The Hubert Jerzy Wagner Memorial is perhaps men’s volleyball’s most prestigious friendly competition
Russia defeated France 25-22, 25-20, 25-23, avenging a 3-0 loss from the final match of Pool 20 and claiming the country its first world level gold since the 2013 World League tournament.
Italy put up 15 blocks and star Ivan Zaytsev chalked up a match-high 23 points to lift the team past first place France to keep its Final Six hopes alive on Saturday.
Moroccan opposite Mohamed Al Hachdadi, the 2017-18 French Pro A leading scorer and MVP, has transferred to Italy’s Callipo Vibo Valentia.
With the top three teams in the VNL standings plus seventh place Italy in Pool 20, it could be considered the group of death in terms of toughness. The Russians and Americans are just mere points away from the Final Six, while Italy will rely on home court advantage to push through.
The battle for the Final Six is very much alive with only four teams mathematically eliminated: Iran (4-7), Argentina (2-10), China (2-10) and South Korea (1-11).
Canada opted not to play many of its starters and came up just short in a five-setter against first place France, which won its sixth straight VNL match. Thirty-three errors proved to be too much to overcome as Brazil fought valiantly before falling to Bulgaria in five sets for the team’s third-straight loss in Varna.
Veteran French middle blocker Kevin Le Roux will rejoin his teammates in Varna, Bulgaria after resting last week.
Drazen Luburic racked up 20 points with 16 kills, three aces and a block, to guide Serbia to a four-set win over Argentina. France had the upper hand across the board in a sweep of Korea to the delight of the home crowd.
French coach Laurent Tillie will have his full complement of players on hand for the French home crowd in Aix-en-Provence this week.