FIVB Volleyball World League Intercontinental Round set for explosive finale
Teams will be battling to join Pool B winners Poland and hosts Bulgaria in the Final, set to take place in Sofia from July 4 to 8, with the three remaining pool winners and the best second-ranked team progressing.
This year the
World League has a revised, compact format, running initially from May 18 to
Cuba one win away from Finals
Pool A will be wrapped up by Cuba if they defeat hosts Serbia in Novi Sad on Thursday by either 3-0 or 3-1. The victory will put them on 26 points, too far ahead for the chasing Serbs, who would need to win all three of their matches within four sets and hope Cuba fail to pick up a point.
Defending champions Russia are already out of the tournament having not accumulated enough points to reach top spot or be classed as one of the best second-placed sides. They will be playing for nothing but glory this weekend.
However, Japan will be looking to add a few precious points to their haul if they want to avoid the World League playoffs. They currently sit on three points but will be keeping an eye on Portugal’s results in Pool D and Korea’s in Pool C. They are currently in a dangerous position so will want to clinch at least a win to give them a fighting chance of surviving.
-Cuba are yet to lose to Japan in the World League, winning 11 matches in total
-Cuba need a minimum of three points to guarantee themselves a place in Sofia
-Russia became the first defending champions to fail to qualify for the Finals last weekend
USA and France on knife-edge in Pool C
Two teams can still top Pool C, with USA just three points ahead of France going into the final weekend. The Americans need two wins to guarantee themselves a place in Sofia, so their second match against the French has a number of permutations tied to it. If France lose to Italy on Friday then hosts USA could wrap up the Pool by beating them in their clash on Saturday. However, if France beat Italy and then seal a 3-0 or 3-1 win over USA it will go down to the wire, with the results on the final day of action deciding the pool.
If France seal three 3-0 or 3-1 wins and USA only two 3-0 or 3-1 wins, they will be matching on points so it will come down to number of wins and then set ratio. This would also have implications for Brazil in Pool B as they are currently the best second-placed side and this scenario would see both USA and France finish on 26 points.
Italy have no chance of reaching the Finals so, like Russia, will be playing for just pride. Korea will be on the hunt for three points to guarantee themselves safety from a World League playoff.
-France and USA have exactly a 50 per cent win-loss record against each other in the World League, with both sides winning six matches apiece
-Korea will be hoping for just their fourth win in 35 encounters with Italy across all FIVB tournaments
-Italy and France have played each an incredible 61 times in all FIVB tournaments. This is only bettered by Russia and Cuba in this year’s tournament who have meet each other 65 times
Germany four points away from first Finals
Germany will be desperate to prolong their stay in Sofia after this weekend as they are agonisingly close to reaching their first ever Finals. They currently top Pool D and two wins, one by a 3-0 or 3-1 margin, will guarantee them a berth. However, they come into their opening match against Argentina with the South American side knowing that a loss would end their dreams of a Finals spot.
Bulgaria have already qualified for the next stage of the tournament as hosts, but if they win all of their matches 3-0 or 3-1 and Germany fail to pick up at least three points, they could still top the group, meaning the two best second-placed teams would qualify for the Finals.
Portugal will simply have survival on their minds as they are dangerously close to having to compete in the World League Playoffs to qualify for next year’s tournament. A loss to this weekend’s hosts on Friday would mean they would not finish higher than 16th or 17th.
-If Argentina deny Germany an early celebration with victory on Friday it will be their first ever in the World League, and second overall over the Europeans
-Germany picked up their first win against Bulgaria in this year’s tournament, bringing their total win-loss record to 3-4 against the same team in the World League
-History is not on Portugal’s side as they have only won a combined eight matches in 34 against their pool rivals