With the draw for the 2018 FIVB Men’s Championship completed on November 30th, we at Volleymob decided to take an in depth look at each pool by looking at the 4 years of international matches (Continental Championships, Grand Champions Cup, World League, World Cup, Olympics and 2014 World Championship) between each of the teams in the pools. Some teams have not met each other, while others have played quite often in the last 4 years. While the players may have changed over that time, it still gives a good view of what to possibly expect in September 2018.
We will start will Pool A, to be played in Rome and Florence, Italy.
In Pool A, over the last 4 years, Argentina has the best record against its opponents at 7-3. Most of their wins come have come against Japan, being 5-0 against them. Against the remaining teams they are 2-3. I feel that Argentina will probably finish in the top 4 of the pool. Italy is just right behind at 7-4. Italy has winning records against Argentina, Belgium and Japan, but lost to Slovenia in the 2015 European Championships semifinals. Italy is my expectation to to win Pool A. Slovenia is next on the list at 3-2. Other than their victory against Italy, they have split their matches with Belgium and Japan. Slovenia will be 3rd or 4th in this pool. Belgium follows Slovenia at 4-5. Belgium has also split their matches with Argentina and Slovenia, but have a losing record against Italy. The biggest challenge for Belgium in my opinion will be Japan. The Japanese have a horrible record at 1-8 in the last 4 years ago their poolmates. Japan’s only win came against Slovenia in the World League this year, with a fairly young team that is looking to the 2020 Olympics. Their matches against Italy and Argentina have not been pretty and I still do not feel that they are on their level. Japan can get 2-3 wins in the pool, but when they face Belgium, the winner will be the one that advances to the second round. The Dominican Republic has not played against any of their opponents in Pool A, and I feel that they will finish last in their pool.
- Italy, 2. Argentina, 3. Slovenia, 4. Japan, 5. Belgium, 6. Dominican Republic
Next is Pool B, to be played Ruse, Bulgaria. With Bulgaria selecting to be placed in Pool D, I feel that this is the “Group of Death.”
Brazil, who is 1st in FIVB World Rankings, has dominated their opponents in Pool B with a 10-2 record. Their two losses have come to France. Canada and China have combined faced Brazil 5 times and so have not won. Brazil would be my favorite to win the Pool. France is second at 8-5 against their opponents. All of Frances losses are to Brazil, so they are perfect against the Netherlands, Canada and China. If Brazil do not win the pool, then France will win it. Netherlands surprised me with their 3-2 record, but we have to remember that they did not play in Group 1 in the World League and therefore did not face Brazil or Canada. This kind of skews the data in their favor. Canada at 7-8 has defeated their lower ranked competition in China and Egypt (7-0), but has struggled against France and Brazil (0-8). I think that 3rd sounds fair for the Canadians. China follows with a 3-7 record against their poolmates. China is 2-1 against Egypt and even took a win against the Netherlands, but has not measured up to the stronger teams of Brazil, France and Canada. I cannot see them even reaching 4th. Egypt at 1-8 is facing an uphill battle in this pool and that is even before facing Brazil and France. Their only win is against China, and they are 0-3 each against Canada and the Netherlands. Egypt will be last in this pool.
- Brazil, 2. France, 3. Canada, 4. Netherlands, 5. China, 6. Egypt
Onto Pool C, to be played in Bari, Italy. This pool had the most matches played against each other with 45 matches. Of which some combination of Russia, Serbia and the USA were 27 matches.
Of those 27 matches, the USA played in 21 of them with a 16-5 record. I was really surprised to see an 11-2 record against Russia. The matches against Serbia were 5-3 in the USA’s favor. Add in six more wins against Australian and Tunisia, and I feel that this is the USA’s pool to lose. Russia and Serbia will battle for 2nd and over the last 4 years they have split their 6 matches 3-3. The winner of their match in pool play will finish second. Cameroon came up fourth at 1-2, but with their lone win coming against Tunisia in pool play in the 2015 African Championships. Australia has had difficulty against the USA, Serbia and Russia with a 1-11 record, while sweeping Cameroon and Tunisia. I fully expect them to finish 4th in the pool. Tunisia at 0-4 will be battle Cameroon for 5th place in this pool.
- USA, 2. Russia, 3. Serbia, 4. Australia, 5. Tunisia, 6. Cameroon
Lastly we will look at Pool D, to be played in Varna, Bulgaria.
Poland leads this pool with a 12-6 records against its opponents. Iran has been Poland’s most frequent opponent and Poland has a 9-5 record against them. Poland has split its two matches with their Bulgarian hosts. Poland also has defeated Finland and Cuba in their lone matches against them in the last 4 years. I feel that Poland will win this pool. Bulgaria came up next at 7-4. Bulgaria had winning records against Cuba and Finland, but had lost their only match against Iran. Finland follows at 4-3, but the Finns have not been successful against Poland or Bulgaria with a 1-3 record. The have dominated Cuba in the last 4 years 3-0. However, the Cubans may have an intense desire to defeat them after their players were arrested in 2016 before a World League match. Finland at best will finish 4th in my mind. Iran comes next at 8-9. However, all of their losses came against Poland and they were perfected against Bulgaria, Cuba and Puerto Rico who they each faced once. Iran in my opinion will finish 2nd and Bulgaria 3rd. Cuba even with a year off from the World League in 2017 were 4-9 over the last 4 years. Cuba had defeated their NORCECA competitor Puerto Rico three times, so they were only 1-9 against everyone else. If Cuba beats Finland, they will be 4th. Puerto Rico over the last four years were 0-4, but three of those losses were against Cuba. I feel that they will be last.
- Poland, 2. Iran, 3. Bulgaria, 4. Finland, 5. Cuba, 6. Puerto Rico
The top four teams from each pool in the first round reach the two second round pools, and only the top three teams in each second round pool will reach the third round. Already it appears that Serbia, Canada, Bulgaria and Slovenia are facing uphill struggles to reach the third round because wins is the initial deciding figure in the standings. Still, the matches need to be played and we cannot wait until next September.