VolleyMob’s Men’s VNL Power Rankings

  4 Liam Smith | May 25th, 2018 | FIVB Nations League - Men, International Volleyball, News


Role Players Tier

The following teams’ main goal will be  to avoid relegation from the tournament, and give its youngsters a chance to experience international volleyball in hopes they develop into good players.

#16 – CHINA

China missed out on the 2016 Olympics and finished 17th at the 2017 World League competition. The team is years away from performing at even a little resemblance from their Chinese women counterparts. The squad boasts no players that perform outside of the Chinese league. It is the competition’s weakest challenging team.

Key Player To Watch

Cheng Zhang is the only player in the Chinese roster not born in the 90’s, which should tell you enough about his role with the team.

Chen Zhang – Courtesy of FIVB

#15 – KOREA

Not on par with the country’s women squad either, Korea’s male team has not been featured in an Olympic Games since 2000, and last played on World League’s Group 2. A challenging team more due to politics and money than anything, it has no business trying its luck against the competition’s top dogs.

Key Player To Watch

Opposite Sung-Min Moon will captain the team. He is the second oldest player in the squad and by far its most capped member, with over 160 appearances for the team.

Sung-Min Moon – Courtesy of FIVB


Australia has been a fun team to watch since Thomas Edgar erupted into the international scene. However, without its offensive juggernaut, who is recovering from an injury suffered earlier in the season, the team just becomes one of the tournament’s easiest preys.

Key Player To Watch

Australia doesn’t have much going on for them this year. One of its few bright spots in libero Luke Perry, the 2016 Olympic Qualification Tournament Best Libero. One of the few players in the roster with decent international club experience, he’ll have to do everything in his power to balance out the team’s reception and defensive lines.

Back with the National Team preparing for VNL 🤙🏻 #volleyroos

A post shared by Luke Perry (@luke.perrryy) on

#13 – JAPAN

Japan’s team is struggling in outside-of-Asia international competitions. After the team failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, as well as the 2014 World Championship, its World League performances were not much better either. The absence of Kunihiro Shimizu to an injury sustained earlier in the season was a big blow to the team and took with it any chances the Japanese had to make a splash at this year’s VNL.

Key Player To Watch

Youngster Yuki Ishikawa is finally graduated from college and ready to hit the professional circuit with everything he got. What better place to start than in the VNL?

石川くん、インドネシア誌に掲載されたってTwitter情報😊スマホ翻訳してみました(*Ü*) #yukiishikawa #石川祐希 #石川くん #topvolleyLatina #Latina #龍神NIPPON #全日本男子バレー #ネーションズリーグ #アジア選手権 #世界選手権 #NL #頑張れ日本 ( ˆoˆ )/ 【翻訳】 石川祐希は1995年12月11日、愛知県生まれの日本人バレーボール選手で、全米バレーボールチームのメンバーで、イタリアのバレーボール選手権トップバレーラティーナでプレーしています。 国際キャリア 石川は19歳の2014年に日本代表チームに入団し、大野寺大使より2番目に若い選手です。彼の若い年齢で、彼は多くの個々のタイトルを獲得しました。 2014年にイタリアに移り、2015年までパルマレッジョ・モデナのチームを守り、中央大学バレーボールチームを守るために日本に帰国した。 2016年、彼はイタリアに戻り、トップ・ボレー・ラティーナを守った。 ゲッティイメージズから埋め込む 2017年、インドネシアのグレシアクで開催されたアジア男子バレーボール選手権2017で、日本代表チームを再び強化しました。彼はまた、日本をカザフスタンに打ち勝たせたペンガワの一人となった。彼はまた、このイベントで最高の選手のタイトルを獲得しました。 達成試験 アジアユース選手権2012:Best Scorer 2015年FIVBワールドカップ:ベストレシーバー 2016年夏季オリンピックの資格:第2回ベストスパイカー アジア男子バレーボール2017:第1回ベスト・スパイカー アジア人男子… ⬆らしいです😊 大野寺大使って小野寺太志くんの事?😂基準が小野寺くん…🤔?ちょくちょく面白い翻訳で、ツッコミどころ満載です^^;

A post shared by えり (@eri_igarashi1024) on

Real Long-shots Tier

These teams have one thing in common: a few stars who can’t change their team’s fates by themselves.


Once one of the world’s most feared teams, Bulgaria has not lived up to his name recently. Without its superstar Tsvetan Sokolov, lost to injury, it has no real chance to contend this year. Instead, it will focus on developing its very young roster, which is full of promising players.

Key Player To Watch

Rozalin Penchev made a splash at this year’s Argentine league, being one of its fiercest scorers. His performance caught the attention of club powerhouse Sada Cruzeiro. At this year’s VNL, he’ll have the chance to show his offensive skills in the big stage.

ROZBALIT PENCHEV 🏐🇧🇬 _ Data de Nascimento: 11/12/1994 (22 anos) Nacionalidade: Búlgaro (Plovdiv) Altura: 1m97 Atual Clube: @bolivarvoley Posição: Ponteiro Instagram: @r.z.penchev _ #RozalinPenchev #Bulgária #Bulgaria #Argentina #BolivarVoley #Volley #LendasDoVôlei

A post shared by Lendas do Vôlei (@lendasdovolei) on


Argentina is a fun, high energy team to watch, with some known stars like Luciano de Cecco, Facundo Conte, and Sebastian Solé. While that might be enough to achieve good results in shorter tournaments, the team lacks depths to make a decisive run in a longer tournament like the VNL.

Key Player to Watch

Setter Luciano de Cecco is by far the team’s biggest star. Fresh off an Italian title, he brings a lot of confidence and experience to the team. He will most certainly draw the best from his lesser famous teammates.

Final 4 Kazan #championsleague ahí vamos !! #felizespoco

A post shared by Luciano De Cecco (@dececcovolley) on

#10 – POLAND

The current world champions has made it clear that it doesn’t think the VNL is a priority for the team. As of right now, Poland only has one thing in its mind, Wilfredo Leon’s debut. Jokes aside, after some of the team’s biggest names retired, a new leadership has risen to mentor the roster’s rookies. The VNL will be an awesome “pre-season” for the team.

Key Player To Watch

All eyes will be on volleyball savant Vital Heynen, more so than at any of the team’s players. After a long soap opera that led to his hiring, this will be his first competition as the head coach of the team. He is known to deliver, but Poland is also the biggest team he has ever coached. Let’s see if he can shine in the big lights and rescue the team from its recent scrappy and inconsistent play.

Czy ten nieprzewidywalny trener przejmie stołek w sztabie polskiej kadry? Wciąż czekamy na odpowiedź PZPS… Zostało tylko kilka dni! #sds #strefadobrejsiatkowki #orlen #VitalHeynen #siatkowka #bialo-czerwoni #sztab #ktotrenerem #PZPS #wybory #reprezentacja

A post shared by Strefa Dobrej Siatkówki (@strefadobrejsiatkowki) on

#9 – IRAN

Easily one of the most entertaining teams to watch in volleyball, largely thanks to its wizard setter Said Marouf. The team has been on the rise in recent years, although lacking consistent play. However, in any given day, it can lash out unexpected performances like the ones that netted it a bronze medal finish at last year’s Grand Champions Cup. A high-offense team, it will have to find balance in its game in the defensive side of the court to be able to make things go its way.

Key Player To Watch

Like said before, Marouf is the team’s superstar. He easily contends for the title of best setter in the world. However, volleyball is a team game, and although he will be asked to carry the team on his back, he’ll need a lot of help if Iran plans to make the competition’s Final 6. Maybe one of its youth players will rise to the occasion.

اين مدال مبارك همه ي ايرانيا.جاي تك تك واليباليستايي كه اين چند ساله كنارمون بودن تو جشن خالي بود.مرسي از حمايت تمام مردم ورزش دوست.

A post shared by Saeedmaroof (@saeedmaroof4444) on

Darkhorse Candidates Tier

Although it is not to be expected, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if any of these teams ends up in the tournament’s podium.

#8 – Canada

Canada made everyone’s jaws drop when they made the World League’s final six last year, beating teams like Russia and The USA en route to a bronze medal finish. With a lot of experienced players who have international experience, the team is slowly building itself up to contender status. Can lightning strike twice? As of right now, the team’s lack offensive weapons, so we doubt the team will be able to repeat last year’s performance. However, Canada has proven doubters wrong in the past.

Key Player To Watch

Bradley Gunter will have to step in at opposite for the electric Sharone Vernon-Evans, who is rehabbing from an injury. Canada will be looking for offense this year with some key players out at least for week 1, and it will be Gunter’s opportunity to show that he can fill that hole, for this summer at least, and repeat the team’s breakthrough performance from last summer.

Mood after a come back win down 2 sets, pure emotion and fight from the team. Keeping us in the fight final 6, now a day on the couch watching olympics and recovery before we get back at it. #letsgotoray

A post shared by Gavin Schmitt (@schmittygav) on


A silver medal finish at last year’s EuroVolley blew everyone’s mind. Can the team show that kind of performance again? The roster lacks defense, and most importantly, coach Vital Heyen has left the team for Poland. How will the team fare without a coach that is known to draw the best results possible from mediocre teams?

Key Player To Watch

Setter Lukas Kampa is one of the most experienced players on the roster, and he’ll have to make the most of his floor leadership. However, with Egor Bargachev, an outside hitter, having to play libero in some of the team’s games, what kind of receiving line has Germany to offer its experienced offense coordinator?

🔜VNL🏐 Good luck for the German team!🇩🇪 Go Lukas💪🏼✊🏼 📸 @grzesiekmaciag #germanyvolleyball #germany #volleyball #volleyballplayer #teamgermany #team #goodluck #fingerscrossed #lukaskampa #nationalteam #fivb #vnl

A post shared by Lukas Kampa (@lukas.kampa) on


The Serbian squad is one of the biggest question marks of this tournament. The 2016 World League Champions, last year they slid to 5th place in the competition. The team has enough talent to contend for a medal, with the likes of superstars Marko Ivovic, Aleksandar Atanasijevic, Marko Podrascanin, and Srecko Linisac. However, the squad has shown to lack consistent play, losing to Germany in last year’s EuroVolley semifinals, and needing 5 sets to beat Belgium in the bronze medal match. Until it proves that it will not play down to its competitors, Serbia will always be disrespected by its tougher opponents.

Key Player To Watch

Ivovic led the Serbian squad to a gold medal finish at the 2016 World League, winning MVP honors along the way. Two years later, and fresh off an underwhelming season in Brazil, he has to prove he can still play at an elite level. The team will have to rely on his passing to be able to set offensive powerhouses like Atanasijevic and Linisac free.

Difficult moments sometimes come in life…. But whatever happens, we must stay focused on our target. If we truly believe in something it will come true #resoviarzeszów⚪🔴 #fightuntiltheend

A post shared by Marko Ivovic (@mare___8) on


The once mighty and powerful Russian squad lost some its dominance in recent international play when confronted outside of Europe. Although current European Champions (albeit in a very weak 2017 European field), most people would agree that the Russian team would have to play all its card rights to make a run at the competition’s best teams. Having established stars like Dmitriy Muserskiy, Maxim Mikhailov, and Dmitry Volkov will help, while notable absences on the team like Sergey Grankin leave a big hole on the team’s rosters

Key Player To Watch

Mikhaylov, the current Champions League MVP will be the heart and soul of this team and will be asked to carry the team’s fate on his back. Luckily for him, he has enough skill to do that. But what kind of help will he get from his squad?

Ну вот и завершился наш непростой клубный сезон🙌 Начался долгожданный отпуск, когда можно все своё время уделить семье👪, а также другим вещам, на которые во время сезона просто не хватало времени. Мы – спортсмены не стоим на месте и постоянно развиваемся, не только на площадке, но и за её пределами, поэтому обещаю уделять своим социальным сетям чуть больше внимания, чем обычно. Надеюсь @artemvolvich поддержит меня в этом начинании😅 Кстати, теперь вы можете найти меня и на фейсбук😉, ссылка будет в описании👆

A post shared by Maxim Mikhailov (@maxmikhailov18) on

Favorites Tier

The best of the best.


The current “defending” VNL Champions, the French defeated Brazil at the 2017 Grand Prix Finals. While the team completely sucked at the 2017 CEV EuroVolley, the squad was missing a lot of key pieces and Earvin Ngapeth wasn’t healthy. This is not the case right now, and at full force, the French are a formidable force to deal with.

Key Player To Watch

After starting the feud that got Radostin Stoytchev fired from Modena and himself shipped to Zenit Kazan, all eyes will be on Ngapeth. Fans will expect him to back up his off court antics with superb on court play. After missing out on most of 2017’s EuroVolley, now it’s his chance at redemption.

#AlRayanLife #QatarLife🇶🇦

A post shared by Earvin Ngapeth (@earvinngapeth) on


Current Olympic and Grand Champions Cup gold medalists, you can never count out the Brazilians, as they always find out a way to surprise us. However, this time around things will be just a little bit more difficult for the yellow and green, as the roster is missing Ricardo Lucarelli (injury) and Serginho (NT retirement). Without those two pieces, the team becomes a whole different affair. Add to that the fact that Wallace Souza has began to let his age show, and Brazil may be in trouble to keep itself among the world’s best teams.

Key Player To Watch

No one on the Brazilian roster will be under more scrutiny than coach Renan Dal Zotto, after all, he is replacing Bernardinho, who has 7 Olympic medals to his name, including 2 golds. How he will deal with injuries and absences will likely decide Brazil’s faith in the tournament.

Primeira temporada com três competições, três finais, duas medalhas de ouro e uma de prata! Parabéns, professor! #RenanDalZotto Parabéns, comissão técnica! 🥇🏆👏 #voleibol #bbnosesportes

A post shared by Conf. Brasileira de Voleibol (@cbvolei) on

#2 – Team USA

The American roster is deep. It mixes the veteran play of Micah Christenson, Matt Anderson, Aaron Russel, Taylor Sander, and Max Holt, all who recently shined in CEV Champions League play, with youngsters such as TJ DeFalco and Ben Patch. That is diamond studded cast. With an extra year of experience under their belt, these players have everything it takes to improve on their 4th place finish in last year’s World League.

Key Player To Watch

Anderson will be the heart and soul of this team in the competition’s final stretches. After spending some time away from the squad, he made his return to Team USA’s roster at the FIVB Grand Champions Cup, and it was almost if he had never left. After winning this season’s Champions League with Kazan, he will bring maturity and confidence to the team.

Happy Mother’s Day Momma! & to all the other amazingly strong women out there! #love #nuture #ifmommaainthappyaintnobodyhappy

A post shared by Matt Anderson (@mja5041) on

#1 – ITALY

The last time Ivan Zaytsev, Osmany Juantorena, Oleg Antonov, and Simone Gianneli were all healthy and in an Italian roster, the team ended up with an Olympic silver medal. They were only stopped by a Brazilian team that is today a shadow of itself, missing its superstar coach, some players to injury, and others to retirement. It’s time to capitalize.

Key Player To Watch

After leading Perugia to its first ever A1 title, Zaytsev was adamant in his will to return to his natural position as an opposite hitter. The team had no chance but to let him go. Now, he is returning to Italy’s NT after some time off, due to sponsorship controversies. After so much scrutiny attached to his name, Ivan, who says he is a changed man, will be expected to show that he can back up everything he says, inside the court.

🇮🇹 Always in my ❤ #IZ9 #Loading #BeBackSoon #VNL #Volleyball #PureJoy #Italia #LaMiaNazionale

A post shared by Ivan Zaytsev (@zaytsev_official) on

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Braden KeithDerekTyson Recent comment authors
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I`m sorry but these rankings are a bit off. Germany #7? What makes Brazil a shadow of itself? Last year they won silver in the WL and Gold at the WCC. USA with its full roster could not even medal at the WCC. France did not even reach he quaterfinals in the ECH.


As amazing as Gavin Schmitt was, he officially retired from the Canadian National team in 2016 – so might want to update the players to watch. There are many amazing young talented players on team Canada to choose from, that are still on the roster 🙂

Braden Keith

I updated and swapped it out – though I will point out that he’s on the 21-man Canadian extended roster. So, there’s a chance.

Braden Keith

Turns out – he wasn’t really retired afterall. Back in week 3 for Canada!

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