"Coaches face a major dilemma" - Andrea Zorzi
"There have been three occasions in the recent history of our sport in which volleyball has been played in the open air, in venues usually associated with other sports.
"In 1980 and 1983 Brazil and USSR played in front of 90,000 spectators at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro and then in 1988 Italy took on the United States, then Olympic and world champions, at the Arena de Verona. It is a venue that usually produces spectacular musical events that are known across the world, but which on that occasion produced spectacular volleyball.
"All three were ‘special events’ created to promote volleyball and reach a wider audience and now after many years we have once again been able to see volleyball under the stars, when 10,500 packed the centre court at the Foro Italico Tennis Centre to be part of a fantastic FIVB Volleyball World League match.
"It was a spectacular occasion without any worries about the potential problems of playing outdoors. It may have seemed a crazy idea playing outside with the possibility of slipping in the evening dew and light being affected. However, thanks to the organisers taking care of every detail the players could play in natural light until the end of the second set and under floodlights from the third onwards.
"It was a great success both from a playing point of view and for the spectators, who truly felt the emotion of the match. It is an idea that should be replicated in other venues and which has been great for the promotion of volleyball. Italy, who have already qualified for the Final Six won both their matches against Poland, who decided to rest some of their most important players, something which makes sense in a year featuring a FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship.
"A few days ago I anointed Russia as the favourites for the 2014 World League, but after their two defeats to the USA, it is difficult to see them reaching Florence. The new formula has made the groups much more equal and compared to previous editions every match is far closer. In the past the coaches could face the early stages of a World League in a far calmer manner because not all the matches were of the highest level. Now every match has to be played at a team’s maximum potential or teams risk losing.
"Many coaches face a major dilemma; prioritise preparation for the World Championship and save their key players or gamble on the World League and risk overburdening the players. This has been the chief question and we have already had quite a few different answers over the last few weeks.
"For Brazil it is different yet again. While they can count on their players, they have not yet been able to find their best form and the 3-0 defeat to Iran is a worrying sign that the team is not developing and perhaps going backwards.
"I always believe in Bernardinho’s great ability to be able to motivate his players no matter the situation and to find original solutions, but it seems that right now the team aren’t responding to his guidance."
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.