2018 FIVB MEN’S VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – WEEK 4/POOL 14
- June 15th-June 17th, 2018
- Ludwigsburg, Germany | Arena Ludwigsburg (Capacity: 5,325)
- Time Zone: Central European Summer Time (UTC +2)
- World Rankings: #4 Russia, #7 Argentina, #10 Germany, #12 Japan
|Date||Time||Score||Set 1||Set 2||Set 3||Set 4||Set 5||Total||Report|
Currently the only Pool 14 team that would make the Final Six is Russia. Even then, the Russians aren’t in a super secure spot as fifth and just one win in front of seventh and eighth. They play three teams below them in the standings this week though with a chance to not just bury their competition but also rise up the ranks.
Those teams below Russia start with Germany and Japan – each at 4-5. With six matches left in pool play, a 5-1 record might be their only chance at moving on to the final round. Even that might not be enough though, which shows how important this week will be for the pair. Regardless, both teams have had strong tournaments to this point compared to expectations, so will look to add to that.
Rounding things out is Argentina at 2-7, who hasn’t been able to find their footing despite a high world ranking. Still, a win this week with South Korea going 0-3 and the right point distribution would clinch the Argentinian side from not finishing last – meaning they would not have to face the Challenger Cup winner for a bid to the 2019 Volleyball Nations League.
This pool could shake out in a ton of different ways and it wouldn’t be overly surprising. Russia is the top team, both in standing and in world ranking. Japan hasn’t been too far off of finding a pool winning week. Germany has taken down some top dogs and is playing at home. Even in Argentina’s case, if they play up to their world ranking instead of 2-7 record, they would have the potential for a big week.
The favorite though will be Russia, who is the highest ranked team in the pool per the FIVB World Rankings and the tournament standings. They’ve got star players throughout the roster that turn them into a dynamic attacking and blocking team. They’ve got power on the serve line as well. That power will be tested this week against Germany on the road, who has been able to overcome some powerful foes thus far. If they can get past the road team, they will be even heavier favorites against Argentina and Japan and could wind up 3-0.
Speaking of that German side, they will look to add Russia to their list of top-notch wins (more on that below). If they can get it, their other two come against teams below them in the standings, so there’s no reason why they couldn’t go 3-0. Their opener against Japan should be a close match though with the loser basically needing to win out just for a chance. It seems that Germany could be peaking at the right time though as they look to apply some pressure on the teams looking to make the final round.
Japan also still has aspirations, but just like Germany needs at least a 2-1 week – with a 3-0 mark more likely to put them in the conversation. They’ll need to develop more balance, but have a large opportunity right off the bat against Germany on the road.
Finishing out the pool is Argentina, who shouldn’t be overlooked just because of their record. A strong serve should quell them again this week, but if their opposition doesn’t have it from the service line, all bets are off and Argentina could pull an upset. At this point, not only would that be something to build off of for Argentina and keep them from the cellar of the standings, but it would also be a critical loss for the playoff chances of the above three.
In terms of a projected order of finish, the odds would seem to play that Russia would be followed by Germany, Japan then Argentina in that order. If Japan pulls off the day one upset though, the middle could be switched in the pool prediction.
STORIES/PLAYERS TO WATCH:
- Argentina – The South Americans have had a rough go thus far at 2-7 and have yet to find a consistent go-to option. None of their players rank in the top 15 for points, blocks per set or aces per set. The biggest struggle has come in regard to the latter though, as not only have they had a hard time in serve receive, but also do not have any players in the top 50 for aces per set. They’ll need to improve on that to allow the other stuff to come together and upend a team or two this week.
- Germany – Beyond having the storyline of playing in front of their home crowd, Germany will look to continue their theme of being a giant killer. They’ve collected victories over Poland, USA and Canada thus far. Those teams have a combined seven losses, so Germany has almost half of them. They’ve done it with a solid block and serve, led by Tobias Krick (0.47 blocks per set) and Jan Zimmerman (0.35 aces per set) respectively.
- Japan – The Asian side has a bit of a one-man show offensively in Yuji Nishida, who ranks third in the tournament in points scored (138) and seventh in aces per set (0.31). The issue has been in finding multiple other options. It hasn’t been a terrible lack of balance, but if Japan wants to change things from a 4-5 team to one in the Final Six, they need the other pieces to step up provide more on both ends of the court.
- Russia – The Russian side has two of the top five scorers in the entire tournament thus far in Dmitriy Muserskiy (133 points) and Egor Kliuka (130 points). Kliuka has slightly more spikes, while Muserskiy brings more to the block and serve – where specifically on the former the Russians have three of the top six blockers in the event, including Muserskiy. They haven’t fielded many other options, but haven’t needed to thus far as they look to maintain their presence in the top half of the standings behind their star talent.