2017 FIVB VOLLEYBALL WORLD GRAND PRIX – GROUP 1 SEMIFINALS
- Group 1 Semifinals
- August 5th, 2017
- Nanjing, China
- FIVB World Grand Prix, Semifinals Match #1
Sunday’s FIVB World Grand Prix final between Brazil and Italy isn’t a surprise in that the two teams aren’t quality. Brazil is the #4 ranked team in the world and Italy is ranked #8.
The surprise is that Brazil’s team is a shell of the one that finished just 9th at last summer’s Olympic Games, and is full of new international players. And that Italy is relying on the 18-year old arm of opposite Paola Egonu, whose emergence has coincided with the Italians charge at the Grand Prix.
Brazil is by far the most successful team in the history of this tournament. They have the most total medals (18) and the most gold medals (11) in the history of this tournament. Italy has played in two Grand Prix finals before, and they lost them both – to Brazil.
These are two teams with a lot of momentum. Brazil struggled early in pool play, including a 3-0 sweep to Thailand – which was Thailand’s first ever defeat of Brazil in 13 Grand Prix matches.
Italy struggled too, going 1-2 in their opening weekend and losing to China and the United States (both of which came pre-Egonu’s emergence). A week later, though, in Macau, Italy avenged both of those losses and now in the Final 6 Italy has beaten both of those teams again.
So when predicting the outcome of this match, it almost feels like the conversation has to gravitate toward the flaws in the two teams that have proven themselves to be the best in the world – for this summer at least. Both are young, and both are inexperienced. Brazil has a dominant middle block, but Italy has their own veteran middle block of the Bosetti sisters Careina and Lucia. That’s strength-on-strength.
Italy’s setter Ofelia Malinov is much younger than Brazil’s Roberta Ratzke (21 vs. 27), but has much more experience (62 international caps coming into the tournament for Malinov, versus the rookie Ratzke).
Even Italy’s captain Cristina Chirichella is young at just 23-years old.
But we like the young connection that Italy has developed. They won the 2011 U20 Championship with some of these same players – by beating Brazil. They don’t seem to be phased by the pressure, and their coach has been very delicate in their court-time, so they should be rested.
We like Italy to take the victory, though Brazil should be able to take advantage of Italy’s youth have at least one big set win.
Final Prediction: Italy def. Brazil 3-1 (25-22, 17-25. 26-24, 25-21)
Italy vs. Brazil, Championship Match, 20:00 Nanjing time, August 6th
- 08:00 U.S. East Coast Time
- 09:00 Brazil Time
- 14:00 Italy Time
- 14:00 Serbia Time
The bronze medal match will be a rematch of last year’s Olympic final – just not in the slot we might have expected. Serbia and China returned huge parts of their Olympic rosters intact, including Olympic MVP Zhu Ting for China, and the other Olympic best outside hitter Brankica Mihajliovic returns for Serbia, as do Milena Rasic and Tijana Boskovic.
Ultimately, while Zhu is a nearly-unstoppable force, she hasn’t been enough this year as she was in the Olympic tournament. China hasn’t really been able to find their rhythm, though Zhu has been good enough to carry them.
Neither team has played at their best this year, but Serbia seems to have struggled lately with motivation.
Final Prediction: Serbia def. China 3-2 (25-20, 22-25, 26-24, 21-25, 15-10)
Serbia vs. China, 15:00 Nanjing time, August 5th
- 03:00 U.S. East Coast Time
- 04:00 Brazil Time
- 09:00 Italy Time
- 09:00 Serbia Time