By beating China by a 3-1 (25-23, 25-21, 19-25, 25-17), Italian players found some peace, at least for the time being, when it comes to advancing to the Final Six (No.6, 6-4, 19 points). To definitely get within reach of Lille finals, Italy will have to obtain a maximum of 9 points in Week 4. For this, they must target three-point worth wins against remained two rivals in the pool, South Korea, and Australia. Despite playing Week 4 without Zaytsev, Juantorena, Giannelli, and Antonov, the „Azzurri“ improved their record against China to a 6-0 and inscribed the 500th international victory. Thus, Italy became only the third national team to achieve such an impressive score, alongside Brazil and Russia. Gabriele Maruotti stood out in Italy with 17 points. Nations League’s best scorer Jiang Chuan highlighted China, adding 19 points to his account.
Japan stunned current CEV European Championship silver medalists Germany with a narrow 3-2 win, making fans at Ludwigsburg Arena pretty sad as their favorite team has fallen to the 10th place in the overall standings with a 4-6 record and 14 points. An 18-year-old opposite Yuji Nishida simply does not stop to amaze volleyball aficionados around the world as he poured in 24 points today. Masahiro Yanagida, who is familiar with many of the rival’s players as he spent the last season in Volleyball Bisons Bühl competing in Bundesliga, served 4 aces. Christian Fromm scored 20 points for Germany who committed 34 errors (13 more than Japan). Tobias Krick added 4 kill blocks. With this win, Japan skipped Germany in the standings (No.9, 5-5, 13 points).
Despite not serving a single ace, Russia never gave a chance to Argentina today – 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 26-24), improving the record in mutual encounters to 14-3. Ilya Vlasov and Dmitriy Volkov delivered 13 points apiece for „Zbornaya“. Martín Ramos scored 14 points for Argentina, who committed too many errors, as much as 12 more than their rivals (24-12).
When Iran and Poland face each other you can always expect some tensions on the court as these two imposed themselves fierce rivals over the years. The match in Hoffman Estates resembled a lot to the 2016 Rio Olympics encounter when verbal assaults between the rival’s players nearly ended with a physical confrontation at the end of the match. Knowing the current shape of both teams, Iran’s win was quite a shock. Poland suffered only the second defeat in the tournament but at a bad moment. At the same time, Iran lifted their spirit up before playing Serbia and the United States in the continuation of the pool battles – 3-0 (26-24, 26-24, 25-22). There were two moments that set fire on the court. At 22-22, referee’s have given a point to Iran after a lot of confusion with a video challenge which made Poland’s head coach Vital Heynen infuriated. In the end, the point went to Poland but Saeid Marouf’s ace on Bartosz Kwolek saw Iran getting the opening set. The other moment that caused tensions on the court was in the finish of the second set. At 24-24, the video challenge signaled that the attack of a 19-year-old Iran’s opposite Porya Yali touched the Polish block but Poland’s staff could not agree with it which resulted with a yellow card for Heynen. Milad Ebadipour top-scored for Iran with 13 points (3 kill blocks, 2 aces). Damian Schulz scored 11 points for Poland.
The USA demolished Serbia in front of own crowd, pushing rivals away from the place in the standings that ensures Final Six participation – at No.8 (6-4, 15 points). On the other hand, John Speraw’s wards went up to No.4 (8-2, 23 points). USA’s best scorer today was Aaron Russell with 14 points. Thomas Jaeschke was unable to finish the match as he had a painful landing after making a spike in the third set. There were no players in double digits in Serbia who did not score a single ace throughout the game. Interestingly, Serbia suffered all four defeats in straight sets.
The longest winning streak in the Nations League came to an end as Brazil (No.2, 8-2, 23 points) lost to Canada (No.7, 6-4, 18 points) in straight sets, partially 25-22, 34-32, 25-23, in Varna, Bulgaria! Thus, the North American side broke a 7-game winning streak of „Seleçao“ who simply drowned in own errors (24). Canada needed 6 years to end Brazil’s invincibility in mutual encounters (since the 2012 FIVB World League). The last time Brazil lost in straight sets was in the 2016 FIVB World League against Serbia. The second set was highly energetic as Canada managed to overturn rival’s 5-point lead (8-3) and close the set by a 34-32! Incredibly, Canada’s fighting spirit made them come back from 7-11 in the third set. Gavin Schmitt led Canada’s scorers with 16 points. Wallace de Souza delivered 19 points for Brazil.
France took over the provisional lead in the standings by sweeping Bulgaria in straight sets. Sadly for the fans at Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna, Todor Skrimov’s calf injury on the very first rally of the match was added to a poor team’s performance which resulted with the 7th loss in 10 games. The Final Six ticket is quickly slipping out of the hands of Bulgarian players. Jean Patry led the way for France with 16 points, including 4 kill blocks.
To see complete results, stats, and standings, visit our FIVB Volleyball Nations League 2018 / Male / Seniors page.