The last week has seen a relative flurry of games between various teams preparing for the upcoming event.
In actual competition matches, Korea won the second match of their World League qualifier against Japan to confirm their continuing presence in the competition. In the other series, Puerto Rico put another nail into the coffin of Asian men’s volleyball by winning the first match on Saturday. If they manage to win the return match on Sunday, they will take China’s place and leave only one Asian team playing regularly against the world’s best.
In un-‘competitive’ un-‘friendly’ matches there were a variety of results. Canada won one of three matches at home against Cuba. Their experimentation with a lineup including both of their opposites seems to be paying some dividends although Cuba were not at full strength. Leon was away playing in the Olympic Youth Games (a hundred question marks) and was therefore unavailable. Video of the first two matches are online here.
Italy and Bulgaria exchanged five set victories in a two match series, with Bulgaria winning the match that Kaziyski played. They would have therefore claimed the moral overall victory, although Italy would have been heartened to be so competitive against one of the other favourites. Neither team was in top physical condition however due to the high training loads they are also still suffering through in preparation for the actual matches ahead.
Spain and Serbia exchanged three set victories in another two match series. Nikola Grbic and Ivan Miljkovic both sat out the first match which Serbia won, and played the second which they lost. I’m not sure who will take the moral victory from that course of events. Spain don’t have much time to consider it though, as they play in the European Championhips qualfiers next week, while Serbia travel to Italy for some friendlies.
In Argentina, Argentina have beaten Tunisia twice and Australia once, while Australia have won the two matchups with Tunisia, the second in five sets.
Bernardinho said last week that eight teams could win the tournament. Of those, Italy, Bulgaria, Cuba and Serbia all played but with mixed results. Brazil returned home from Poland to visit their coach in hospital and presumably train their arses off. Poland had three days free. And Russia and USA are still at home having not surfaced in public until now. In terms of favouritism nothing has changed.