In Pool 17 defending champions of Russia needed five sets to won against Argentina, while recorded their third victory in the competition with a 3-1 win over China. In a direct duel for the spot in the Finals, France defeated Italy in Pool 18, while Brazil destroyed Canada. In Pool 19 USA beat Serbia in four sets and Iran won against pool hosts Bulgaria in straight sets. In Pool 20 the hosts of Germany suffered a four-sets defeat against Poland in front of their home fans and Japan won against Portugal. So, France, Russia, and Poland joined Brazil, Iran and the host national team of the United States in the Final Six of the 2019 FIVB Nations League (July 10-14).
In Pool 17 defending champions Russia withstood a major challenge from Argentina to win their 11th match in this years FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Brisbane, Australia. Russia led two sets to one before Argentina forced the match until tie break and Russia eventually winning 3 sets to 2. This victory consolidates Russia’s position in the top 3 after 14 matches, with one remaining against China, before the Finals Six in Chicago. Bruno Lima from Argentina was the top scorer of the match with 20 points, while Agustin Loser made 4 kill blocks. On the winning side Igor Philippov was the top scorer with 17 points, including 7 winning blocks!
Russian captain Igor Kobzar said it had been a tough schedule. “We have played 14 games so far in this year’s VNL, I am very happy with the win, Argentina are always tough, they beat us three years ago at the Olympics. They are a very good side defensively.”
Argentinian assistant coach Ruben Eiras said it was always a tough match when they play Russia: “It was a very difficult match for us, it has been hard logistically because there is so much travel, it is sometimes difficult for the players to stay concentrated in each match.”
On the same Pool, the hosts of Australia recorded their third victory in the competition with a 3-1 win over China in their home court in Brisbane. They made a comeback after losing the first set 26:24 to win the second 25:15, the third 25:22 and the fourth 25:18. This victory moves Australia into 13th place on the standings and 6 points ahead of fellow challenger team Portugal. Australia takes on Argentina in their final game while Portugal has 2 matches remaining. Lincoln Alexander Williams was the top scorer on the winning side with 18 points, while Luke Smith also contributed with 17. Chinese Chuan Jiang was the top scorer of the match with 20 points.
Coach Mark Lebedew said it was an important victory for his side. “We had to win it for a few different reasons, firstly for our own confidence after a couple of not so good performances, we wanted to perform well in front of our home crowd, we wanted to show our friends and family how we can play and how we have developed as a team and of course the ladder. It was important to have another win, China is not our direct opponent but we have to make sure that anything that happens in the other pools won’t affect us.”
In Pool 18, in a direct duel for the spot in the Finals, France defeated Italy by a 3-1 (27:25, 25:19, 21:25, 25:20) to settle at the No.4 in the standings with a 10-4 record and 31 points. Italy dropped out of the contention for the Final Six, as they were squeezed out to the sixth place in the standings with an 8-6 record and 25 points (the top 5 in the standing plus the hosts of USA will play the F6). Kévin Tillie pushed France to the fifth successive Finals of the competition (including both FIVB World League and FIVB Nations League) with 15 points. Giulio Pinali scored 17 for Italy including 4 aces.
Reactions: France Coach Laurent Tillie: “Today the level was different. Yesterday we played with Brazil, which is right now the best team in the world. Italy is a younger team, with less experience than us. I believe our victory was because of our experience. We will have another difficult game tomorrow, and then, a few days of rest. Aftewards we will start the preparation for the Finals.”
On the same Pool, Brazil defeated Canada in straight sets (25:20, 25:19, 25:19) to lead the preliminary round of the competition.
In Pool 19, despite playing mostly with back-ups USA came from a set down to beat Serbia in four sets (14:25, 25:20, 29:27, 26:24) for their eighth victory in the competition. Garrett Muagututia was the top scorer on the winning side with 14 points, while Serbian Bozidar Vucicevic was the top scorer of the match with 25 points (including 4 winning blocks and 2 aces)
USA player Jeffrey Jendryk: “In the first set we missed a couple of serves. Towards the end we found our rhythm which gave us more confidence and more energy. The third set was really close. We served really aggressively, took them off their system, made them play against double or triple block. Until the end we stayed together as a team and it paid off. We are looking forward to play Iran tomorrow. They are a great team and we want to show them what we got.”
USA coach Robert Neilson: “We struggled in the first set to find energy. Our young guys tried to find themselves and figure out how to play together. They battled. It was a fun to watch them. It wasn’t pretty all the time but they managed. We are excited to compete against Iran tomorrow. They are a passionate group, play great volleyball, skillful in all phases of the game. It’s a good opportunity to see where we are as a team.”
Serbia player Srecko Lisinac: “We started the game with a lineup that never played together this season. You couldn’t see that in the first set. But in the second it was clear that we were not in good enough sync. And we made some easy mistakes in the third and fourth set. Overall I think every player gave something to the team. The new players showed they can compete at the high level.”
Serbia coach Nikola Grbic: “If you start perfectly and you don’t keep playing the same way, this is what happens – you lose. This is the last weekend of VNL. We have a lot of small physical problems as well as we have a lot of guys who played too many five-set matches so far. So today it was like a turnover. It was normal for us to give the rest to some of our players. I hope that tomorrow we will not add to the list someone who is not 100% physically fit. It is really tough. We have been on the road for a whole month and I just hope that we will finish the tournament the best way possible with no additional injuries.”
On the same Pool, Iran, without their superstar Ghafour, destroys the hosts of Bulgaria in straight sets (23:25, 23:25, 21:25). Bulgarian Tsvetan Sokolov was the top scorer of the match with 19 points. Manavinezhad scored 14 on the winning side while Gholami and Mojarad scored 4 winnin blocks each.
In Pool 20 the hosts of Germany suffered a four-sets defeat against Poland in front of their home fans in Leipzig, despite a discreet match of their opposite Simon Hirsch, author of 20 points and top scorer of the match. Piotr Lukasik scored 18 on the winning side. This was the sixth win in a row in 2019 VNL for Poland, and they will play the final six in Chicago as No. 5 in the standings (10-4; 27 points).
On the same Pool, Japan needed four sets to take a victory over Portugal.
Reactions: Japanese captain Masahiro Yanagida: “It’s very important for us to win close matches like this. For us each opponent is very strong and we have to keep concentrated all the time. We look forward to playing Germany on Sunday, there will be a lot of spectators and energy on the court. We have to play our best volleyball.”
2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, Week 5 – Day 2
Pool 17 Brisbane, Australia
Argentina-Russia 2-3 (19:25, 25:22, 18:25, 25:21, 11:15)
Australia-China 3-1 (24:26, 25:15, 25:22, 25:18)
Pool 18 Brasilia, Brazil
France-Italy 3-1 (27:25, 25:19, 21:25, 25:20)
Brazil-Canada 3-0 (25:20, 25:19, 25:19)
Pool 19 Varna, Bulgaria
USA-Serbia 3-1 (14:25, 25:20, 29:27, 26:24)
Bulgaria-Iran 0-3 (23:25, 23:25, 21:25)
Pool 20 Leipzig (Germany)
Germany-Poland 1-3 (19:25, 25:21, 14:25, 23:25)
Portugal-Japan 1-3 (20:25, 22:25, 25:22, 20:25)
Source and Images: Volleyball.world