People who think that Italy is the mecca of volleyball are wrong. Just wrong. The best place on the volleyball planet is Poland. There are many reasons for this, not the least being that nearly every World League match is on TV, most of them live. And that is how it came to be that I watched at least parts of seven matches on the weekend. Some random thoughts…
- The Cuban team is young, athletic and as wildly entertaining as a young, athletic team should be. There were plenty spectacular actions in attack, block and defence, coupled with inexplicable mistakes at the worst moments, dirty looks at the coach and trash talk under the net. The two matches against Poland, especially the first which Poland lost after leading 2-1 and 11-5, were the most exciting matches I’ve seen for ages and ages. A true clash of styles in front of an excitable crowd and under the watchful gaze of a (much) larger than life Che Guevara.
- Russia against Finland was a mismatch. Russia playing at home with most of their top team, including the return to the National Team of Pavel Abramov, dominated Finland who played with a complete second team, except for perhaps one starter. And yet Russia still lost a set…
- Clay Stanley is back for the Americans but I can’t say he looked completely engaged in the proceedings. The setters still struggled somewhat and it was actually quite sad to watch the current Olympic champions play in front of such a sparse crowd in an arena that looked unsuited to volleyball. Apparently they have indoor rodeos there and there was a problem with flies.
- Holland really have some young talents, Kooy and Rauwerdink for example, but aren’t ready to challenge the best teams yet. For Bulgaria quality has never been an issue but I haven’t seen a Bulgarian team playing with emotion and aggression before. Perhaps their Italian coach together is bringing something out of them that they’ve never had before. If so, they are one team that is almost at full strength and so could be a chance to win the whole thing.
- China beat a really disappointing French team for the first Asian victory of the season. Some of the inside combination plays looked like they had just come out of a time machine from 1992 and perhaps for that reason France had terrible trouble blocking them. But that is still no excuse. I didn’t see Raymond Domenech in the gym, or Nicola Anelka for that matter so that can’t be the reason.
- Brazil started the two matches with 11 different players (one of the middles had to start both matches) and after dropping the first set to Korea won the next six. For a few minutes I thought they were being remarkably passive for a team coached by Bernardinho and captained by Giba. Just for a moment. My bad…
- Although I didn’t see any of the the games, it seems Germany played really well against Argentina who are now 0-6. Although they are already qualified for the finals as hosts and so are probably experimenting to some degree, they seem to be at full strength. On the other hand, Germany are really, really happy with their progress and it will be very close between them and Poland and Cuba to win the group.
- Italy lost a home game to a massively rebuilding Serbian AT HOME. Vermiglio complained about the lack of spectators in the gym, but I didn’t really follow that. Looking forward to the World Championships… I’m glad I’m not Italian.
- To be Serbian on the other hand might be interesting. Their results have been surprisingly good, although I haven’t seen them play. They might be worth watching more closely as the summer progresses.
Having said all of that, I still have Brazil to win.