Russia beat Brazil twice in the tournament
Nikolay Pavlov was named MVP
and Germany almost cost them qualification to the final stages. And
then in the Finals, Canada shocked the Olympic champions with a
3-2 win, despite Russia having won the opening two sets.
When they hit their stride though, Russia were unstoppable, as they
were in their final four games. Italy, who won on Russian soil in the
Intercontinental Round, were soundly beaten 3-1 in the semifinal and
then came the 3-0 win over Brazil in the gold-medal match; the first
time the South Americans had ever lost 3-0 in a World League Final.
Head coach Bernardinho appears in need of some fresh ideas, as the
most successful team in the tournament’s history have not won the
World League title in over three years. Injuries to Vissotto, Dante and
Eder hampered their efforts to add a 10
title and it is understandable
that they are going through a period of readjustment a year on from
the end of an Olympic cycle.
Italy meanwhile were delighted with the bronze medal after they
beat Bulgaria into fourth place – the fifth time that the Bulgarians
had narrowly missed out on the top three. For the eight-time World
League winners, this was their best finish in nine years. In a repeat
of the London 2012 bronze medal match, the Azzurri secured a 3-2
triumph to cement their spot as the world’s third best team.
The future is looking bright for Italy. The 22-year-old Luca Vettori,
their youngest player, was the match-winner against Bulgaria with 29
points and he is one of a new generation of players hoping to take
Italy back to the days when they dominated the sport.
“The teams right now are similar in height and spiking, but there
is something else we have – and the speciality is the heart and the
desire to do more than the other teams”, said Vettori, who replaced
injured captain Cristian Savani in exceptional style.
Stars such as Samuel Papi, Luigi Mastrangelo and Alessandro Fei
were also not missed. Attacker Ivan Zaytsev meanwhile continued his
scintillating form and was top scorer in the Intercontinental Round
with 215 points.
Although the Italians were no match for Russia in the semifinals,
newcomer Vettori believes that will all change come September; “We
are a young team and there are many prospects among us, so at the
European Championships we hope that we’ll do better than third
Although arch-rivals Brazil won’t be competing in Denmark and
Poland, the likes of Italy, Bulgaria, Poland and Serbia will all be out for
the World League winners’ scalp. It means that Russia will once again
have to be at their best to defend their position as the leading team
in the world, something they did in stunning style in Mar del Plata.