Lausanne, Switzerland, July 6, 2019 - With the Men's Finals of the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League set to be played in Chicago, USA from July 10-14, FIVB.com editors Anna Tomas, Constantine Dimaras and Nikolay Markov predict which teams will claim the medals next week. You can read their thoughts ahead of the Preliminary Round here
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Constantine DimarasA long-standing FIVB writer and media delegate based in Greece, Constantine Dimaras first started contributing to the international federation's website in 2006. Favourite memories include covering the 1986 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship in France and working for the Olympic News Service at the Athens 2004 Olympics.
Hosts USA are expected to line up their top guns to play in front of a home crowd, but they should be challenged by defending champions Russia who are also thought to be bringing on some of their star players that sat out the VNL pool play tournaments.
But one of last year's medallists will have to be eliminated of this year's medals round, as Russia, France and USA are all in the same pool in Chicago.
The other pool features Brazil, Iran and Poland. Iran, the only representative of Asia in this event, are also hungry for a world title - and they've pointed this out in previous comments - but their clash against long-time rivals Poland is one to watch out for.
The other question is, can Brazil who missed out on a medal last time around in Lille reach Rio 2016 Olympic heights again?
Once again, it will all be down to how the coaches, who will always have the upcoming Olympic qualification tournaments for Tokyo 2020 in the back of their minds, manage their human resources in this quick and intense Final Six, which includes the always very tricky three-team pools in its first phase.Nikolay MarkovA Bulgaria-based volleyball, beach volleyball and snow volleyball journalist, Nikolay Markov is an fivb.com editor since 2012. In 2008 he founded BugarianVolley.com and later worked at the CEV and the BFV. Since 2011 he has been in charge of media communications at VC Maritza Plovdiv. He played some volleyball at college level in the United States and at amateur level in Bulgaria.
Unlike my approach to the women’s competition, for the medallists of the men’s 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League I will make some changes to my pre-season prediction. Having found out that not all of France’s big stars will be able to travel to Chicago, I am taking my original favourites off the podium. In this situation, my expectation is: gold for USA, silver for Brazil and bronze for Iran.
The United States rotated their squad a lot during the preliminary round and did not reveal their full potential. Still, even though they were automatically qualified as hosts, the Americans managed to finish in the top six and deserved their place in Chicago on sporting merit as well. I would be concerned whether or not USA’s core team, which has trained a lot together, but has not played together in any official matches this season, will be cohesive enough and ready for the challenge of the Final Six, but then I guess coach John Speraw knows best what’s best for the team. The home court advantage should also help push the hosts all the way to the top.
Brazil were the most consistently performing team throughout the preliminary round. They lost only one of 15 matches played and took a well-deserved first place in the standings. With even more potential to reveal, the South Americans can be considered as the main contenders for the title, but since that’s already “taken” I am putting Ricardo Lucarelli and his teammates in the second spot on the podium.
Throughout the preliminary round, Iran have shown that this year they are a major force to be reckoned with. They finished second in the standings and allowed defeats (other than the five-set loss to Brazil) only when some of their main starters were given some rest. With the preliminary round’s best setter Mir Saeid Marouflakrani and best attacker Amir Ghafour in action, I expect them to use this momentum in reaching the semifinals and most likely the medals.Anna TomasA sport information specialist based in Manila, Philippines, Anna Tomas worked as a volleyball specialist at the 2006 Asian Games and 2008 Olympic Games and has been an FIVB.com editor since 2013 and a media delegate for AVC and FIVB competitions. One of her favourite memories is of the thousands of fans who flocked to Katowice to support Poland in the final of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship.
Russia, Poland and France were my top favourites to win the 2019 VNL but Brazil and Iran came up with the most surprises this year. Between Brazil and Iran, Brazil would have an advantage heading down the home stretch to the men’s VNL final.
Yoandy Leal was a great addition to the roster and with the brilliant performances of Ricardo Lucarelli after coming off an injury, Brazil are back in the game. Not only that, the depth of their roster gives coach Renan Dal Zotto the luxury of experimenting with his starting six, but almost always delivering the same winning result for the South American team.
Russia, even without stars Maxim Mikhaylov and Dmitriy Muserskiy, have stayed on course for a title defence, relying on the likes of Egor Kliuka in the first two weeks of competition. The high-flying and hard-hitting Victor Poletaev succeeded Kliuka in spearheading the Russian offence, eventually paving the way for the other players to contribute and secure the Final Six spot.
France has proven many times that they can never be counted out of the picture. They hit a rough patch along the way, but they have always managed to come back stronger. Their experience playing in many final rounds gives them an edge and a great perspective of turning things around in their favour.
The 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals in Chicago will take place at the Credit Union Arena 1 from July 10 to 14. Six teams are qualified including hosts USA, Brazil, Iran, Russia, France and Poland. Olympic champions Brazil and world champions Poland meet in the first match on July 10 before hosts USA take on last year's runners-up France. The pools are played over three days before the semifinals on Saturday and the medal matches on Sunday.Related article:Men's VNL Final Six lineup: How it all unfoldedMen's VNL – Who are your breakout teams in 2019?