Posts by YavorD

    Benfica won the Portuguese Supercup after prevailing against Sporting Lisbon 3-0 (25-22, 27-25, 36-34).


    Benfica: Hugo Gaspar (17), Peter Wohlfahrtstätter (11), Frederic Winters (10), Marc-Anthony Honore (8), Andre Lopes (5), Tiago Violas, Ivo Casas - libero, Theo Lopes (9), Flavio Soares (1), Nuno Pinheiro, Rafael Oliveira.

    Sporting: Nikolay Nikolov (13), Lionel Marshall (9), Todor Aleksiev (5), Wallace Martins (4), Helio Sanches (5), Guillermo Hernan, Hugo Ribeiro - libero, Miguel Maia (1), Roberto Reis (7), Andre Brown (5), Angel Dennis (12).


    festejos-supertaca-new.jpg?h=742&la=pt-PT&w=1320&v=636743683780000000&hash=CC389253D1FF7C3D8850EB24E7D35916F1D393B8


    Sporting created a strong team over the summer with the ambition to stop Benfica. Now they lost the first title of the season. Although Sporting's selection is rather experienced and not quite fresh, the championship battle between the two Lisbon-based clubs promises to be interesting.

    Hi,


    FIrst of all, this is the list with the supported (maybe more could be embedded, too) media providers in the admin panel.




    That being said, there is an example of embedding a video once I click the Edit button of, e.g., Vimeo. Perhaps you can try and tell me if it worked.

    Code
    1. <div class="videoContainer"><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/{$ID}" allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

    This is also the way suggested in WoltLab's own forum here. I couldn't find any other docs or manuals for videos, so I guess searching WoltLab's forum if the above doesn't work might give you a jump start.


    I hope I could help :)

    Going back to the WCH (final) series one last time, I am truly impressed with what Poland and Brazil have achieved over the years. But let's not forget to mention Serbia's WCH consistency, too. Let me finish with some numbers.


    1. 3rd WCH final for Poland in 4 editions.
    2. Brazil have appeared in 5 consecutive finals!
    3. Brazil have reached the semifinals 9 times in the last 10 editions!
    4. Serbia have reached the semifinals 5 times in the last 6 editions.

    Well, some teams just deserve to be there more than others, don't they? :)

    Haven't watched the match too carefully, but it sounds like Kurek and Kubiak have swapped positions several times when both of them are in the front row in order to have Kurek blocking Wallace. It works!

    Yes, they did! At the end of the first set and then in a few other critical situations, mostly at the end of sets, when Wallace had to be stopped. It worked quite well because Kurek had an amazing tournament, you would feel he could've played MB and still get the MVP, and because Douglas was almost completely ignored by Bruno during the first set. I got the feeling Douglas had more pipe attacks than attacks from 4 throughout the match. As a matter of fact, Wallace also moved to block Kurek from 4, I don't remember at the end of which set, though. Not only did it not work, for Kurek no longer hammers the ball like an energy-pumped teenager, but Brazil's block was generally absent. I can't remember them block so bad. Seams all over the net, easily exploited by Kurek, Kubiak, and Szalpuk, inefficient in the middle against the Polish MBs. And even if Brazil served greatly (theoretically), Poland outplayed them in reception, too, and it looked overall very difficult for Brazil to turn things around. No wonder they were trailing throughout the entire match!


    I know Dal Zotto's starting line-up is not optimal and it is a matter of time for the coach to make changes. You rarely touch a winning team, so I can totally understand why he started with the usual suspects. Mauricio Souza, however, should have been replaced much earlier. The same can be said about Bruno. Although William couldn't repeat his performance from the comeback vs. Russia.

    Anderson best opposite is an amazing joke. His 0% in the tiebreak against Poland says it all.

    Absolutely agree! And I keep wondering how come the MVP, be it an OH or an OPP, doesn't get into the Dream Team?! So Kurek is the MVP but Anderson the Best Opposite. How is that possible?


    Congratulations to team Poland, Bartosz Kurek, Heynen, and all our Polish users, or Polish fans (yes, Martee, you, too)! A well-deserved victory by a team that needed a bit of luck during the second phase, was very determined and compact during the first one, and lethal when it mattered the most.

    Unlike after 2014, none of the Polish players playing in this tournament is going to retire before 2020. So Poland is going to have a very experienced team + Mika + Leon. If they do not collapse mentally they may really achieve something. After 2014 WCH Poland lost Zagumny, Wlazly, Winiarski, Ignaczak.

    I wish FIVB wouldn't allow players to represent 2 NTs. Just like at FIFA, players should be allowed to change only from junior to senior NT once and that's it, otherwise it becomes not only weird but rather unfair. I am very sad that I will have to watch Leon in the Polish jersey instead of great talents like Szalpuk, Sliwka, Bednorz, or Kwolek. For Leon's addition surely means some of the youngsters will no longer develop as NT members. And not only have they made more contribution to Polish volleyball on youth and junior stage (than any mercenary), but they already proved themselves worthy in the NT. Pity.


    They are frustrated because the Poles win, they cannot reconcile that the Polish team is great, nothing new. Their world, imaginations, fall into ruins, today we will defend due title, this is the most important :).

    Well, I hope I am not among the users mentioned :) I really enjoy watching the Polish NT when they are good, for instance at 3 out of the last 4 WCHs (and, of course, some ECHs). However, you might get the hatred, or rather ignorance, which I believe is more accurate, in this forum because it has become almost entirely Italian-centric and as of recently full of volleyball "minds" and "experts". The long, nice, productive, multiple-sided discussions we used to have are now only sporadic and some of the members that participated almost disappeared, unfortunately.


    I know volleyball coaches, journalists, scoutmen, experts from some countries and often I hear that the Polish Federation is extremely overproud, difficult to approach, and at times arrogant. Similar things could be said, unfortunately, for some of their NT members over the years, too. Also, they often complain about numerous things when they play abroad, with clubs or NTs. Of course, there are such examples in many teams and that's why, at least in terms of the players, I would rather avoid generalization. These are the reasons why not everyone in the volleyball world thinks highly of the Polish team and their Federation. Believe me, as in the case with Brazil, which andrea depicted perfectly, it is rarely out of hatred or just winning series of matches.


    I, personally, ENJOYED Poland's win last night because they fought well and demonstrated more organized volleyball than the otherwise superb (not yesterday, though) Americans. It would be a pity if Zatorski, to me the best libero at the WCH, doesn't get his individual award. I hope for a great final between two teams where, I hope, the focus will lie on team play and overall performance, rather than individuals, their federations, or whatever else.


    It, kind of, feels bad from a neutral perspective when a team like the USA perform extremely well and might eventually finish even without a medal. Their favourites status had been well-deserved, but the truth is that Poland played amazingly. And to add to those who had not seen Kurek play this good in years, I would go a bit further and say that, in my opinion, Kurek had actually never played like this in his career before. He is more mature, more team-oriented, more versatile, reliable, and smart than ever. Before he was a talented but shaky OH who seemed incapable of fully developing his potential. And before this WCH I had often considered him overevaluated. Obviously, all of this before he met Heynen. Heynen has done some serious work and he should reapt the harvest.

    You know your tournament formula is a joke when in the last match before the semifinals two teams play with their bench players :wall:

    I agree. It's a long known issue with competition formats. However, now that I think of it, on almost every major tournament we've had more or less meaningless matches, calculcations, bench players coming in, etc. Elimination rounds, like at the Olympics, whose formula I favour the most, reduce these chances, but then the last round in the group stage is still a place where one can theoretically do some Math based on results. And it is not really applicable entirely for a 24-team event.


    But I have always been in favour of elimination matches at WCHs. The ECH format is often manipulated in the group stages, not later, and it is questionable whether it will obliterate bench players from shining on court.

    So...... I have a question about sportdeutschland.tv.


    Some of the replays there are still missing (matches from round 2), does anyone know if they are going to upload all the matches eventually or some of them just won't be there?

    Unfortunately, that's the very same reason why I subscribed to the FIVB TV. With the exception of the opening day (09.09. and 12.09.) when they uploaded all matches on demand, there are missing matches overall and only a limited selection is available. Such was the case with the VNL during the summer. I am afraid you can't really access those and we just have to live with it :( What I didn't try was writing them and letting them know, maybe this can result in fixing their uploads and search algorithms.

    It's not like they can control which team to battle in the semifinal. Might as well rest the titulars and give playing time to the bench players.

    Neither USA not Brazil cared about their eventual SF opponents. And of course they didn't, a day of rest before the semifinals where you would meet a European, non-Russian team is more important than calculating. Just for the sakes of Math, when Serbia had a neutral set ration and a positive points ration, it had been 100% certain they would advance and finish second of the group. It was mathematically impossible for Serbia to top the group, no matter of the final score in ITA-POL. So even if neither USA nor Brazil cared, it had been known that the winner would get Serbia today.

    Did Italian commentators really conspire about the outcome of SER-POL instead of analyzing what went wrong with Blengini's team? That's a pity.


    Serbia didn't play that well as against Italy. Mostly they weren't as effective in defence and from the service line. The 3-0 defeat was a bit harsh, Poland didn't play much, much better, only more solidly towards the end of the sets. In fact, they finished those sets like you would expect from a Heynen's team. They looked differently in the second round, though, so I guess Kubiak is indeed an irreplaceable figure for them. Unlike USA, who are the most lethal servers (all well-functioning jump servers), to me, Poland is among the most cleverly serving teams with the largest variety of serve techniques and speed. Bieniek and Szalpuk are examples for that. History and tradition is often mentioned as a factor when opponents meet or are preferred, but recent form should play a bigger role, in my opinion. So I doubt Italy or any other team will have a walkover against Poland right now. Ask Serbia, who thought a mesmerizing straight-sets win against Italy should scare the Poles away.


    Following Wednesday's 3-0 shocker vs. Italy, Serbia may have been a bit overconfident and I hope they don't make as many mistakes till the end of the week. Serbia and Poland have a tradition of recent important, straight-sets matches between them (WCH 2014 opener, ECH 2017 opener) where tension was involved. Yes, Serbia weren't motivated enough in Varna, but they won't easily accept another 3-0 defeat against Poland.


    By the way, I always thought Uros Kovacevic to be the most cunning volleyball player of the new generation and last night's match proved it to a large extent.

    I am sorry Russia didn't demonstrate their VNL form at the WCH, it would have been really cool to watch them against this very much improved US team. True that the scoreline was unexpected, but so was Russia's form drop, too. And credits due where credits due, this is a really efficient, versatile, athletic, tactically and physically well-prepared American team. I like them even more than the team with Ball & co. that won the 2008 major events. Actually, USA could've been a serious title contenders already in 2014, after the great WL, and back then they always seemed an Argentina defeat away from making the last step. Now they can still lose it all in a single match, but this looks less likely at the moment. I believe they are ready for that last step, now that they beat Russia twice. Maybe Serbia would have most arguments against this US team, but let's see if Speraw will hold their momentum for another weekend. It's all they need.


    It was interesting to finally see another tactical match on a higher level. When you have a universal spiker like Matt Anderson you can improvise. When Anderson played on position 6, he practically stayed there throughout the entire match in that rotation (I missed the first set, but I guess they didn't change it afterwards), helped with the reception (which he already did during the tournament) and let Russell, a shakier receiver, attack from 1 (as opposite). Russell did fine in the very few situations he was set the ball from zone 1. Using Anderson in the reception line while in back row contributed to better reception and more options against Mikhaylov's serve bombs. Speraw's plan worked great and his team looks as a real threat out there. Not just because of their form, team spirit or individual skills, but also because of the splendid serving game. This is the only team at the WCH with 6 amazing jump servers who can all do damage. I also liked Sander in that match and I wish he had shown the same efficiency in the last few situations in the CL final in Kazan against Zenit where Christenson probably trusted him more than he should have, based on the fact that an almost flawless Sokolov had been waiting behind him. The real MVP yesterday was maybe Christenson.


    On the other side, Shlyapnikov made some mistakes, in my opinion. I missed the first set and I don't know what happened to Klyuka or why Volkov was taken out and Mikhaylov switched to OH. However, although Mikhaylov didn't do bad as a receiver, he wasn't also targeted as much as I thought by the Americans, yet still he is not someone that can carry the reception. Then the logical question arises - why didn't Volkov play in the second and third sets? The latter is a guy who grew a lot these past two years and the VNL title gave him extra confidence which he shows after each won point. Or even in between sometimes. Also, I don't know where to start with the decision to play with Volvich for that long. The guy did almost everything wrong and yet Kurkaev kept warming the bench on the sides. Most of all, Shlyapnikov is responsible for the form of his team, or rather for the devastating lack of such, and maybe the selection he brought to Italy.

    Very bad idea for Russia and France picking up in july for the useless World Nations League: they sucked both phisically and athletically in this World Championship. And the most ironic part is that they won VNL with a mixed A/B team. No Verbov (best russian player in this tournament), no Butko, no Grankin, no Kurkaev. :whistle:

    Exactly because Russia won the VNL with a mixed team fatigue shouldn't be counted as an excuse. The setters and Mikhaylov who got time off underperformed at the WCH. Although Maxim played in Lille and played great, actually, which makes it even stranger why he was not that effective at the WCH. Obviously, they couldn't find the right rhythm during the WCH preparation. There were only few moments when Russia came close to the summer shape. I believe the strategy to play with the youngsters in the summer and get them ready for the WCH worked, they were OK even in the past few weeks, but it was probably the more experienced players that disappointed. Which means that the head coach must've made mistakes with the selection and with the preparation in general.

    Nico

    They said Serbia – for point ratio – is already sure to be qualified, but at the same time, theoretically Italy has the chance to be first of the pool (if Poland lose 3-0 with less than 52 points...)

    So I guess – if it's all true – that Serbia is sure, while Poland not?

    Absolutely, Serbia are through! Because they have a neutral set ration and a positive points ratio. They can still finish second in the group, Italy might even top the group if they deliver a Monstar performance tonight, but Serbia cannot be eliminated.

    Italy won't even sweat to beat this Polish team. I would love to see Italy vs Brazil in the SF.

    Hmm, I don't know where this confidence comes from. Italy are, of course, capable of beating Poland in theory. However, not with the level they demonstrated against Serbia and not easily against this Poland. Don't underestimate Heynen's Poland, I posted a comment about his contribution some days ago. Although not as threatening as the 2014 WCH team, this is a very well-organized squad that plays its best volleyball since, probably, 2014 exactly.

    The level wasn't the best we've seen for a Finals but the first day surely was interesting. I am glad the question that kept bothering me for some days was briefly mentioned here, but let me emphasize on the topic more - where is the Russian team from the VNL? Not just Alekno, we all saw what they can do this summer and it was natural to name them WCH favourites. And it brings me back to an old opinion of mine that when Russia are considered favourites, they do tend to be overconfident, start slowly or somehow miraculously lose rhythm and momentun at times. The winner of the WL not always wins the major event after that, of course, but rarely the form drop is significant. Based on the US performance so far, I could accept the First Round defeat and even neglect the Serbian defeat for other reasons. But I would've never thought this year's Russia could drop a two-set advantage against this year's Brazil. Obviously, the Russians didn't either. After the relatively solid first two sets, they just stopped and probably took the game for granted. At least this is what I believe in. They made a ton of serve mistakes in the third set and invited Brazil back into the match. Yes, William was amazing and Brazil changed the strategy, but the Russian team was already gone. I am still deliberating on how such a drop of form/attitude (also compared to the VNL, not just the first two sets) is possible.


    Tomorrow's clash with the Monstars is going to be such a candy to watch!


    In the last few days, USA demonstrated a game that is worthy of a WCH final. And just when you are slowly getting ready for a RUS vs. USA final, Russia and Maxim Mikhaylov disappear, whereas Serbia deliver one of the tournament's performances. I'd rarely seen an Eastern European team defend and transition like the Serbs did tonight, kudos to Grbic and big congrats on their almost theoretical semifinal berth.


    On a note of relief, I was utterly disappointed by the Bulgarian inability to serve, mostly vivid in the First Round match against Iran (especially the legendary first set) and I thought a top team won't do that, or at least not when it matters. Well, Russia in the third set and then Italy throught the entire match actually did. So it happens to (almost) everyone, it seems.

    Ps I can't believe Heynen comment of the final6 was "I feel tired, stupid, and old: tired for the 12 hours travel, stupid because I'm the only one who can't speak his team tongue, old because I'm the only one that coached at the 2014 WCh." :lol::rolll:

    Well, Speraw was also USA's coach back then, but never mind :D


    I looked at some stats today and it really seemed like, although I didn't compare all teams and I am not prepared to comment on each teams' overall position, the Chinese did some nice work blocking at the net. In 4 of their 5 matches they outblocked their opponents, scoring some very decent numbers even against France and Brazil when they lost in 3 sets. The match against the Netherlands was the only exception, the Dutch dominated almost clearly everywhere and China stuffed them only 4 times in as many sets. So, as weird as it seems, China were among the best blocking teams in the tournament. These are just numbers, of course, and it proves how ridiculously they underperformed and disappointed even when they did fine at the net.


    Also, Salparov leads the current ranking for diggers :huh: Which doesn't speak too well for other liberos because Salparov is one of Bulgaria's weakest links at the moment. These stats sheets really show weird contribution at times, although they tend to measure the game quite well from mathematical and theoretical points of view.

    So they destroyed the World Cup (a fascinating tournament loved by everyone) and replaced it with...another tournament doing the same? RIP Vabochan, you'll be missed.

    It may have often seemed exciting (when not boring on the last few days) for the fans but it wasn't the case for the teams. I have heard more coaches complain about the format than praise it or enjoy it. Most of the complaints I know were that the formula is, I am quoting, 'a massacre'. Still, the format will probably remain.



    France, on the contrary, IMO is overrated in terms of the entire team, their captain-setter Toniutti, and their ace spiker N'gapeth. While having excellent ball control has been a long tradition for the French team, this team lacks some offensive force when compared with the other strongest teams in the world. The team is always commended for their depth in the OH positions, but indeed it's been a headache for Laurent Tillie to find out the optimal duo alongside N'gapeth. The problem started getting amplified from 2016, after Kevin Tillie got injured in WCH 2016. Prior to that, he's been a "lubricant" on court who contributes to the team's reception, defense, and also the offensive end to a certain extent. At that time, there are no obvious weak links to the French starting squad, except for Rouzier who's a bomb on the court that may explode at critical moments.


    Toniutti's setting skill is always considered the world's best. However, after several major tournaments, I've found his well-received recognition increasingly questionable. Is his setting really that precise? Is his performance stable throughout the match? The emotional vulnerability is the biggest hurdle for this French team to achieve the biggest successes in major tournaments, and Toniutti is also known for choking at big times. His lack of consistency and conservative setting style surfaces when it comes to the latter stage of an important game. Considering his overall quality by taking into account his height disadvantage, I'd rate him inferior to other setters like Bruno, De Cecco, Christenson, Giannelli and TJ Sanders.

    Now that we have some break between the matches, I will take the time to write a few lines regarding your thoughts on France. I agree with a lot you said, but still there are points worth discussing. And I will start with Toniutti because I don't quite agree with you. Is he really imprecise? Well, no more than any other top-class setter. He might have bad days, of course, but has been on a steady level for several years now, both for ZAKSA and the NT. It is not the precision of his sets, which all top setters master, including those you mentioned, that he is famous for, but rather the speed and unpredictedness of his sets and the combinations with his teammates. Albeit not tall, he is a modern setter with great ball distribution, speed, defensive skills and often decision-making. I would dare say the best of its kind. Whether he really is the best setter in the world overall is disputable. To me, in top 3 for sure. He is not a great server but surprisingly efficient at the net not only for a setter but in general for someone his height. I recall numerous situations when he blocked opponent's attackers even 1 on 1.


    Regarding the emotions on the French side. Yes, I will agree with you. Just look at Ngapeth's lifestyle and celebration with Le Roux and the rest and you will see how important it is for them to feel relaxed. Although not necessarily linked to rap moves or excessive jumping on the court after a point, emotion is needed by any team, not just France. Take Serbia, for instance, an always valid example. Grbic plays with their confidence during time-outs when things not go too well, saying to them that they are among the best in the world and that all of them are winners and champions (I am paraphrasing a bit), and yet they demonstrate confidence and emotion on their own.


    France, unlike Brazil, Poland, and Russia, doesn't have the pool of players to replace the starters or the group of 12 easily. Insanely not prone to injuries for a while, they actually were the team to beat between 2014 and 2017 perhaps. True, even in that period they couldn't start a dominance, winning "only" an ECH and 2 WLs and failing poorly at the Olympics. Still, they did great in the excruciatingly competitive world modern volleyball provides and stayed almost on top for a certain period. Drop of form, injuries, problems, developing/changing/scouting opponents will naturally affect or have already affected their game, but even so you won't really enjoy playing against France right now.

    So, question for Bulgarian users/fans: what exactly happened with V. Bratoev? Wasn't he out of the NT a while ago for not being that good overall? How is he performing this good all of sudden again?

    As I have been more or less the only active Bulgarian (fan), I will take the initiative to reply :) Yes, he was out of the NT but not because of his skills. The problem was Konstantinov's attitude, according to his own words, towards him and his brother. That's why he quit the NT and said he won't return unless Konstantinov leaves (Surprise, surprise, not the first or the last player to complain about Konstantinov). As you can see, now things seem to have been forgotten, talks were obviously initiated in both directions and everything is fine. Otherwise, I think only for a year or two around 2012 he was out of the NT because of an injury. He is a terrible receiver for a fact but a great attacker, so his skills were never questioned. To be read as "Yes, we need him!".


    Whether he has been really performing this good is a different question. He played greatly against Iran tonight but he's suffered on a number of occasions, also in attack, during the past 2 years. One doesn't need to be a tactician to see that every reasonable and self-respected team targets him from the service line. His reception is ridiculous for someone of his calibre. He was one of the reasons, for instance, why Bulgaria dropped that 2- or 3-points advantage in the tie-break in Sofia against Serbia at the VNL that led to the embarassing team morale drop and home defeats against Australia and Russia in the next two days. He has managed to compensate in attack sometimes, sometimes more often, and that is his role, after all, in the team. But I can't say his level is really great. He will move to Japan for the next season, replacing Kaziyski at JTEK, if I am not mistaken, let's hope it will do him good. He didn't have much pressure at Neftochimik in the Bulgarian league, had enough time to recover from the last injury and if not else, he was at least well-rested for the NT.


    Rozalin Penchev missed entirely tonight's match due to a minor muscle injury. Not Bratoev's form and game, but rather Rozalin Penchev's almost complete absence till now is the more important question we should ask. That's a guy who can also opt as an opposite in case the other options fail.

    Wow! What an upset. Iran just gave the pool leadership to USA by dropping 3 pts in this match.


    Congratulations to Bulgaria for a great win in Sofia! :drink:

    Well, USA had already gained the leadership in that group after the first round, so there was nothing for Iran to "give". Also, although Iran might've looked to some as favourite against Bulgaria tonight, probably because of the first match in Varna, it is usually difficult to repeat such a great performance just a fews days later. Iran weren't quite certain of new and easy 3 points against Bulgaria. Against the hosts of the tournament. And that from an otherwise very capable and dangerous Iranian team which, however, doesn't have the depth or the consistency to be a factor throughout an entire tournament. Although they have been a factor at the previous WCH or the 2014 WL, for instance, but that year was a great exception.


    I was perhaps one of the few people that expected a Bulgarian win tonight. Simply because they just can't lose twice to Iran at the home WCH. Now, I am not that certain of Bulgaria's chances against USA or then the eventual motivation and energy left for the allegedly last match vs. Canada.


    As for the match itself, I know that people preferred to watch other battles and more "interesting" teams, but if you do sometimes get the chance to rewatch it, do so. Not because it was the best volleyball encounter, albeit a relatively dramatic one, or a 5-set thriller, but because this was a match for the history books. Or at least for the volleyball theory books. Let me start by saying that Iran didn't even come close to their level from Varna. They played a terrific match against Bulgaria in the first round but today didn't show even 50% of that. This fact helped Bulgaria, of course, but still this was a match between two of the best 10, 12, or 14 teams in the world (which Iran and Bulgaria are, despite current form and status). And on that level, one of the teams, namely Bulgaria, won the match in straight sets (!) without opposites. They had opposites on paper but not only were they both useless, they actually scored points for the opposition on a number of occasions. A great team (Bulgaria has been very far from a great team in years) can still win and even take titles/medals without an explicit player on a position, but very rarely has that been the case if both opposites were useless. And they still won in three!


    It was so pathetic at times to watch the setter Seganov deliberately avoid his opposites and keep setting in 3 or 4. Bulgaria didn't play backrow attacks tonight, played at 2 only when Skrimov was there, and they still won the freaking game in straight sets! You could see the Iranians wait with double and triple block against the MB and the OHs, totally ignoring the opposites. I had never really seen anything like this before! Unfortunately for Kolakovic, Iran still couldn't block well enough to prevent those attacks. And it was mostly Bulgaria's OHs V. Bratoev and Skrimov, especially the latter with his serves, to decide the outcome of the match.


    If there was a surprise to me today, it was Slovenia's straight-set win against Belgium, obviously Slovenia learned their lesson from the comeback against the same opponent earlier on, and the Polish defeat, of course. Which puts Poland's chances in jeopardy. France's defeat isn't a huge surprise because they lost to a very motivated Serbian team, which is actually a trait for all Serbian teams in all sports. They just won't give up, no matter what.

    The start of the 2019 season was officially given after the end of the 2018 World Tour Finals in Hamburg. As usual, the 2019 calendar is far from complete or definitive, but FIVB released a preliminary list of events and dates.


    August 23-26, 2018: Siofok, Hungary - 1-star - Double gender
    August 28-September 1, 2018: Montpellier, France - 1-star - Double gender

    September 30-October 4, 2018: Qinzhou, China - 3-star - Double gender

    October 2-5, 2018: Bandar Torkaman, Iran, 1-star, Single gender – Men
    October 9-12, 2018: Babolsar, Iran, 1-star, Single gender – Men
    October 10-14, 2018: Yangzhou, China, 4-star - Double gender
    October 16-19, 2018: Bandar Anzali, Iran, 1-star, Single gender – Men
    October 17-21, 2018: Las Vegas, USA, 4-star, Double gender

    November 29-December 2, 2018: Ljubljana, Slovenia, 1-star, Double gender

    January 2-6, 2019: The Hague, Netherlands, 4-star, Double gender
    January 17-20, 2019: Visakhapatnam, India, 1-star, Double gender

    February 5-10, 2019: Fort Lauderdale, USA, 5-star (Beach Major Series), Double gender
    February 13-17, 2019: Florida (city TBD), USA, 3-star, Double gender

    March 6-10, 2019: TBC Sydney, Australia, 4-star - Double gender
    March 7-10, 2019: Kg Speu, Cambodia, 1-star, Single gender – Men
    March 12-16, 2019: Doha, Qatar, 4-star, Single gender – Men
    March 20-24, 2019: Texas (city TBD), USA, 3-star, Double gender
    March 21-24, 2019: Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2-star, Single gender – Men

    April 8-11, 2019: Satun, Thailand, 1-star, Double gender
    April 11-14, 2019: Langkawi, Malaysia,1-star, Double gender
    April 24-28, 2019: Xiamen, China, 3-star, Double gender
    April 25-28, 2019: Bangkok, Thailand, 1-star, Double gender

    May 1-5, 2019: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 3-star, Double gender
    May 8-12, 2019: Los Angeles (exact location TBD), USA, 4-star, Double gender
    May 8-12, 2019: TBC Lucerne, Switzerland, 3-star, Double gender
    May 15-19, 2019: Itapema, Brazil, 4-star, Double gender
    May 22-26, 2019: Jinjiang, China,4-star (TBC), Double gender
    May 23-26, 2019: Manila, Philippines, 1-star, Double gender
    May 29-June 2, 2019: Ostrava, Czech Republic, 4-star, Double gender

    June 6-9, 2019: Singapore, Singapore, 2-star, Double gender
    June 12-16, 2019: Warsaw, Poland, 4-star, Double gender
    June 19-23, 2019: TBC Rome, Italy, 5-star, Double gender
    June 19-23, 2019: FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championships, Samila Beach, Thailand
    June 27-30, 2019 Miguel Pereira, Brazil, 1-star, Double gender
    June 28-July 7, 2019: FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, Hamburg, Germany, Double gender

    July 4-7, 2019: Qidong, China, 2-star, Double gender
    July 9-14, 2019: Gstaad, Switzerland, 5-star (Beach Major Series), Double gender
    July 17-21, 2019: Espinho, Portugal, 4-star, Double gender
    July 17-21, 2019: Edmonton, Canada, 3-star, Double gender
    July 24-28, 2019: Tokyo, Japan, 4-star, Double gender
    July 31-August 4, 2019: Vienna, Austria, 5-star (Beach Major Series), Double gender

    August 14-18, 2019: Moscow, Russia, 4-star, Double gender
    August 21-24, 2019: Salalah, Oman, 1-star, Single gender – Men
    August 21-24, 2019: Rubawu, Rwanda, 1-star, Double gender

    Watching 2 matches at the same time is exhausting.||

    Try watching 4 at the same time, then we'll talk :D

    Russia and France's level dropped since VNL, or has the other teams' simply improved?

    There is something else that I want to point out. I mentioned at the tournament's start that it is common sometimes to start a bit "slower". It is a long event after all and you can't expose all your weapons and strength at the very beginning. That being said, I think France's level in general dropped a bit after 2017. They did fine at the VNL this year, but didn't have to travel much at all and suffered a heavy defeat in the final against Russia, probably the heaviest defeat they have suffered in a long while. Also, even during the greatest wins of 2015 and 2017, they played with an almost non-rotated, very well brought-together squad. Now they suffered some injuries, a normal drop of form, and opponents finding ways to beat them at times. So yes, it is normal for them not to be really dominating like they used to be in the past 2-3 seasons. However, they are very much alive and still have chances in this tournament, the real question is, obviously, whether Ngapeth and Boyer will endure the load.


    I didn't watch SRB-RUS and I can't say anything about the match or how both teams played. I am 100% sure Serbia did everything possible to beat Russia, a team they have often prevailed against, and gather points for the next round. I can't really say the same about Russia. Once again, this is just my opinion. I would also fancy the prospect of facing the Netherlands and Finland, and even the hosts Italy, the latter they can surely beat. I can't say Russia's level dropped since the VNL, what changed is that the starting setter is now gone, which might play a minor role (minor because they still have Butko) and that there's a 2-month gap between the two tournaments. I am sure we should see the real Russian team, the one from the VNL, in the final round. I get the feeling they didn't really need to win vs. Serbia 100%. How would you explain Grankin's appearance otherwise? 2 sets against Serbia did them just fine :) Sure, they didn't mean to lose against USA, but they might get a rematch soon.

    Exactly my thoughts! 3 wins for Russia and they will be through. I won't make a fuss about their defeat to Serbia.

    -----


    Vital Heynen might not be the most likeable person or coach in the world, even from a neutral persepective, but one can't help but appreciate his values as a coach. All his teams, and I really mean all I have watched in recent years, club and NT, are known for great game organization, transition, tactical preparation, and then eventually overall performance. He can't always win, of course, but he manages to get pretty close even with some unbalanced or limited teams/players. Honestly, I haven't been impressed with the Polish team since 2014, but it is a joy to watch them now. I am not saying they will become World champions or they will now humiliate Serbia and France, Iran and Bulgaria didn't quite match their level in the first round, to be fair, but you can recognize Heynen's signature and their overall improvement when you watch them. They can make a small mistake in Pool H and still qualify, I am eager to find out how far they can go. And especially what Heynen will prepare against France.


    Take even Kurek's rejuvenation, if I may. To me, an overall overestimated player, Kurek seems different and fits Heynen's team well. He probably will be one of the reasons they won't become World champions, but at least he seems back to volleyball life and doesn't make stupid mistakes. For which we should again give credit to Heynen.