With the USA, Brazil and Russia, medals were deservedly won by teams that represent modern, state-of-the-art men’s volleyball in different ways. Their sporting development during the Olympic cycle as well as their way to Bejing are characterized by different dynamics. The USA – coming from rank 10 in the world championship 2006 via a 4th rank in the World Cup 2007 and winner World Volleyball League 2008 – showed an outstanding explosion of their performance capacity: they convinced with an effective game concept, a well-developed playing capacity and team spirit and a winner’s mentality.

The small difference between the teams’ performances and a high performance density between rank 1 to 8 can be seen in the results of the preliminary rounds of the various groups (a defeat for BRA, RUS and POL each in group B; four matches with five sets in group A) as well in the quarter finals and semi-finals (three matches of five sets – two of matches played by the USA).


Regarding general characteristics (development of age and body height, team structure), the average-age rises seen in a cross-section, the leading nations rely on experience and well-rehearsed regular team formations. Re-formations of teams compared to those formations that played in 2006 were done in the teams of the USA and Brazil, usually with 4 – 6 players. A new formation of teams (7 – 9 players in the teams of Russian, Italian, Poland and Serbia) often came with a change of coaches. In terms of body height, there were not any fundamental changes. With a difference of 3 – 5 cm, the teams of Brazil and China are below the other teams (max. 197 to 200 cm).


The fact that match concepts get more and more similar in complex I (Asia to Europe and America) can be seen in a further reduction or an agreement in players’ formation, the distances covered by players after reception and in variations of group offence. Though it also depends a lot on the strengths of players, the main emphasis in match concepts is still on offence (distribution and effectiveness in combinations, back-court pos. 6 Pipe).

Yet, in reception, the 3-player formation against variations of the jump serve has become popular. 3-player formations or 2-player formations are used against jump-floating serve/floating serve in standing; some teams vary their formations.

In terms of offensive tactics, the most successful players on outside positions convince with frontal smashing as well as with block out and to the middle of the net with extreme angular hits. Meanwhile, techniques such as bouncing ball from hand slow down hits, drive shots, are elements of faking and some variations of hitting.

Despite of some tendencies of adaptation and simplification, an intensified interaction in offence and passing in complex I with an emphasis on speed (fewer attacks from high passes, higher passing rate) can be seen.


In complex II (after defence, coverage and after an easy ball from the opponent), a faster change to counter attack can be proven with an increased number of combination attacks. In the scoring elements serve and blocking, the significance of the athletic component becomes clear; but there is only a correlation between winning on the one hand and a lower rate of own faults and better blocking on the other hand! A balanced structure e.g. in terms of variability and readiness to take risks in serves (30% floater compared to 15% in 2004 – changed floating characteristics of the ball) in combination with a smart block-defence counter attack lead to a further increase of effectiveness in complex II.

The performance in blocking of the medal winners and the best individual players have further increased, the proportion of scored points per set (FIVB value of all players) of teams is meanwhile above 3 points, for the best players at about one point per set!

In defence, positional defence dominates; the individual strengths of individual players are targeted at the opponent’s attack. Although the libero is avoided more and more when the opponent performs the serve, he is usually the main one responsible for receiving float serves (wider range of action).

In case of hard, tactical jump serves, or jump serves with a spin, every player is responsible for their part of the court; in case of balls sent to places between positions, it’s usually the libero’s responsibility or a player that was chosen before (decisions within the team). In relation to the situation, for ball reception, either underarm or overhead setting is chosen.







HELGI THORSTEINSSON