The following article originally appeared in the German ‘Volleyball Magazin‘ in November 2014, written by Michael Mattes, with help from Jan Kahlenbach.
A note on the translation. I speak German well, but nowhere near translator level. Any stilted expression is solely the result of my poor translation and should not be accredited to the author.
Part 1 is here.
CUBA – With a development squad (half of the players were still juniors) to reach 11th place at the World Championships is more than respectable. However, one already knows this problem in Cuba from bitter experience. How many volleyball fans wouldn’t love to see a Best Of Cuba team? The reaility is on the court. Statistically it was also clear that this team wasn’t ready. It was not outstanding in any area.
ARGENTINA – Coach Julio Velasco wants to get his team to play with a new tactical concept. Like all rebuilding projects there are many obstacles, that should run until Rio 2016. The individual statistics show that there are good individual players, who play with few errors. In serve they score the most points (3.6 per match). At the net (in attack and serve) however, nothing fits. The attack efficiency of 29.4% was almost 10% less than the top teams, as was the 1.6 blocks per set too few. For all that, Argentina was second in the total number of rallies, which suggests a good block / defence coordination. However, from the resulting transition situations far too few points were created (13th place).
SERBIA – Expectations and reality were far apart with the Serbians. Already in the opening match against Poland it was clear that a lot of things were not right. The main brunt in attack was borne by opposite Atanasejevic, who had to pay for a long season. Through good transition the Serbians won the bronze medal at the 2013 European Championships (+6.1 points per match over their opponents). This time with +0.3 points per match they fell to 8th in this ranking. Their traditional high attack percentage (2013 1st with 52.1%, this time 2nd with 53%) was not enough, as a poor block / defence gave them no chances for counter attack.
FINLAND – Ninth place is a success for Finland and confirms their improvement over the last few years. If they want to improve further, they need to work on their weaknesses in serve (13th), block and transition. Like the Argentinians the Finns often keep the ball alive through their defence (3rd most attempts) but were unable to successfully finish the rally. Therefore they lost on average 3.9 points over their opponents in this area and more than 10 points per match against the top teams.
USA – The World League winners, the USA were one of the favourites. But after surviving the ‘Group of Death’ (Group D) and a key victory over later World Champions Poland, there was a surprising 2:3 loss against already eliminated Argentina in the deciding match. That was possible because their normally excellent serve did not function. Much too many errors (2nd last in the statistics) and little effect is atypical for this team. From transition the USA scored the most points of all teams, 6.4 points per match more than their opponents. Unusually many unforced errors and an only average sideout efficiency meant that was for naught. In reception statistics, the US boys have never been top, this time only ranking 10th. Therefore the attack suffered. Except for Taylor Sander, no spikers had a high attack percentage.
CANADA – With Glen Hoag as coach, Canada has climbed to 14th in the world rankings. Above all the team can trust its reception and attack efficiency. There they are world class (4th and 3rd). The attack performance was driven mostly by Gavin Schmitt and Nicholas Hoag, who were 1st and 4th in attack efficiency. A further key is the low unforced error rate. Germany beat Canada 3:0, but with 28-26, 25-22, 25-23 the sets were close. Here the better transition game was the decisive factor for the Germans.
IRAN – The impressive improvement of the Iranians under coaches Gajic and Velasco is now continued with Kovac. In serve, thanks to a low error rate, they find themselves behind Russia and Germany 3rd in the statistics. In reception they are also 3rd, behind France and Brazil. Only in attack efficiency (30.9%, 11th) is there room for improvement. In the block values, thanks to Saeed Mousavi, the top individual blocker, Iran is in 6th place, with the lowest number of errors amongst all teams. This conservative game leads to many rallies of which they were only successful an average amount (9th). Here is the greatest reserve.
RUSSIA – The only unshakeable pillar of the Olympic and European champions is the giant Dimitry Muserskiy: 6th best server, 2nd in attack, 3rd in block and 4th in our MVP ranking. The rest of the team had problems, some of them due to injury (both opposites Pavlov and Moroz), others due to form (Apalikov, Spiridonov). The Russian machine sputtered, and only ran at full force against Germany. That was followed by losses to Brazil (twice) and Poland. Three losses in a row at a World Championships is unusual for Russia and led to a fifth place finish. Despite all the team is in some elements still the standard bearer. In serve efficiency, thanks to the most aces (RUS 69, BRA 66, GER 63) they were clearly in front. Also in attack (2nd) – above all from bad situations (clearly 1st ahead of Serbia) is top class.
PART THREE IS HERE