2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship
Only a few hours to go before the year’s most important competition in Men’s international volleyball competition starts. Who do you got winning it all? We will share our pics on who has it takes to win it all, and who is going to go home empty handed.
The “So You’re Saying There Is a Chance” Tier
The following teams are mere role players in the tournament, and should benefit a lot from exposing its national players to the best competition in the world.
#24 – Dominican Republic – Participating in the tournament for the first time since 1974
#23 – Cameroon – One of the best teams in its continents, but still with a lot to go to contend at the world level, or even to get up to par to its female counterparts.
#22 – Finland – By far the weakest European team in the tournament.
#21 – Puerto Rico – The team has seen its production fall slowly over the last 15 years and today it just can’t hope to contend with NORCECA’s top dogs anymore
#20 – China – Slowly growing as a team, but nowhere near the level of its female Chinese counterpart
#19 – Egypt – Once one of the strongest teams in the continent, it lost the African Championship to Tunisia in 2017
The 1 in 100,000 Chances Tier
The following teams will bother the tournament’s top dogs, and may even steal a win or two from them.
#18 – Tunisia – African Champions in 2017
#17 – Cuba – If Cuba was willing to take its best players into the competition, FIVB should’ve award it the first place before hand. Since it is not, it will have to contend with its teenager players, which just isn’t enough.
#16 – Netherlands – Olympic champions in 1996, the team is today but a shadow of the squad that dominated 80’s and 90’s volleyball. However, even a bad Dutch team is still good enough to give the world’s best teams a scare. Boy wonder Nimir Abdel-Aziz is the team’s biggest weapon.
#15 – Belgium – Participating in its second ever WCH (the first was in 2014), the team will have to rely on Sam Deroo to carry 100% of its offensive load. Regardless, it’s a fun team to watch.
#14 – Australia – The Volleyroos are slowly growing in production with the likes of Luke Perry and Lincoln Williams shining in top foreign leagues. It coach, Mark Lebedew, is, however, still the team’s biggest stars.
#13 – Japan – An Olympic Champion in 1974, Japan has seen better days in the past. However, it is still an Asian powerhouse and has a rabid fanbase.
Long Shots Tier
The Fans’ Favorite Dark Horse Candidates
#12 – Slovenia
The only debuting team at this year’s WCH, Slovenia has slowly been climbing the ranks of European volleyball. In 2015, it shocked the world in the 2015 European
Championship with a silver medal finish. With offensive powerhouses Tine Urnaut and Jan Klobucar at the top of their game, the team will now have a chance to prove that lightning can strike twice.
Key Player: Urnaut started alongside Earvin Ngapeth at the outside position for Modena last season. Both players also traveled to Quatar at the end of Italy’s
domestic league to cash in the Qatari League big paychecks. With that kind of company, it’s not surprising that Slovenian fans are expecting Urnaut to deliver big at this year’s WCH.
#11 – Argentina
Argentina is salivating at the mouth at the thoughts of taking South America’s crown from the hands of Brazil. With international stars Luciano De Cecco and Facundo Conte, and with Brazil’s team at an all-time low, there has never been a better time to it than this.
Key Player: Italian champ De Cecco is used to playing with the best the world of volleyball has to offer in Italian powerhouse Sir Safety Perugia. Can he reproduce his results with a less stellar Argentinian national team?
#10 – Bulgaria
One of the tournament’s hosts, Bulgaria is not the once dominating European powerhouse it was in the past. Although the team will receive a boost from its home fan base, internal struggles and a myriad of injuries to key players like setter Georgi Bratoev and star outside hitter Tsvetan Sokolov have mined the team’s podium chances. The team will have to play the tournament with a squad that most resembles its B team, which is a pity for volleyball fans all around the world.
Key Player: Coach Plamen Konstantinov will have to work some kind of magic to motivate his team after its horrible off-season which saw its roster be mangled with injuries and players be thrown-out of the squad due to disciplinary measures.
#9 – Canada
Canada finally has what it takes to play against NORCECA’s big boys. Not only will the team field a star studded roster with players like TJ Sanders, Nicholas Hoag, Gavin Schmitt, and Graham Vigrass, it will be led by the current World Champion coach Stephane Antiga. The injury to Ryley Barnes hurts, though.
Key Player: Setter Sanders is certainly one of the world’s best at his positions, with the uncanny talent to transforming mere role players into stars when playing alongside him. At the big stage, he’ll now have the chance to prove he can hang with the best. Canada’s chances at the tournament goes directly through him, so he’ll have to thrive under pressure.
#8 – Iran
Iran first appeared to the volleyball world at the 2014 WCH, finishing in a respectable 6th position and dazzling fans with its fun-style volleyball play. It will take into this year’s competition basically the same team as it did last time, with Saeid Marouf, Milad Ebadipour, Farhad Ghaemi, Amir Ghafour, and Mohammad Mousavi leading the way. The team is at its prime.
Key Player: Marouf is about to turn 33 years old and has the best team Iran has ever fielded at his hands. Can he help his squad reproduce the magic it dazzled fans with in 2014? He is overly criticized in the media for not shining in the best moments, now will be his chance to prove his doubters wrong.
#7 – Brazil
The mighty have fallen. Current Olympic champions and winners of 3 of the last 4 World Championships, Brazil is going into the tournament without three important weapons: legendary coach Bernardinho, who retired from the national team last year, and its two starting outside hitters Ricardo Lucarelli and Mauricio Borges, who are out with injuries.
Key Player: Coach Renan Dal Zotto should expected to be fired if the team’s results are not deemed good enough. After a 4th place finish at this year’s VNL, he knows that he is in the hot seat.
Anything less than a podium finish for the following teams will be considered as a disappointment.
#6 – Poland
The current world champions, although not as nearly as good as the team that won gold 4 years ago, are still going strong. It started its VNL campaign this year with a 10-0 record, proving it can still dish it out with the best of them, and won the Wagner Memorial friendly tournament against powerful Russia.
Key Player: Vital Heynen has volleyball’s toughest job as the head coach of the most volleyball-crazy nation in the world. There are already rumors that his job may be on the line in case Poland doesn’t do good enough in the WCH, even though he assumed the job less than 6 months ago.
#5 – Serbia
Serbia boasted an 11-4 record in VNL’s preliminaries, with Drazen Luburic dazzling fans with his offensive efficiency, and he is not even a starter for Serbia’s A Team. Sporting names like Dragan Stanković, Aleksandar Atanasijević, Marko Podraščanin, and promising youngster Srećko Lisinac, Serbia’s squad is very deep and always boasts contender status.
Key Player: Nikola Jovović is a very underrated setter. In this WCH, he’ll have plenty of offensive weapons to choose from. Serbia’s success will go through his ability to share the ball and keep everyone happy.
#4 – France
The 2015 European and World League champion, France continued its dominating performance in 2018, with the runner-up’s medal at the VNL. The team boasts world class talent at every position in the court, with Jenia Grebennikov, Jean Patry, Trévor Clévenot, Benjamin Toniutti, Kevin Tillie, Julien Lyneel, Earvin N’Gapeth, and Kévin Le Roux all playing the best volleyball of their life. If everyone of its players keep healthy, it will be a force to reckoned with.
Key Player: Say what you want about Ngapeth’s antics, the guy delivers. As a master at the service line and at the back-court, he is the glue that keeps France’s team together. If he doesn’t recover well from his abdominal injury in time for the tournament’s most important game, it would be a big blow from France’s podium hopes.
#3 – United States
Team USA is always a contender. The VNL bronze medalists will go into the WCH hungry for more, looking to win its first world title since 1986. With a team that has kept its core intact for the last 4 years, the team enjoys enough chemistry and experience to make a run for gold.
Key Player: While Micah Christenson and Matt Anderson are the clear stars and leaders of the team, Taylor Sander can be the difference maker between a run-of-the-mill and podium finish. He started the year very well, making it to the VNL’s Dream Team squad. He is known for his oscillating performances, but if he can keep it together during the WCH, USA’s chances goes up that much more.
#2 – Italy
Don’t let its pitiful VNL campaign fool you, Italy simply didn’t care for it. Now, when it matter most, the hosts will field its A team, which means Simon Giannelli,
Osmany Juantorena, and Ivan Zaytsev will be on the court at all times. The team is almost exactly the same offensive powerhouse as the one that won Olympic silver in 2016. Pair that up with the fact that it will be playing at home, and a podium finish becomes almost a certainty.
Key Player: Zaytsev made the move from Italian champs Perugia to Modena because he wanted to go back to playing at the opposite position. One of the most skilled players in the world, he now will have to prove he’s good enough to deserve diva treatment.
#1 – Russia
Artem Volvich, Dmitry Volkov, Dmitry Muserskiy, Maxim Mikhaylov, Sergey Grankin, and the list goes on and on. The most decorated team in WCH history with 6 titles, but with no successes since 1982, Russia is very hungry to end its bad streak. With a roster that is 12-players deep, and coming off a dominating VNL title run, it is the clear favorite for the gold. With a team that boasts an MVP candidate at every court position, opponents will have a hard time trying to contend against it.
Key Player: Muserskiy hit an unheard of 65.6 % from the field during Russia’s VNL run, while also finishing in the top 10 in serving and blocking. If he comes even close to that kind of performance again, FIVB should just give the trophy to Russia ahead of time.