as they lost so convincingly to Poland, I can’t really put them above Poland. Hence equal sixth rankings. They might have been the revelation of the tournament, behind Italy, finally reaching some of the potential they showed back in 2011. That it took Velasco to become the coach and several ‘stars’ to be jettisoned before we could reach that point. They still rely very heavily on Conte and even a small injury to him in the quarter final was able to derail their chances. But Argentina is not the only team for whom this is an issue. With Velasco staying in the position and the basis of the team still young, the future looks bright. Now if only they can develop a top level opposite.
=6 POLAND – Poland’s best was very good. They dismantled Argentina and beat a very tough Iran in the tournament’s biggest grudge match. But they struggled mightily against Russia and in the quarter final. As with France, I wonder how much the effort of having to qualify in May cost them in August. Mika was certainly never the player he was in 2014, due to the wear and tear of so much competition and Kubiak was not able to sustain his best form for the whole tournament. I thought Kurek was probably the best player in the pool phase but noone ever won a medal in the pool phase. In Poland there will be a lot of post mortems, but in all honesty this seems like a fair result and a fair position in our rankings.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2. With a twist ending 😉
Olympic great Vyacheslav Platonov reveals his coaching secrets here.