2018 FIVB MEN’S VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – WEEK 5/POOL 18
- June 22nd-June 23rd, 2018
- Jiangmen Sports Hall, Jiangmen, China (seats 8,500)
- Time Zone: China Standard Time, UTC+8 (U.S. Eastern Time +12)
- World Rankings: #6 Canada, #11 Serbia, #12 Japan, #20 China
|Date||Local Time||Eastern Time||Home Team||Visiting Team|
With weekend left to go, this pool essentially constitutes a logjam in the middle of the table. Coming into the pool, Serbia is the only team in position to qualify for the Final Round in Lille, France starting on the July 4. Though they are in 6th place they are by no means a lock to advance. The good news is they control their own destiny. If they win all 3 of their matches this weekend, they will book a ticket to France. Winning 2 matches will put them in good shape. The only way they win 2 matches and fall out of the top 6 is if Italy goes 3-0. That would put them level on record, but since Italy has more points heading into the weekend, they would likely move ahead of Serbia. Italy would have to win all of their matches in 5 sets. Serbia would have to win both of their matches in 3 or 4 sets and lose in 5 sets. If that happens, they would be level on 27 points and they could still be ahead on sets ratio. Luckily for Serbia, Italy plays the United States, France, and Russia this weekend. It will be difficult for any of those teams to go 3-0.
Canada and Japan are just outside of the qualification range at 8th and 9th respectively. Unfortunately for each of them, they will need help in order to qualify for the Final Round. Either of them will have to get 2 more victories than Brazil, Poland or Serbia. In addition to that, they must earn 1 more win than Italy. If that happens for Canada or Japan then it will come down to points. It is unlikely, but not mathematically impossible for either of these teams to be playing in Lille.
China is in 15th place and only has earned 6 points in their 2 wins thus far. They have been mathematically eliminated from Final Round contention. Since they were not in last place coming into the final weekend, they are safe from relegation and will not be replaced by the winner of the Challenger Cup.
* Denotes a team in Pool 18
This pool will essentially come down to how much of a priority this competition is for Serbia, Canada, and Japan. With the World Championships around the corner, travelling another weekend and potentially playing 4 more matches in July might not be a favorable scenario for some teams. After beating Brazil last weekend, Canada sat their strongest players against France on Sunday. Serbia played a lineup that looked more like what we might see at the World Championships. They made substitutions when players were not performing, and their coach, Nikola Grbic, gave the impression that the matches were important.
If all of the teams come to China with the goal of reaching the Final Round, it could be a captivating 3 days of volleyball. On paper it would look like the match between Serbia and Canada on Friday would have potential implications for reaching the top 6. Gavin Schmitt of Canada squaring off against Aleksandar Atanasijevic would be a match-up of offensive juggernauts.
Japan could play the role of spoiler. While they have 6 wins in the Preliminary Round, none of those wins have come against a team in the top 6. They were able to pull off a 3-2 win over Italy, and gave the United States a considerable challenge when they lost 3-2. Many things have to fall into place for them to continue playing after this weekend, but they could play a part as to who go on to France and who goes home after Sunday.
Storylines and Players to Watch:
- Canada: Stephen Marr has been leading the team throughout the tournament. The outside hitter who signed with Milan has scored 144 points up to this point. This included a 9 kill performance in a 3-0 win over Brazil last weekend. He sits at 6th on the list of top scorers. Graham Vigrass has put up 109 points in the middle for Canada, and he is the 8th-best blocker so far with 0.50 blocks per set. The biggest story this weekend will still be Gavin Schmitt, who came back to the national team earlier in the tournament. He stepped into the starting lineup against Brazil and led the match with 16 kills and hit 76.19% against the top-ranked team in the world.
- China: While the Chinese have not had much to celebrate in the Volleyball Nations League, people have been taking notice of Chuan Jiang. The 23-year old opposite who plays for BAIC Beijing, has led the tournament in scoring with 217 points. His 192 kills is 31 more than the player with the 2nd-most (Wallace De Souza). He has hit 56.14% (.347 by the NCAA measure) in 12 matches, which is the highest of any outside attacker. Dmitriy Muserskiy, a middle blocker has posted a 67.33% success rate and is the only player above Jiang on the list of the most efficient attackers. Jiang is also 14th on the list of top blockers with 0.42 blocks per set.
- Japan: Yuji Nishida, an 18 year-old opposite playing for the JKET Stings, has done well to lead Japan in his international debut. His 142 kills have come with a 49.98% attack average. Nishida is 4th on the list of top scorers. Another player to watch out for is Tatsuya Fukuzawa. The 28 year-old national team veteran has scored 115 points from 102 kills, 10 blocks, and 3 service aces. The most impressive part of his game comes in serve receive. Fukuzawa is the top passer in the tournament, behind only Pawel Zatorski of Poland.
- Serbia: Though they lost to the United States, Serbia comes into the final pool after going 2-1 last weekend. Nikola Grbic has utilized the talent on his roster well, giving players rests and using substitutions strategically in order to get the best combination on the court when the match is tight. While Drazen Luburic is the team’s leading scorer with 114 points, look to Aleksandar Atanasijevic to get the start at opposite against Canada. Atanasijevic has contributed 102 points on 90 kills, 6 blocks, and 6 aces. It will also be worth noticing how long of a leash is given to the setter, Nikoloa Jovovic. Grbic has been quick to replace Jovovic with Ivan Kostic when needed. With the talent they have in attack, they need solid performances from their setter in order to stay in the top 6.