Italy had a little time to prepare for Week 4, going to Seoul with a roster filled with players projected to be backups but who were now pushed into the fire due to the absence of Zaytsev, Juantorena, Giannelli… This was visible already against China (3-1), yesterday, but has been fully shown against Pool 13 hosts South Korea. Despite out-blocking the rivals (18-8), the „Azzurri“ got into trouble after clinching the 2-0 lead in sets. By making a couple of changes in the lineup in the third and fourth set, South Korea’s head coach Kim Ho-Chul pushed Italy to their limits, even reaching a 3-1 in the tie-break. That’s when Giulio Sabbi made several powerful serves, joining Italy’s top scorer today Gabriele Maruotti as they both delivered 15 points to the scoresheet. Simone Anzani recorded 6 kill blocks. Na Gyeong-Bok was the best scorer for South Korea, who inscribed only two sets overall before Week 4 and now have won three in the last two matches, with 16 points. Kim Jae-Hwi made 4 kill blocks. The Asian side is still winless – 0-11!
It does not matter that both Australia and China have already said goodbye to the Final Six, their clash was a beauty of the tournament with three of four sets ending in a two-point difference. The second set was the most spectacular so far in the Nations League as it lasted for 47 minutes! The game went into the favor of „Volleyroos“ by a 3-1 (25-27, 41-39, 29-27, 25-21) with their opposite Paul Carroll scoring game-high 31 points and Nehemiah Mote making 4 kill blocks. Liu Libin top-scored for China with 21 points, recording 7 of team’s 16 kill blocks! Ji Daoshuai served 4 aces.
Germany kept their Final Six chances alive by downing Argentina in four sets, partially 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 25-22, in front of own crowd in Ludwigsburg to reach a 5-6 record and 17 points (No.9). The South American side was marching toward tie-break as they went a 4-1 ahead in the fourth set, following the previous set in which they reduced rival’s lead to a 2-1 in sets. But, Andrea Giani’s joker Marcus Böhme stepped in from the bench to make an upturn for Germany and close a duel. Simon Hirsch noted 17 points for the winners. He included 4 kill blocks, just like his teammate Tobias Krick. Argentina had four players in double digits, led by Cristian Poglajen and Martín Ramos with 12 points apiece.
Russia skipped Poland, USA, and Brazil, in the standings to claim No.2 with an 8-3 record and 25 points to step into Final Six with one foot. The middle blocker of „Zbornaya“, Dmitriy Muserskiy, reminded volleyball fans on his spectacular display in the 2012 London Olympic finals from an opposite position as he hit several missiles behind the 3-meter line, when rotation enabled him to make such attacks, in a straight-set win over Japan. Muserskiy finished the match as the best scorer with 16 points. Issei Otake made 15 points for Japan who did not have their sensation Yuji Nishida in the squad today.
Serbia bounced back from an embarrassing situation when they were blown away by the USA yesterday in a match that should have been a treat for the fans in the Hoffman Estates. The team from the Balkans prevailed in a heart-pounding encounter against Iran – 3-2 (21-25, 25-22, 27-25, 20-25, 15-11) – to continue a fearsome battle for the Final Six berth. Aleksandar Atanasijević swooped down on Iran with 32 points while Marko Podraščanin made 4 kill blocks. Milad Ebadipour scored 21 points for Iran whose captain Saeid Marouf got a yellow card in the finish of the tie-break due to a lack of respect for the referees. The Asian side lost their hopes of advancing to the Final Six.
The United States are ruthless on home soil in the Nations League. Their first hosting of some week of the tournament might easily end with a perfect record as they came close to this by downing current FIVB World Champions Poland in straight sets, partially 25-20, 25-19, 25-19. Nobody likes to lose, especially to lose two games in a row in straight sets. That’s why Poland’s coach Vital Heynen did not know in which way to direct his anger so the officials were affected again, just like in the match against Iran. But, he should mostly blame his players for a defeat as they underachieved in many elements (31 kills compared to USA’s 45, 1 ace compared to USA’s 8). USA jumped to the second place in the standings (9-2, 26 points) and are a whisker away from advancing to the Final Six. As for No.4 Poland (8-3, 23 points), they must beat Serbia at Week 4 closing to make eyes at the final tournament again. Unfortunately for the U.S. fans, the national team’s starting outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke will be sidelined for a long time due to a knee injury which he sustained against Serbia yesterday, USA’s head coach John Speraw explained. Jaeschke cheered for his team against Poland on crutches. Aaron Russell made 14 points for USA while Bartosz Bednorz scored 10 points for Poland.
France saw off Brazil in straight sets in Varna, Bulgaria, playing the tournament highly competitive despite the fact they punched an automatic ticket for the Final Six as the hosts. The „Seleção“ failed to take a revenge on France for a defeat in their last mutual encounter in the 2017 FIVB World League final. Furthermore, Brazil suffered their second consecutive loss in the tournament both in straight sets! In case Russia beat Japan later on, which is very much expected to happen, Brazil may fall to the 5th place in the standings (8-3, 23 points). Brazil had the initiative in all three sets – 6-2 in the first, 12-8 in the second, and 10-7 in the third set – but failed to convert, at least, one of them to make a duel look alike the above-mentioned Curitiba clash. Earvin Ngapeth lighted the way for France with 16 points. But, what about 7 kill blocks from Kévin Le Roux! Wallace de Souza was the only player in double digits in Brazil – 10 points. France lead the standings with a 9-2 record and 28 points.
Canada spilled brave win over No.1 at the FIVB Ranking List, Brazil, to lose to a greatly written off for the Final Six, Bulgaria. The pool hosts pulled off a straight-set win (25-22, 25-19, 29-27) mostly thanks to 21 points from Boyan Yordanov and 4 kill blocks from Viktor Yosifov. Graham Vigrass collected 16 points for Canada of which only 5 came from the attack (5/5). He set up 5 kill blocks and served 6 aces.
To see complete results, stats, and standings, visit our FIVB Volleyball Nations League 2018 / Male / Seniors page.