Brazil’s Douglas Souza handles a Canadian serve in reception
Lausanne, Switzerland, June 30, 2019 – Brazil and Italy will meet in the very last game of the preliminary round in the men’s 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. The two powerhouses will lock horns at the Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brasilia at 19:00 local time on Sunday to wrap up the five weeks and 120 matches of exciting round-robin action on the road to the Final Six to take place from July 10 through 14 in Chicago.
In front of well over seven thousand spectators in the Brazilian capital on Saturday, the reigning Olympic champions kept pace towards to first place in the final standings of the preliminary round with an emphatic shutout of Canada, improving to a win-loss record of 13-1 and 36 points. While Isac Santos performed at 100% in attack and added three stuff blocks and one ace to share the top the scorers chart of the match with teammate Douglas Souza on 14 points apiece, libero Thales Hoss kept the top of VNL’s best receivers individual ranking. Brazil not only set off the brakes to Canada’s four-match winning streak, but put an end to the North Americans’ ambition to make the finals.
"Our team played some great volleyball tonight,” Brazil’s coach Renan Dal Zotto said after the victory. “We knew it would be a tough match, as Canada are good in all aspects of the game, and we were super aggressive with our serves, which helped our block-defence system. I am satisfied."
Brazil and Italy have met 66 times in major world-level competitions. Brazil won 39 of those matches, but Italy emerged victoripus from the last two - 3-2 wins at the 2017 Grand Champions Cup and the 2018 VNL.
Despite a match high of 17 points, including four aces, by Giulio Pinali, Italy lost the all-European clash with France to drop to 8-6 and fall out of contention for the finals as well. Kevin Tillie was France’s best scorer on 15 points.
In the earlier Pool 18 match on Sunday, Canada (8-6) will challenge France (10-4) at 16:00 local time.
“We will have another difficult game, and then, a few days of rest. Afterwards, we will start our preparation for the finals," said France’s coach Laurent Tillie.
Iran (12-2) and USA (8-6) will open the last competition day in Pool 19. At 17:00 local time at the Kolodruma in Plovdiv, they will face each other in a last rehearsal before the finals. With most of their top players, such as the tournament’s best scorer and best attacker Amir Ghafour, best setter Mir Saeid Marouflakrani and second best blocker Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi, resting, and with some fantastic blocking from those who took over, the Iranians disappointed the home crowd with a straight-set win over hosts Bulgaria on Saturday evening. Before that, the Americans took a come-from-behind four-set victory over Serbia.
“We are looking forward to playing Iran. They are a great team and we want to show them what we got,” said USA’s middle blocker Jeffrey Jendryk II.
Bulgaria and Serbia, neighbours both geographically and in the current VNL standings, each on a 5-9 win-loss record, will wrap up the weekend at 20:40 local time with what could be a head-to-head scoring duel between high-flying opposites Tsvetan Sokolov who put away 20 points against Iran on Saturday, and Bozidar Vucicevic who hammered out 25 against USA.
Argentina and hosts Australia will meet at the Queensland State Netball Centre in Brisbane at 16:00 local time. With Lincoln Alexander Williams top-scoring 18 points for the Volleyroos, the home side managed a four-set victory over China on Saturday to improve to 3-11, but had to wait for the news from Leipzig about Japan’s win over Portugal before celebrating their survival in the VNL for next season. Argentina (7-7) will come into their last game of the VNL season from a five-set loss to defending champions Russia, in which Bruno Lima scored a match-high of 20 points, while libero Santiago Danani was able to hold on to his pole position in the best diggers ranking.
Sunday’s VNL action will start in Brisbane at 13:00 local time with the other Pool 17 game, between China and Russia. The Russians are headed into the match on an 11-3 record, comfortably placed third in the current standings. On Saturday, Igor Philippov scored 17 times, including as many as seven stuff blocks, to become Russia’s most prolific player for the win over Argentina, while Chuan Jiang delivered 20 points for China in their 13th defeat of the season.
Poland and Portugal will close the Pool 20 weekend in Germany. Their encounter at Arena Leipzig is set to start at 17:00 local time. After claiming a four-set victory over the home team, with an 18-point contribution from Piotr Lukasik, the world champions upped their record to 10-4, staying well on track to the finals in Chicago. Rookies Portugal, however, were defeated by Japan in four sets and lost all hope of avoiding relegation. Against Poland, Alexandre Ferreira (22 points against Japan) and his teammates will try to achieve their third victory in the competition, but even that would not help them save their spot in the VNL for next season.
Germany (3-11) will entertain Japan (6-8) at 14:00 in what may turn into a scoring race between three players for a chance to overtake the top of the best scorers ranking. Japan’s Yuji Nishida and Yuki Ishikawa put away 19 and 18 points, respectively, against Portugal to stand second and third in the current chart, right above Germany’s Simon Hirsch, who made 20 points for Germany against Poland.
“We look forward to playing Germany on Sunday. There will be a lot of spectators and energy on the court. We have to play our best volleyball,” commented Japan’s captain Masahiro Yanagida.
All VNL matches are available live and on-demand on Volleyball TV
June 29 – all results:
June 30 – full schedule: