2018 FIVB WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – FINAL SIX/POOL A
- June 27th-June 29th, 2018
- Nanjing, China | Nanjing Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium (Capacity: 13,000)
- Time Zone: China Standard Time (UTC +08:00)
- World Rankings: #1 China, #4 Brazil, #8 Netherlands
|Date||Time||Score||Set 1||Set 2||Set 3||Set 4||Set 5||Total||Report|
The Final Six features the top five teams in record plus China, who held back a bit in pool play since they knew they would be in the next round regardless as hosts. The pool is put together in a sort of serpentine order, where China is considered #1 and would then be joined by #4 and #5 (who are technically #3 and #4 and got slid down by China) with the other pool featuring #2, #3 and #6.
Still, every team at this point has a legit argument to win the tournament. Specifically in this pool, Brazil and Netherlands are 12-3 – just one match behind the top mark from the United States. In China’s case they are the number one team in the world and are now playing at home. It will take much better play though as they clearly have the lowest record through the 15 pool play matches.
It’s difficult to judge who the favorite is in this pool, let alone who would be picked to end in third of the three-team group. In total, the top two will move on to the semifinal round with the other losing out. The likely favorite is Brazil, but it might be too close to call.
Going with the theme of finding difficulty in who is the favorite is a line from Bovada in the first match with China and the Dutch. While Netherlands posted five more victories than China and even defeated them in four sets in Germany on June 13, China is a -300 favorite compared to a +205 underdog role for Netherlands. That is likely because of the cache of being the world’s number one with the brightest stage coming and being at home.
It also shows how this pool could go in so many different ways. If Netherlands isn’t even a favorite over China, then nothing seems certain in Pool A. Brazil might be the closest thing to the true favorite though after they downed the Dutch 3-1 back on May 31 in a match played in the Netherlands and China 3-2 on June 5 in another match played in China. Keep in mind though that in the previous Brazil-China match, even though the Brazilians won in five China had more spikes, blocks and aces – showing how easily it could have flipped. Zhu Ting had 34 points in that match.
Brazil also won the 2017 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix, but again the competition doesn’t seem too far off between the trio of nations. In terms of team matchups, the Dutch length and depth will be tested by the Brazilian power while China will need to pick up their play and see if Zhu can lead them to the next stage. Whoever maximizes their strengths best will likely move on to the semifinals.
STORIES/PLAYERS TO WATCH:
- Brazil – Wing-spiker Tandara Caixeta (207 kills, 12 blocks, 12 aces) has been seemingly unstoppable in this tournament, ranking fourth in points in the pool stage with 231. She’s also done so with one of the top five success rates thus far in earning kills. Beyond her presence offensively though, there’s a reason why Brazil has been so good since they have a multitude of key contributors. Defensively it all starts with the powerful block led by Adenizia Da Silva (0.80 blocks per set) and Ana Beatriz Correa (0.77 blocks per set) who rank second and third in blocks respectively.
- China – The fluctuation in rest, roster and lineups for China are very apparent in looking at the team’s leading scorers. While they knew they could use pool play as a warm-up for the final round, China got to see several different players step up at moments. That, along with superstar Zhu Ting not appearing in every match, led to no players in the top 38 of scoring for the Asian side, yet players who ranked 39, 40 and 41 were all Chinese. None of those are Zhu though, who figures to carry a much larger role in this round. And with that being the case, China becomes so much more dangerous with one of, if not the, best players in the world at full force.
- Netherlands – A plethora of options can impact the game for the Netherlands, but no one has scored more for her side than Lonneke Sloetjes (202 points), who ranks seventh in the entire tournament. Setters Laura Dijkema and Femke Stoltenborg facilitate the strong attack, and although the Dutch don’t have one of the elite blockers, many players pitch in to the effort. Libero/wing-spiker Maret Balkenstein-Grothues (1.81 digs per set) has also been solid in the back and ended up ranking fifth in digs during the group stage.