2018 FIVB MEN’S VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – WEEK 4/POOL 13
- June 15th-June 17th, 2018
- Seoul, Korea | Jangchung Arena (Capacity: 4,507)
- Time Zone: Korea Standard Time (UTC +9)
- World Rankings: #4 Italy, #16 Australia, #20 China, #21 South Korea
|Date||Time||Score||Set 1||Set 2||Set 3||Set 4||Set 5||Total||Report|
|15 Jun||19:00||South Korea||–||Australia||–||–||–||0–0|
|16 Jun||14:00||South Korea||–||Italy||–||–||–||0–0|
|17 Jun||14:00||South Korea||–||China||–||–||–||0–0|
Pool 13 is one of the lower-end pools we’ve seen so far in terms of where teams sit in the standings. That is because all of the bottom three teams are in the same pool. They are paired with an Italian team who is in the middle of the table and looking to make a move into the top six picture though.
For Italy, they currently sit just one win out of the fifth and sixth spots and actually have more points than the Serbian side ahead of them. If they can feast on the lower ranked competition this week, which they will be expected to do, there is a good chance they will wind up in the top five or six headed into the final week of pool play next week.
Rounding things out is Australia, China and South Korea, who are a combined 4-23. None of the teams have a realistic shot at making the Final Six, but pride, finishing strong and helping world ranking will all be part of what’s at stake when the teams pair up.
It’s difficult to see a way where Italy doesn’t post the best record in Pool 13 considering they have more wins than the rest of the pool combined. It might just be a question of whether that means a 3-0 week where they avoid tripping up or if they falter once to 2-1.
That will be extremely important for their overall standing, as this is their week to take advantage of the competition. A 2-1 mark might not separate them from the others enough to where a very difficult final pool schedule next week would keep them from the Final Six. It is of paramount importance for them to rack up three victories and a host of points, but they will be working in a new setter this week (more on that below). Last week when they had to do that, they lost both sets against Japan to blow a 2-1 set lead and lose the match. As important as the wins are, finding rhythm between hitters and setter will be just as key heading into next week.
It’s tough to peg who will be Italy’s most stern competition. China has a superstar in Jiang Chuan, but hasn’t found many other key contributors thus far. The Chinese side is also the second closest nation to home. Australia on the other hand has the same record as China with slightly more balance, but no one-man wrecking ball. And then there’s South Korea, who not only has a win, but hasn’t even won three sets in the entire nine previous matches. They’re playing at home though as they look for a boost.
Overall, it seems as if Italy should be able to find a 3-0 week, especially considering their desperation to do so. The rest of the pool should be very even and tight-leveled competition. What happens at the bottom will still be important, because if South Korea goes 0-3 – meaning China and Australia would each garner 1-2 wins – South Korea would be a foregone conclusion to finish in last place and have to fend off a challenger for a spot in the 2019 edition.
STORIES/PLAYERS TO WATCH:
- Australia – Zero Australian players rank in the top 24 of scoring, but Lincoln Alexander Williams (81 points) has done his best to give the team a top option. He leads the team in spikes (69) and is one of the top 10 servers in terms of aces thus far in the event. However, Australia just hasn’t found enough offensively and will need more this week as they’ve had to jumble up the lineup to this point.
- China – The Chinese side has the top scorer in the entire tournament thus far in Jiang Chuan (154 spikes, 174 points), who amazingly has over 30 points more than second place. Unfortunately for China, their next highest scorer has 62 points (112 less!), as the lack of balance has hurt their efficiency and led to just a 2-7 record despite the star play.
- Italy – Ranking eighth in the entire event in points, Ivan Zaytsev (101 spikes, 121 points) has been masterful for Italy thus far. They haven’t pushed out a ton of other high-level scorers thus far beyond Osmany Juantorena (83 points), which will be even more difficult to find this week with starting setter Simone Giannelli injured last week and out of Pool 13 action.
- Korea – The X-factor for South Korea will be their home environment. It will be interesting to see the crowd that they draw as they come in at 0-9, but they could use any support if they want to crawl out of the potential relegation spot in last place. The block has been the worst in the tournament, but if they can make some gains there and get strong outings from Jung Jiseok (81 points), they might be able to pull an upset or two.