Bulgarian setter Georgi Bratoev will return in time for the 2018 World Championships that begin in September, confirming the expectation of about a month of absence.
“There’s no break, which is the most important thing,” Bratoev told Bulgarian media this week. “There is a sprain, which I think should go away within a month and everything will be fine.”
That will leave Bratoev back in plenty-of-time for the 2018 FIVB World Championships, which for Bulgaria begins on September 9th in front of a home crowd where they’ll play Finland.
Bulgaria is one of two hosts of this year’s World Championship, along with Italy, which is the first time that two countries have hosted this tournament. Pool D, where Bulgaria begins their tournament, will be hosted in Varna, as will Pool G and Pool H in the 2nd round of the tournament.
With Bratoev healthy, Bulgaria opens as co-favorites in Pool D, alongside defending World Champions Poland (depending on the health of one of their stars and Nations League leading scorer Michal Kubiak). Also in the pool are Cuba, Finland, Iran, and Puerto Rico, with each team facing off in a single round-robin. The top 4 teams in each of 4 1st round pools qualify for the 2nd round, and then the winners of each of 4 2nd round pools, plus a pair of 2nd-place teams, advance to a traditional Final 6 3rd round.
Bulgarian fans have organized a boycott of Nations League games being hosted in the country because they feel that ticket prices are too high. Their team has faltered, meanwhile, with just a 2-4 record after 2 weeks of play. That includes a 3-0 sweep to Australia in the match where Bratoev was injured, and a 3-0 sweep the next day against Russia. Next week, they’ll play in Osaka, Japan against Italy, Japan, and Poland – the latter of which will serve as a tuneup for the upcoming World Championships. Georgi Seganov is expected to be the team’s starting setter in Bratoev’s absence.