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33rd Montreux Masters: Five Reasons Not To Miss The Opening Day

 

Montreux, Switzerland, September 04, 2018 - The long awaited curtain raiser for the 2018 Montreux Masters is finally upon us on Tuesday, as the titanic duo of defending champions Brazil & Olympic gold medallists China look to get the latest instalment of this famous competition off to a swashbuckling start.


2017 Montreux Masters Bronze medallists China take on hosts Switzerland in the opening match (16:30 CET) in Pool A, before the Brazilians look to get their title defence off to the perfect start in Pool B against Russia (18:45 CET), who return to Montreux with a point to prove after a three year absence. The day's action will then end in Pool A, as Italy- back on the Swiss Riviera for the first time since 2015- take on Turkey, lead by countryman Giovanni Guidetti who will seek to plot the downfall of his home nation.


But what can Volleyball fans really look forward to over the opening day which truly make these games a spectacle not to be missed?


1. A David vs Goliath opening clash


The opening clash of the 33rd Montreux Masters may seem to some like something of a mismatch. An Jiajie & Lang Ping's China, Bronze medallists last time out and Gold medallists in 2016, take on Switzerland who despite having the home crowd behind them go into the contest 44 places below the visitors in the FIVB World Rankings. Yet although China's array of talent is impressive, with Liu Xiaotong, Gong Xiangyu & Zeng Chunlei in the squad, Switzerland have an arsenal of talent all their own, including influential Outside Spiker Laura Künzler. She has been influential in Switzerland's run in the European Championship qualifiers, where they are now within a point of booking their place at the tournament, and it will be interesting to see how far the steadily improving hosts have come under Svetlana Ili?'s management as they test themselves against the statistically best team in the world.


2. A stern test for the defending champions


José Roberto Guimarães' Brazil return to Montreux with the Gold medal in tow having taken the plaudits at last year's tournament, but the flair and experience of the Seleção will face a real test of their credentials against the Sbornaya. Vladimir Kuzyutkin has sought to temper the opposition in Montreux by putting his faith in Russia's youth, and although raw, their team spirit and coherence on court  can prove a stern test for any team. The defending champions, although a blend of experience and younger talent, will have to be at their best to avoid having their feathers ruffled in what is bound to be an intriguing contest.


3. Experience vs Youth


Guimarães' Brazil side has reached an optimum phase, the side balanced with youth and experience- the young talent of Rosamaria Montibeller & Drussyla Costa alongside the age of Natalia Pereira, Roberta Ratzke & the returning Thaisa Menezes. Kuzyutkin's Russia is comparatively a far more youthful side, particularly in the centre with 20 year old Angelina Lazarenko called up at Middle Blocker after a string of impressive performances at U20 level. It will be her personal battle in the Middle Blocker position against Thaisa, 11 years her senior, which will prove a fascinating individual duel on court. The defensive blocking & counter-attacking game is of paramount importance to both teams, and whichever of the two can exert their influence on the game to a larger extent may go some way to deciding who comes out on top in this one.


4. Two exiles return to do battle


World Number Seven Italy & World Number 12 Turkey both make their eagerly awaited returns to Montreux after three and two year absences respectively. Both nations have enjoyed historic successes at the highest level, but having hit a period of stagnation, both are looking to up and coming talent to reignite a push back to the top of volleyball's elite. Italy coach Davide Mazzanti has named just three players born before 1994 in his squad, with 19-year-old Paola Egonu one of his youngest yet most potent weapons. Six of Giovanni Guidetti's 22 strong Turkey team were born before 1994 in comparison, with 21-year-old Wing Spiker Hande Baladin being one of the younger players upon whose shoulders their hopes rest. How both of these young teams fare against each other in a competitive Pool A is sure to be an interesting spectacle, and a confidence boosting first win may prove decisive in escaping the group stage.


5. Can Guidetti become one of Italy's great traitors?


Turkey's big match-up with Italy has some extra spice given its personal significance to their Italian coach Giovanni Guidetti. The former Germany and Netherlands coach is one of Volleyball's most renown figures in management, and he is masterminding a renaissance of the Turkish game as he aims to take the Queens of the Net back to former glories. The first hurdle on their return to Montreux is his home nation Italy, and he will be determined to get one over on his home country as his Turkey team looks to get off to a strong start. Davide Mazzanti and his own youthful crop of Italian players won't be willing to let Guidetti have his day though, and the stage is set for an intriguing & enthralling encounter; the flair & creativity of youth coupled with the erratic inexperience to make for a potentially high scoring & frantic game. 




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