2018 FIVB MEN’S VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – WEEK 3/POOL 10
- June 8th-June 10th, 2018
- Osaka, Japan | Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium (Capacity: 10,000)
- Time Zone: Japan Standard Time (UTC +9)
- World Rankings: #3 Poland, #4 Italy, #12 Japan, #14 Bulgaria
|Date||Time||Score||Set 1||Set 2||Set 3||Set 4||Set 5||Total||Report|
Poland obviously highlights this group from a standings perspective, sitting in first place with their strong set and point ratios. Behind them to round out the group are three teams that are competing to make it into the Final Round, who are all separated by a match each.
The leader in that regard is Italy, who sits just on the outside of what would currently be the final round. That is just because of tiebreakers, but a another 2-1 week would do them wonders. Japan meanwhile needs a big boost as they are the only 3-3 nation and are one match behind the big lump of 4-2 teams.
Rounding out the pool is Bulgaria, who at 2-4 is by no means a pushover, but also is in a tough spot headed into the week. Ideally they need to win two or three matches this week to revive their final round campaign.
Pool 10 seems to have a pretty clear pecking order, as Poland has one more win than Italy who has one more than Japan who has one more than Bulgaria. Not to mention, the FIVB World Rankings reflect exactly that for the order of teams listed. Poland will hope that continues while the other nations will look for some chaos.
What’s made Poland so good thus far has been their defense, led by the block, and a nice balance between a myriad of options offensively combined with a go-to-option. It will be quite the blocking matchup when they face Bulgaria, but they should have enough to get through them. They also should have enough balance to take down Japan.
The biggest threat to the Polish side will be fellow European nation Italy. Sure enough, the two countries face each other in their opening matches of the group. Poland is actually coming off of a loss to Germany, so their focus should be at an all-time high. Italy meanwhile went 1-2 last week and are looking to bounce back. Their star power versus the Polish balance and block should be quite the affair.
The biggest wild card in Pool 10 will be Japan, because they are a solid team that has performed steadily at 3-3, but hasn’t shown enough to be an elite team. Playing in front of their home crowd could be the boost they need and having that home court advantage makes them dangerous.
Rounding things out is Bulgaria, who won’t be expected to do much this week. The biggest concern they bring to the other teams will be a fear of being upset, because an unexpected loss to the Bulgarian side would present a huge problem toward a nation’s final round chances. Still, Bulgaria has the talent to win a match or two here with some of their top-notch players, but an injury to their setter and second-leading scorer could hold them back.
Overall, look for Poland and Italy to compete for the top record out of Pool 10, but don’t be surprised if either Japan or Bulgaria jumps up and takes down the winner so no team goes 3-0.
STORIES/PLAYERS TO WATCH:
- Bulgaria – Even though they sit at 2-4, Bulgaria sports one of the top five scorers in the tournament in Nikolay Uchikov (89 points) and two top five blockers in Svetoslav Gotsev (0.63 per set) and Viktor Yosifov (0.63 per set). Unfortunately, they haven’t totally found a complete balance to their game or lineup, and are going through two injuries this week plus some other hurdles.
- Italy – The Italians are still looking to establish more of their depth and other options in this tournament, but their top two scorers have been phenomenal. Ivan Zaytsev (99 spikes, 12 blocks, eight aces) has done it all en route to 119 points, which ranks second in the competition. He’s had a great companion in Osmany Juantorena (70 spikes, 10 blocks, four aces), who also comes in the top 10 for individual scorers.
- Japan – So far in the tournament, Yuji Nishida (74 spikes, six aces, five blocks) has been electric for Japan and ranks sixth among individuals in points scored (85). His prowess along with what’s been a solid Japanese offense should bring the home crowd to its feet, which will be key if they want to take down two higher ranked teams and move closer to the final round discussion.
- Poland – Success for the Polish side mainly comes from two factors: their elite block and balanced attack. Jakub Kochanowski (0.70 blocks per set) leads the former and is second in the tournament in blocks per set, while Michal Kubiak (68 points, 51 spikes) is the clear-leader for the latter. In total though, 11 different Polish players have double-digit spikes with five at 27 or more through six matches.