Watch out for Team GB and much more in opening day of men's tournament
That game will be followed by Russia playing Germany for Pool B. The heirs of the Soviet school that claimed three gold medals in the men’s event since volleyball was included in the Olympic program back in 1964 are strong favorites for the podium in London. They actually did not really impress in the last edition of the FIVB World League but anchored by their top spiker Maxim Mikhaylov will try to impose their unique physical power. Russia enjoys a very good record when it comes to the head-to-heads with Germany having claimed 17 out of 20 international matches officially sanctioned by the FIVB but the group around György Grozer will try to extend its fairytale after historically making it to the World League finals only a few weeks ago.
Next on schedule are Argentina and Australia, with the guys from “Down Under” having quite surprisingly made it to London 2012 via the World Olympic qualifier played this past June in Tokyo where they ended up as best Asian team thereby pocketing their Olympic pass. The group mentored by Jon Uriarte includes the youngest player registered for this tournament, namely 18-year old Lincoln Alexander Williams. Argentina starts from a 2:0 positive record resulting from the previous international matches against Australia and the match will get additional interest as Aussie coach Uriarte will be playing his son Nicolas. A very emotional moment and surely another of those stories that can be easily associated with the special flavor always contributed by the Olympic Games.
Spotted as one of the top contenders for the medals, the USA will be opening their Olympic adventure by taking on 2011 European champions Serbia. With Clayton Stanley, William Priddy and Richard Lambourne standing out as the most experienced players included in the roster nominated by coach Alan Knipe, the addition of some fresh blood may well help the US Americans on their quest to retain the crown they claimed four years ago in Beijing. As for Serbia, the group was significantly rejuvenated and will be missing the likes of superstars like Ivan Miljkovic and Nikola Grbic, but still remains a very dangerous opponent to reckon with.
The match opposing Poland, winners of this year’s FIVB World League, and 2011 European silver medalists Italy is actually the absolute highlight of day 1. Having cruised through a phenomenal campaign in the World League and with the right share of self-confidence, the players coached by Andrea Anastasi are seen as a first-class side that rightfully goes for the maximum result here in London. Italy will try to respond to such “armada” via the likes of a young group including also three players whose family names – Lasko, Travica and Zaytsev – may not sound that Italian but have definitely grown and matured in the boot-shaped peninsula.
To round out the program of the opening day, triple world champions Brazil will start their quest for gold by testing out the likes of Tunisia. There is no need to stress the quality of the Brazilian squad whose headliners – Dante, Murilo, Sergio – are among the most successful volleyball players of the past decade. Tunisia will try to stand the South American storm to defend, as announced by their head coach, the honors of African and Arab volleyball on the unique scenario provided by the Olympic Games.