2018 FIVB MEN’S VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – WEEK 3/POOL 12
- June 8th-10th, 2018
- L’arena du pays d’Aix, Aix-en-Provence, France (8,500 spectators)
- Time Zone: GMT +2 (U.S. Eastern Time +6)
- FIVB World Ranks: #7 Argentina, #9 France, #11 Serbia, #21 South Korea
|Date||US Eastern Time||Local Time||Home Team||Away Team|
|8 Jun||12:00||20:00||France||South Korea|
|9 Jun||9:00||17:00||South Korea||Serbia|
|10 Jun||7:00||15:00||South Korea||Argentina|
This is a split pool. France is guaranteed a spot in the Final 6, and Serbia is still well-in-contention for the same, currently in 8th place, out of the Final 6 by just points, rather than wins. Technically, all 4 teams in this pool are still alive with 9 matches left to play, but South Korea will likely be eliminated if they’re winless again this week, with Argentina not far behind. We expect it to take 24 or 25 projected points to make the Final 6.
*Denotes teams in Pool 12
Don’t let the world rankings fool you: France is the best team in this pool, and FIVB has given them a bit of a gift for the home fans in Aix-en-Provence, where the pressure will be high to perform and build support for the upcoming Final 6. Just like in week 1, France will have two matches (Argentina and South Korea) that they should win without too much stress. Then there is a 3rd against a respectable opponent (in week 1, it was the opener against Iran, in week 3, it’s the closer against Serbia) that should be an exciting match, but in which France will be favored to win a competitive match for the home faithful.
STORYLINES TO WATCH
- Argentina – Argentina got a big pick-me-up with a 3-0 sweep of Italy to close week 2: their first win of the tournament. They did it with a balanced effort of legendary Facundo Conte scoring 12 points, Tomas Lopez scoring a dozen of his own, and Sebastian Sole chipping in 10. Lopez had seen only limited action previously at outside hitter, but with Cristian Poglajen struggling with consistency, the swap sparked the Argentines.
- France – There’s no real pressure, but the French have been talking all tournament about the need to make their fans care about the team ahead of the Final 6 tournament in Lille that they’re hosting, and ahead of the upcoming World Championships in nearby Italy (and Bulgaria). With that in mind, Kevin Tillie has his full-squad back after a rest last week. That means starting outside hitter Earvin Ngapeth, starting setter Benjamin Toniutti, and starting libero Jenia Grebennikov will all be rested and ready to go. The match against Serbia will be a referendum on their readiness for the Final 6: if France looks dominant there, they’ve handled the pressure of the home crowd, and are ready to compete. If not, Tillie will have a month to refocus his team.
- Serbia – Serbia is returning from a rest week of their own, with Marko Podrascanin and Aleksandar Atanasijevic back on the roster after sitting in week 2. This begins a long road-trip for them, as they won’t return home until June 26th and in between will head to France, the USA, and China, but they need to stay focused. 2 wins over South Korea and Argentina are necessary, with a win against France being an aspiration. The Serbian offense was wobbly last week without two of their star offensive weapons, and while they came away with 3 wins against Bulgaria, Russia, and Australia, each took 5 sets: meaning just 2 points in the standings.
- South Korea – The South Koreans are the lone Challenger Team in this pool, and they desperately need a win. The good news for them is that nobody is clearly running away with this subplot: Argentina and Australia have only 1 win apiece, while Bulgaria has 2. South Korea should put their full focus on the match against Argentina, because that’s their best shot at a win. There’s still no news out of South Korea as to the status of their 28-year old star opposite Lee Kang-won, who has been absent for the first two weeks of the tournament.