2017 WORLD GRAND CHAMPIONS CUP
- Women – September 5-9
- Men – September 12-17
- Nagoya and Osaka, Japan
- Women – Schedule/Results
- Men – Schedule
- Men – Preview
The Grand Champions Cup is the only event that brings together the continental champions from four of the five Continental Confederations, to find out who is the “best of the best.” This year, fans will be treated to a spectacle that will pit the sports greatest rivalries against one another. We at VolleyMob rank each team and aware you on who to keep an eye on during this amazing week of volleyball.
#6 – Japan
Hosts Japan are obviously hungry to cause an upset, or at least to make things difficult for the tournament’s top teams. Being on a recent rise after having disappeared from the volleyball world, they may have what it takes to steal a set here or there. We don’t expect them to be horrible like Korea, who lost all of their sets during the women’s competition, including a four point fiasco to China. They won’t, however, be a real threat.
They recently won Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship. The star of the team on that occasion was Yuki Ishikawa, who took his place in the championship’s dream team as top outside spiker and was also named MVP. Haku Ri was one of the top two middle blockers, while Naonobu Fujii was recognized as the best setter and is at the heart of the Japanese game. They have also, however, lost their last seven World Grand Champions Cup matches, including six in straight sets.
Ishikawa fans will probably be the most exciting Japanese performance in the tournament:
#5 – Iran
Iran, with new coach Igor Kolakovic, are an intriguing team. Although they still have some way to go, Iran are continuously on the rise during the past few years, including their first ever appearance in World League finals in 2014, a beautiful fun which ended in a fourth place after a loss to Italy in the bronze medal match, and their first ever Olympics at Rio 2016, where they ranked in a respectable 5th place. Also, Iran has just recently qualified for the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship.
As for their Grand Champions Cup history, they have lost just one of their last four matches, a 0-3 defeat against Russia in 2013, when they finished fourth. With amazing players like Amir Ghafour and Saeid Marouf, one of the best setters in the world, they can, if not upset, cause a lot of trouble for the upper tier teams. However, no matter the game result of their matches, Iran’s games are worth watching just to see Marouf’s exhilarating play.
#4 – Italy
The Azzurri take their place as one of the six teams at the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup courtesy of a wild card. However, they will of course be more competitive than Korea’s wild card fiasco in the Women’s Grand Champions Cup. Why couldn’t the FIVB adopt the same policy as they did with the Men’s tournament with the Women’s tournament? Italy is, after all, the current Olympic silver medalists. So our complaints about how Serbia should have gotten a wild card invite to the women’s tournament and not Korea is totally justified.
Now, although Italy is the current Olympic runner up, they greatly underachieved at the 2017 European Championship, losing to Belgium in the quarterfinals. With such poor recent results, we can not rank them any higher than fourth. Although if they do manage to fare better this time around, Filippo Lanza, Simone Gianelli, and Luca Vettori are among the players to look out for.
#3 – France
France’s situation is intriguing. They are making their first appearance in the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup and won the 2017 FIVB Volleyball World League in spectacular fashion earlier this year. Captain Benjamin Toniutti and Kevin Le Roux joined Earvin Ngapeth in the World League Finals Dream Team. However, Ngapeth has just recently been ruled out of the competition with a lower back injury. He had already felt the complications of his injuries during the 2017 CEV European Championships, which prevented him from playing at his full potential, contributing greatly to France’s early elimination from the tournament. Who, if anybody, can step up for the French squad and provide the genius play that its most important player is so used to providing? During the 2017 World League, Stephen Boyer blossomed into a superstar during Ngapeth’s absence, becoming a focal point of France’s offense. However, he is not yet on Ngapeth’s level.
Ngapeth is arguably the world’s best player at the moment and his absence will hurt the French squad tremendously. The France will have names such as Kevin Tillie, Julien Lyneel and Stephen Boyer at hand, but as good as they may be, they are not Ngapeth. France just plays differently is another kind of threat with him on the court. This is sad, as we were all expecting a competitive FIVB World League rematch against Brazil.
#2 – Team USA
Team USA will be led by the man in the number 1 shirt – Matt Anderson, who just recently suited up for the American squad in the USAV cup after one whole year off, the same with veterans Maxwell Holt, Aaron Russel, Kawika Shoji and Dustin Watter. Most of these players were present in USA’s defeat of Brazil in group play at the 2016 Olympics, Brazil’s only defeat en route to the gold medal.
Team USA has a competitive bench, which will make a huge difference against its opponents. Youngsters Jeff Jendryk, TJ DeFalco, and Benjamin Patch all can add offensive firepower and act as sparks from the second unit. Also, Anderson’s ability to play both hitter positions will offer Jeff Speraw some flexibility when organizing his team. Also, Taylor Sander, who didn’t play the USAV Cup, will be back in uniform after a short time off, and Aaron Russel looks completely recovered from his ankle injury.
As noted, Team USA clearly has the firepower to hang with the world’s best, but it probably won’t be enough to go head to head with Brazil, as we were able to see in the USAV cup. Although, they do sound pretty confident, which is a very good sing:
“I think we’ll be fine at the Grand Champions Cup. I think these matches will be good motivation. They will be a good learning tool. We’ll look at the video and study what we need to do.” Team USA captain David Smith
As always, USA’s boys eagerly shared with their fans bits of their tournament travels.
#1 – Brazil
Current Olympic champions, the No. 1 FIVB ranked Brazilian team will be the centre of attention in Nagoya and Osaka. The South American team has claimed four of the six titles in a competition which only takes place every four years. including the last three straight. Together with hosts Japan they are they only team to have taken part in all six previous editions of the competition. To contextualize Brazil’s historic dominance in the competition, consider the fact that Brazil has lost just three of their 30 World Grand Champions Cup matches, all three coming in five sets. Of their last 17 matches, only one was a loss, a 3-2 defeat to Russia in 2013.
Brazil’s men team is going through its biggest changes in recent history. Bernardo Rezende, “Bernadinho,” left the national team after 16 years in command. He was replaced by his personal friend and ex-teammate, Renan Dal Zotto, a star in Brazil in his own right, enough to have millions of Brazilian boys born after 1988 after him, his team’s Renan Buiuiti and this writer included.
However, star or not, Renan will always be judged against Bernadinho, a two time Olympic champion coach. Being so, this tournament is a perfect opportunity for Renan to start building a winning legacy, and gather the fans’ trust, after his initial disappointing final loss to France at the 2017 FIVB World League, at home. He already has taken little steps, thoroughly dominating Team USA in four friendlies that composed the USAV Cup. In order to continue his goals, he will be helped by one of the best setters in the world, Modena’s Bruno Rezende, and offensive juggernaut Taubate’s Wallace de Souza.
Brazil’s players took to social media to address fans during their stay in Japan: