2017 CEV European Women’s Championships Power Rankings

  0 Liam Smith | September 22nd, 2017 | European volleyball, International Volleyball, News

2017 CEV European Women’s Championships

With another major international tournament coming around, we aware our readers on which teams are hot for medals in this year’s EuroVolley.

Role Players Tier

16 – Georgia

Georgia is making history in 2017 as it will compete at the EuroVolley finals for the first time in its short history as an independent nation. As co-hosts of the competition, its spot was guaranteed automatically. It had never qualified for a major international competition before, having been part of Soviet Union until 1991.

Needless to say, being ranked 115th in the FIVB rankings, and lacking international level players with star power and elite domestic league experience, Georgia really has no feasible ambitions in the tournament besides putting on a good show for their home crowd fans

Team Captain Tinatin Tchautchidze did what was expected of her, though, hyping up their chances:

“We have been working hard for years as well as this summer to ensure we can do our best on court. We understand who we have to play against, but we will do our best to get something for our team and all fans that will join us in Tbilisi.”

15 – Ukraine

Ukraine’s best result in the competition was in 1993, following its dissolution from the Soviet Union, when it got a bronze medal. Its most recent appearance came at the 2011, when they finished in 15th place, and in 2003, when they finished in 9th place. Like Georgia, the Ukrainian squad likes star-power and experience to go far in the competition.

14 – Belarus

Belarus is a nice, intriguing team with a lot of future. Let’s not forget its FIVB U18 World Championships Cinderella run this year, in which its squad amounted victories over Brazil and the USA. However, its adult squad still has some distance to go to become relevant in the senior stage.

They did overachieve in 2015’s EuroVolley, they did have wins over Croatia and Bulgaria on pool play, but ultimately fell to Poland in the playoffs stage and ended in 9th place, ahead of much stronger and better ranked FIVB teams. Can the do it again this year? Their best chance at a win will be against Georgia.

13 – Hungary

Hungary is on the rise. This is its second straight EuroVolley, after failing to qualify for 28 years. In the last tournament, they managed a win, finishing ahead of Azerbaijan in group play. They are more ambitious this time around, mostly due to the fact that they will be hosting the 2019’s EuroVolley, and will be mostly using this one as practice for the real showdown in their home soil.

Its Italian coach Alberto Salamoni is very honest about their mostly underdog possibilities within the tournament. Indeed, if everything goes right for them, we may very well see a Hungarian win this year. Its biggest chance will be against Azerbaijan.

“We are the underdogs, and also the team with the less impressive physical skills. However, if any of the other teams competing in this pool performs below their standards, we are fully ready to grasp the opportunity to cause a surprise.”

This is what team captain Rita Liliom had to say:

“Two years ago we made it to the Playoffs and obviously we would love to achieve the same feat again. Hungary will be one of the hosts of the 2019 EuroVolley Finals and there is a lot of excitement already in our group because of this truly unique opportunity. After some difficult years, Volleyball is becoming increasingly popular in Hungary – and from this tournament we would like to take one extra boost of energy for the next two years leading up to the 2019 Finals on home soil.”

12 – Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is also rising in the female volleyball world, slowly building itself up to its successful Czechoslovakia days. This is their sixth successive appearance at the competition. Two years ago they finished 11th after having ranked 10th, 8th, 10th and 9th at their four previous finals. At the World Grand Prix earlier this year they came fourth in Group 2, giving them an overall rank of 16th. It is, however, in a tough pool this time around, and will have a lot of difficulty if it plans to steal a game from either Serbia or the Netherlands. Their biggest chance will come against Belgium.

Real Longshots Tier

11- Azerbaijan

As co-hosts, Azerbaijan will have the home crowd to cheer them on. 2015’s last place in pool play has left a bitter taste  for most of the returning Azeri players, which will also serve as motivational fuel.

The Azeri players will have their best chance at a win in the tournament against the Hungarian squad. They will be led by two stars who are household names in two of Europe’s premier teams, Volero Zurich’s Natalya Mammadova and Fenerbahçe’s Polina Rahimova.

“The expectations are high and we do not want to disappoint our fans and the entire nation. We definitely do not want to relive what happened to us two years ago at the European Games where we finished the tournament in fourth place, since this is the worst thing that could happen to us. I experienced that disappointment once and do not want to feel the same way again.” Odina Bayramova, team captain

10 – Poland

Poland’s squad for the tournament is intriguing. Due to its roster renewing proposals, coach Jacek Nawrocki will only be able to count on one major player from 2015′ European Championships, all the rest will be basically be  inexperienced newcomers. Still, after being training together for five months, it should be enough to net his team wins against Azerbaijan and Hungary, which would be good enough to qualify themselves in pool play.

“For at least 50 percent of the girls on this team this is going to be the first such big tournament. We have been gaining more and more experience over this season and this competition is also going to be another important experience. We want to present our best side here and show what we have learnt during these nearly five months together. We want to focus on our own game and if all the bits on this machine work correctly, this can be some very good Volleyball.” Joanna Wolosz, team captain.

9 – Croatia

Croatia is the owner of three consecutive European Championship’s silver medals from the late 90’s. Since then, they haven’t had much success. Their best recent run came in 2013, as they dropped in the quarterfinals. In this year’s Grandprix, they came 11th Group 2. They lucked out in the pool draws, though, and should be able to capture Pool B’s second spot ahead of weaker squads Georgia and Belarus, the only reason it stands ahead of Poland in this power rankings.

Croatia will be debuting coach Igor Lovrinov in the big stage. Chemistry should not be a problem, however, as he has enjoyed a lot of success coaching clubs in Croatia’s domestic league, even enjoying a four year working partnership with team captain Samanta Fabris.

“We just want to go day by day and match by match, Every coach has his way of working, but Lovrinov knows us very well from his club career in Croatia, so it is not a completely new thing,”

Real Bad Luck on Pool Drawings Tier

8 – Belgium

After being absent from the European Champioships from 1989 to 2005, the Belgium squad has been present in four of the last five continental tournaments. They have one medal to their name when they secured bronze in 2013 after beating Serbia in five sets. Two years ago they reached the quarter-finals and finished sixth overall with Serbia gaining revenge to halt their progress. Belgium finished bottom of World Grand Prix Group 1 and were ranked 12th overall, being relegated to Group 2.

Unlike Croatia, Belgium really had no luck on pool draw, as they will have to beat Serbia and The Netherlands for a chance at the quarterfinals, which is unlikely to happen. Even though the team recently faced some disappointment in not qualifying for the World Championships, Belgium coach Gert van de Broek has said that the team’a level of intensity has been high when preparing for the European Championships. He is positive that his team is stronger and more prepared for this competition than they were three weeks ago at the World Championship qualification matches. Let’s wait and see.

7 – Bulgaria

Just like Belgium, Bulgaria got the short end of the stick as it landed in Pool C alongside Russia and Turkey. They will have no problem beating Ukraine, but will need nothing short of a miracle to beat either Turkey or Russia and grab a quarterfinals spot. This is a pity, as Bulgaria was really recovering from a recent slump, having put together a competitive roster for this year’s EuroVolley. They even landed a bronze medal in FIVB’s Women’s U23 World Championships behind the superb play of Gergana Dimitrova, who will also be in uniform for them in this competiton.

Bulgaria’s roster will be spearheaded by Dinamo Kazan’s Elitsa Vasileva, the team’s superstar. Volero Zurich‘s Dobriana Rabadzhieva and Galatasaray‘s Hristina Ruseva will be joining her as the team’s veteran leaders. In addition, experienced players such as Eva Yaneva, who has played for European powerhouses such as Dynamo Kazan and Dynamo Moscow in the past, and Emiliya Dmitrova, who had a very nice stint with Imoco Conegliano’s superteam in the Italian League, will also fill important roles within the tea.

Very Possible Surprises Tier

6 – Turkey

Turkey will be a volleyball powerhouse of the future. This much is already known, specially after its beautiful gold medal run in FIVB’s just ended Women’s U23 World Championships. But for now, bigger glories will have to wait. They should get an easy route to the quarterfinals in Pool C, with sure wins against Bulgaria and Ukraine, but will have difficulty claiming the pool’s top place against Russia.

Most recently, they came 4th in 2015’s EuroVolley after losing to Serbia in the bronze medal match, but really underachieved with an a lowly 11th place at the 2017 World Grand Prix after competing in Group 1.

5 – Germany

Germany is coming off a third place finish at the FIVB World Grand Prix this summer, where the squad had some strong players leading the team. The squad is anxious to try to replicate its men’s counterpart surprising finals run in this year’s European Championship for men.  It also landed in an easy group, alongside Azerbaijan, Poland, and Hungary, a good reason for it to be ahead of Turkey in this power rankings.

We would like to follow the example set by our men’s national team – they had a fairly low-profile summer before they caused that sensation at the European Championship. I wish we could be able to come closer to doing just the same.” Maren Fromm, German player

Favorites Tier

4 – Russia

With 19 gold medals from 29 editions of the women’s European Championship, Russia is comfortably the most successful team in the history of the competition and has won the last two tournaments.  Russia has been so successful that it has only failed to make the podium three times in the competition’s history, whether competing as Russia or Soviet Union. Tatiana Kosheleva, 2015’s EuroVolley’s MVP, will also be leading the way for the Russians this year.

However, Russia has recently greatly underachieved in its international competitions this year, finishing this year’s Grand Prix on in 9th place and the Grand Champions cup in fourth place out of six teams. In addition, some news sources say that coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin has been fired from the squad only hours before the competition, in favor of Konstantin Ushakov, Dynamo Krasnodar’s head coach. This will most surely alter the team’s chemistry, even though we cannot ever count Russia out.

3 – Serbia

Serbia won bronze medal at the World Grand Prix earlier this year by winning 3-1 against China in Nanjing, the same team that denied them gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as they took silver. Thus, it would only be logical for Serbia to be EuroVolley’s favorites to win the gold medal.

However, the Serbian squad has been greatly diminshed due to injury, and will be without seven important players such as its star setter Eczacibasi’s Maja Ognjenović. The first setter of the bench, Ana Antonijevic, is also out, being caught in a recent doping test. Even the third setter, Bojana Živković, sprained her ankle recently, but will fight through injury to play.

Knowing that Serbia has a history of bad reception, relying instead on its hard hitting attackers to hit off the net balls, we wonder what will be the extent of the damage of not having neither Ognjenovic and Antonijevic at the offense’s helm. We can’t however, count them out due to injury, as they won an Olympic silver medal with an also depleted squad:

The situation is really bad, I have many problems. Unfortunately, everything reminds me of London (seven players missed the 2012 London Olympics due to injuries. Even the rest of the girls here have issues with their health. I cannot say we are 100% ready if you compare with our last major competition, nevertheless Serbia is one of the best teams in Europe and our ambitions are very high and I really hope we will start from the first game to show that we are one of the favorites and win game by game.” Zoran Terzić, Serbian Coach

2 – The Netherlands

The Netherlands is set and ready to deliver big in 2017’s EuroVolley. They are the current silver medalists, having come up short against Russia in the last edition, a result they also experienced in 2009. Most recently, they finished joint-fifth at the World Grand Prix in July and came fourth at the Olympic Games a year ago in Rio de Janeiro.

They rank so high in our rankings because unlike most teams, their roster is not injury ridden. They are returning most of the strong lineup that led them to the Final Six of the 2017 World Grand Prix this summer. Celeste Plak will lead this front, as she was the top-scorer for the Dutch squad at the Grand Prix, and Vakifbank’s superstar Lonneke SloetjesNothing short of a medal will be enough for them this year.

1 – Italy

Italy really lucked out in the pool drawing and will have no trouble at all grabbing its top spot against Belarus, Croatia, and Georgia. It has the easiest route to the semifinals of any major team in the tournament. Recently, it narrowly missed out on gold at the 2017 World Grand Prix after losing to Brazil in the finals.

The absences of Miriam Sylla, who was recently tagged in a doping accusation, and starter setter Ofelia Malinov, who fractured her right ankle, will be felt, of course, just as will coach’s Davide Mazzanti inexperience in the international stage, having spent most of his career in Italy’s domestic league. However, other than Malinov and Sylla being dropped, the Italian side will remain intact from the Grand Prix, which should be enough for success in this year’s thin EuroVolley field.



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