Jeremy Brahm contributed to this report.
Bulgaria, who along with Italy are co-hosting the 2018 FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championships, have been eliminated from the tournament. Fortunately for FIVB, the final 6 and championship rounds will be hosted in Turin, Italy, and with the Italians still in play, they will have a much better chance at filling the 15,807 seat Pala Alpitour for those matches.
Thanks to a 3-1 win by France in the early round in Varna, Bulgaria cannot score enough points to catch either Russia or France in the ‘2nd place rankings,’ to be one of the two-best 2nd place teams. That means that their match on Sunday evening in Sofia against Canada will be for 2nd-place in Pool G, but nothing more.
Meanwhile, Russia’s 3-0 sweep of Finland secures both 2nd-place in Pool E and a spot as one of the top 2nd-place teams of all 4 pools, meaning that they’ve clinched their place in the Final 6.
Italy has nothing left to play for against the Netherlands in the evening game, as the outcome won’t impact the pool standings in any way. There’s not even an argument for ‘integrity of the tournament,’ as the Netherlands is officially eliminated and will finish 3rd in the pool, affording Italy a guilt-free opportunity to rest some of their stars.
After Early Games:
In to the Final 6:
- Italy (Pool E winners)
- Brazil (Pool F winners)
- United States (Pool G winners)
- Serbia (Pool H winners)
- Russia (Pool E runners-up)
- Final Wildcard Spot (France or Poland)
The only thing of value left to be determined in the final match is whether Poland or France will take 2nd place in Pool H. Whichever team emerges victorious in that scuffle will advance to the Final 6.
France took care of business, partially, via a 3-1 win over Argentina in the early game, bringing them to a 5-3 record, with 18 points and a 21:12 sets ratio. A 3-0 win probably wouldn’t have made a difference: best case, that would mean that a 3-2 Poland win would have tied in the sets-ratio tie breaker, and the final tie-breaker of points ratio, where Poland already has an advantage, would’ve been used. Poland probably would have won that.
As it is, it comes down to simple math: If Poland wins, they’re in. If Poland loses, they’re out. Poland is playing Serbia, who is 6-1 and has clinched the group. Because pools for the Final 6 are ‘drawn’ among the winners anyway, Serbia doesn’t have much to play for, so we’ll see if they decide to go for the win or rest their starters.
The final match scenarios:
- POLAND is in if:
- They win 3-2 (win sets ratio tie-breaker)
- They win 3-1
- They win 3-0
- FRANCE is in if:
- Poland loses
Whomever is eliminated between the two teams will view it as a lost opportunity. France came into the tournament with a few bangs and bruises, but those seem to have been non-factors, especially to their star Earvin Ngapeth, who has played well.
For Poland, the team was on an absolute roll, before captain and leading scorer Michal Kubiak started complaining about the food in Bulgaria, and then missed a match with illness, and played sparingly on Saturday with the same. They have the power to beat Serbia straight-up, but without Kubiak, that’s a tough draw.
In pre-match press, Polish coach Vital Heynen did announce that Kubiak will play, which should give the team a big boost.
.@vitalheynen przed meczem 🇵🇱Polska vs 🇷🇸Serbia #FIVBMensWCH2018 dla @polsatsport: Najważniejsze, że dzisiaj zagra Michał Kubiak. pic.twitter.com/OTUNstx9Kz
— POLSKA SIATKÓWKA (@PolskaSiatkowka) September 23, 2018