World’s Elite Storm Chicago for Men’s VNL Finals
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, July 8, 2019 - From Oleg Antonov's very
first serve for Italy against Iran that set things in motion in
Jiangmen on May 31 to Alan Souza's block on Italy's Alberto Polo
that wrapped up pool play in Brasilia on June 30, there's been
20,770 rallies over 200 hours and 35 minutes net of pure
volleyball played across the globe in the Preliminary Phase of
the 2019 FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League.
One hundred and twenty matches and 460 sets after that first
Antonov service, the VNL is down to its business end this week
as the top teams of the world gather in Chicago for the Finals,
with USA hosting reigning Olympic champions Brazil, Finals
rookies Iran, defending champions Russia, 2018 silver medallists
France and reigning world champions Poland.
USA, bronze medallists last time around in Lille, after going
down in five sets to France and then beating Brazil in straight
sets in the third-place playoff, are this time playing in front
of a home crowd and are surely after something better.
However, this time they'll have to overcome France as well as
Russia in the Finals pool which features all three of last
year's medallists, just to make it to this seasons' medal
On the other hand, there's the pool with the finalists of the
last two World Championships, Poland and Brazil (which the
European side won on both occasions in 2014 and 2018), alongside
the sole representative of Asia in this Final Six, Iran.
In fact, it all kicks off with a rematch of the last two World
Championship finals, when Brazil and Poland face off in the
Windy City's Credit Union Arena 1 on Wednesday. The two
superpowers already met this year in the Preliminary Phase, with
the South Americans prevailing in four sets in Katowice.
The opening day also features the rematch of last year's VNL
semifinals, with USA seeking revenge for their defeat. When the
two teams met earlier this season, the Americans outplayed
France in four sets at Cannes.
It's then Iran against Poland on Thursday, as the long-standing
and ongoing intense rivalry between the two sides comes to a
head - just three short weeks after Iran outlasted the world
champions in five sets in Urmia earlier in this VNL.
That's then followed by a rematch of last year's VNL final, with
France seeking to redeem themselves for their loss in Lille.
Pool play in the Finals wraps up on Friday with Brazil facing
Iran and USA entertaining Russia. These three-team pools are
always very tricky and, come Friday, it could all well be
decided with teams jostling for position to determine semifinal
matchups. Or it could just as well come down to the very last
point to see who actually goes through to the medals round.