FIVB - Women's Volleyball World Cup 2011
 

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Lloy Ball

 

Time for USA to ring in the changes

The World Cup is hands down the toughest tourney. I think that is why you always see teams with some youth (like Cuba) or teams with depth (such as Russia, Brazil and Poland) do well. As a team we [USA] always had only six or seven strong players for this tournament. I really believe that is why we never finished better than fourth. For one player to play that many matches over a 15 day period is tough.

To prepare for the World Cup, I like quality over quantity. Leading up to it, you need to focus on short quality type training, focusing in on small parts of the game that will help you when your legs are tired as well as physical work. Sometimes coaches get so excited about drills and playing in practice that they neglect the weight training and cardio that needs to be done to get the body right. If you don't have an engine, you're not going anywhere.

At the moment I am sure the team and staff is disappointed with their performance. It has been difficult to watch at times. The team lacks certainty right now. I believe they have yet to find their identity.

When Reid plays well, the team usually does too. Clay has been good all tournament. Setting was consistent when we won.

I think Clay has really tried to come out of his shell and lead. It is not in his nature to do so, but I think he now understands that as captain and our best player he must lead this team by action and vocally. I would tell the younger players to play with a chip on their shoulder as well. Like the Cubans, they strut around the court like they are Olympic champs. As a young player your greatest attribute is being naïve. Not knowing or understanding the importance of what is going on around you. Go with that! It is up to the older guys, to be the balance. They need to be the ones who make the easy plays at important moments, and who take the big swings when points are needed. Unfortunately, all this is difficult to do when you’re not playing well.

For their next few games I would change everything. I would put Anderson and Rooney in together to play. I would put Riley Salmon in as libero, and I would put Patak in for Stanley. Here is why. They won't qualify for the Olympic from this tournament, so let's see what we have got. We know what Reid can do. We know what Rich and Clay can do. Let's see the two young big sticks on the outside roll together. Since our passing hasn't been great anyway, let's let Roons and Matt bang away on the outside. Also, in the last eight years, we have not a back-up opposite that our coach was comfortable with to put in. All I have seen of Patak is his serve. Let's see if he is any good! If not, then we will know and we can look for another. We know Clay is good and it’s the same situation with Riley. Why have him if he isn't going to play. The dude can pass and play defense. Let him try out at libero, if it's a bust, the coach will know and we can go back to Rich. By doing all these things, we can see what we really have. And then over the next few months Alan can put together a team that he thinks can best perform. I know it's not ideal. I know it would be better to have all our ducks in a row right now, but we don't. So, let's see what kinda ducks we got. I doubt we will try this radical of an idea. And, if the team ends up qualifying, I will be the first to say bravo and admit to being wrong (it happens a lot.)

Good teams will put you in difficult situations over and over again. We had a tough time battling through those moments against the likes of Brazil and Russia. I thought our passing was subpar (for us) in those matches. Also, our defense and counter attack has been ineffective all tourney. But most of all, I thought we lacked the confidence of knowing that we would make plays when we needed to.

I am surprised by Cuba, even though they lost on Tuesday. I loved watching Iran play. They play hard, except I thought they played scared against the US. Serbia is doing the right thing by getting it's younger players on court, I was surprised by them playing their big guns Tuesday. I think they surprised Brazil too. Probably the worst loss for Brazil in some time. Serbia can continue to be the spoiler in the tourney. I think Poland will struggle with the last round but after Brazil’s loss on Tuesday they probably only need one more win to secure a spot.

Max Mikhaylov for Russia is the MVP so far in this tourney. I think Bartman is playing well also. And Hernadez and Leon for Cuba have been great up until today. Matt Anderson has shown at moments why [Italian club] Modena wanted him. And of course, my good friend, Sergey Tetyukhin has been the glue holding Russia together.

I believe Russia and Poland will finish in the top two, and Brazil and Italy will battle for the last spot, But I don't think they will be the top three at the Olympics. I don’t think Brazil is near the team it once was (sorry Giba!). I also am not sure Italy has a deep enough roster to get on the medal stand. Russia should be in the top three, the rest is open.

Lloy Ball is a former US volleyball player who helped take his country to Olympic glory at the Beijing 2008 Games where he won gold. He also won the 2008 FIVB Volleyball World League, picking up the MVP and Best Setter award along the way, as well as the 2007 NORCECA Championship. A four-time Olympian, Lloy Ball now plays for Russian club Ural Ufa.

 


Andrea Zorzi

 

Italian fans should be confident

So far I’ve been very happy with Italy. I’m commentating with Sky Sports so I was watching the match in the studio on a big screen which was great and very exciting. For Italian volleyball it was very, very crucial as we haven’t beaten Brazil in eight years. During my career it was the important victories which mattered most. The point-by-point, balanced matches will be very important for the future.

The Italian players are not young, but the team is young. The first step was winning silver at the European Championship this year, but losing to Serbia in the final meant they had to start again at the World Cup. Although they lost to Russia they took the next step by beating Egypt and then Brazil. The Italian team and the Italian fans should be confident for the future.

The World Cup is very special. You have 11 matches and it isn’t the same as the World Championship or the World League as they are all crucial games. Some teams use this to their advantage, such as Russia. They have many strong players which means they can be rotated to distribute the energy. The Italians also have an advantage to this effect as they have nine or 10 players who could start. The World Cup is all about staying focused and confident.

In some ways, this is where Serbia are having trouble. Players such as Ivan Miljkovic are great but not so young. These players are good for a short period only. At the European Championships, players Miljkovic do well as they need all their energy for the semifinal and final. They then put everything into those two crucial matches. But with 11 matches it is almost impossible. Because of this, Serbia may have come to the tournament not thinking they could make the Olympic Games so, in their mind, they have already quit.

Elsewhere, USA is also in trouble. It is clear they miss Lloy Ball both in terms of the emotion he brings and the technical aspect of his game.

After three matches, my favourites are definitely Brazil and Russia. However, the match between Italy and Poland will be crucial as third place could be either one of these two teams.

Poland are one of the teams that always surprise everyone. At the 2006 World Championships they reached the final but then they play badly at the Olympic Games. Then they win the 2009 European Championships before playing badly at the 2010 World Championships. They then bounced back again to come third at the World League earlier this year. They like to wear the unexpected protagonist label. When they feel like they have to play well they don’t like the pressure but when there is no pressure they play well. The next phase of matches will be crucial for them though as Italy have already played Brazil and Russia.



Andrea Zorzi is a former Italian volleyball star who won two FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship crowns in 1990 and 1994 as well as three World League titles from 1990-1992 where he also won the Most Valuable Player award at both the 1990 and 1991 editions. He was also a silver medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and won the 1989 European Championship in a career which spanned 325 matches. After retiring in 1998, he collaborated with a number of important Italian TV networks as well as international newspapers as a journalist.

 


Nalbert

Keeping players in good shape will be vital

For me, Brazil are certainly the favourites for the men’s World Cup this time around, but they will need to be careful as the system is very difficult and very tough. We need all our players in good shape. When I was captain in 2003, Bernardinho told us that he needed us in good shape and he knows that this is the key to the tournament.

This will be the most competitive edition in recent times. All the strongest teams are competing. Serbia and Italy were great at the European Championship and with Poland and Russia as wildcards it will be very difficult. USA, Argentina and Cuba will also be challenging so teams need to be consistent.

In the last few years Brazil has won so many tournaments because the team is the star. Murilo is very important for us and the fact that Sergio is playing very well helps, but working as a team is still the most important thing for them.

Other players likely to shine are [Wilfredo] Leon. He’s 18 and has been playing at this level since he was 15. That for me is one of the greatest things in volleyball history and is an amazing achievement. Also [Maxim] Mikhaylov pretty much helped decide the World League final this year and was key for Russia.

I think Brazil will come out on top though, with Russia second. Picking the third team is very tough however. Serbia is very good but they don’t have a big group of 12 players at the same level. I think it will be either them or Italy. USA is very good but they have a problem with their setter and there is no Lloy Ball. I believe the Americans will have the same problem as they had at the World Championship last year.

The teams that are favourites now will be favourites in London in six months-time for the Olympics for sure.

As for the women’s tournament, Brazilian fans were expecting a good result but the team played badly. Playing without Jaqueline and Natalia wasn’t great, but this squad could have performed better. There were good and bad moments but they were inconsistent throughout. I think they will still qualify for the Olympic Games but they have lost confidence and that isn’t good this close to the Games.

Nalbert is a former captain of the Brazilian men’s team who won the 2002 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship as well as gold at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and the 2003 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Cup. He also won two World League titles in 2003 and 2004 and played in the 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney and 2008 Olympic Games. He was part of his country’s national team for almost two decades. He also featured on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour with a fourth place finish at the 2006 Marseille Open with Luizao his best result. He currently resides in Brazil and now works as an analyst on Brazilian TV.


Andrea Zorzi

 

Brazil favourites, but expect a close contest

It’s hard to look past Brazil as clear favourites for the Men’s World Cup. However, I still expect Russia, Serbia, and hopeful Italy to play a role and all three teams could be a stumbling block for the South Americans.

It’s looking very good for Russia because they can play at a good level for a long period of time due to a squad of very good players. However, this isn’t the case with Serbia as they have about six players who can challenge anyone, so for a long tournament like the World Cup it will be tough. Italy are young in experience but they have shown positive signs and I hope to see them on the podium.

However, you cannot forget about Argentina, Cuba and USA, who can also beat anyone on their day.

Brazil will almost certainly earn a berth for the London 2012 Olympic Games but the other two spots will be contested by the above teams.

For the women, USA and Brazil seem above everyone else at the moment.

Serbia, Japan and perhaps Germany can challenge them but I think Italy are not at the same level right now. The fact that Piccinini is not playing will hurt them.

China are also not looking great and have not performed well when I have seen them in recent months so I don’t think they can be considered contenders.


Andrea Zorzi is a former Italian volleyball star who won two FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship crowns in 1990 and 1994 as well as three World League titles from 1990-1992 where he also won the Most Valuable Player award at both the 1990 and 1991 editions. He was also a silver medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and won the 1989 European Championship in a career which spanned 325 matches. After retiring in 1998, he collaborated with a number of important Italian TV networks as well as international newspapers as a journalist.