Brazil finished top of the Preliminary Round ranking
Chicago, USA, July 9, 2019 – The 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals has six teams who could all come away with the title in the second year of the event.
Brazil finished the 15-match preliminary phase with a VNL-leading 14-1 record – two wins more than its next closest competitor. Brazil, which is 5-0 head-to-head with the other Finals Round opponents, come into the Final Round on an eight-match win streak. While nearly perfect in the win column, Brazil was forced to a fifth set five times, showing it can bend but not break under pressure more times than not.
Brazil’s depth has been showcased throughout the tournament with each player able to step in and change the game.
“I think our strength is the group,” Brazil captain and setter Bruno Rezende said. “We have not just the starting six, but 14 players who can enter and change the game. That is our strength. Many teams have difficulties to know which Brazil players will be in front of them. We are a mix of young players with experienced players. That is our keys to make a good Final Six here in Chicago.”
Alan Souza, Brazil’s opposite, said the tournament field is strong top to bottom.
“It is difficult to put a main favourite for this Final Six because all teams have good chances,” Brazil opposite Alan Souza said. “Like Brazil, many teams are mixing young players with star players. It will be an interesting Final Six. We hope that we have a lot of confidence that we can obtain the final and be champions of the Final Six.”
Iran opened the Volleyball Nations League preliminary round with a 10-1 record with its only setback being to Brazil, then became the first non-host team to qualify for the VNL Finals by reaching an 11-2 record and an unreachable 33 points. Iran ended the preliminary round 12-3 and in second place, an improvement of five wins over last year’s inaugural VNL season’s record of 7-8.
Iran is aiming to win their first world-level title, and they are up for the challenge. But they are not looking ahead to a title match, but to do well in Pool B and its first match on Thursday against Poland.
“We come here to fight against everybody, but we have to think about the first step and the first match, not about the title,” Iran head coach Igor Kolakovic said. “We have to think about step-by-step, not so far ahead.”
Mir Saeid Marouflakrani of Iran in action against Poland in week 3 of the Preliminary Round in Urmia
Iran captain Mir Saeid Marouflakrani echoed his coach’s thoughts and said it was important for the team to get off to a good start and playing two weeks in front of their home crowds. Now, all six teams in the Finals are strong and back to a level start in the Finals.
“Actually we didn’t think about the Final Six when we first started the Volleyball Nations League,” Iran captain Mir Saeid Marouflakrani said. “We try our best. We came here game-by-game, point-by-point. It was important to play two weeks in Tehran with our supporters. Now our main goal is to play our maximum best here, but all the teams here are so strong. Nobody can say who will win the tournament. We will try our best. Our goal is to play in the final.”
Kolakovic feels the team’s ability to train together ahead of the VNL preliminary round and its ability to stay healthy was a key factor in Iran’s fast start.
“I think after the club season, some players had a really good rest and that helped,” Kolakovic said. “We started to train about one month ahead without any problems or injuries. We made good shape, and after that, especially in the beginning we played really well. After that a lot of travel and a lot of games without so much time for good practice.”
Poland’s preliminary schedule was stacked early with three straight Finals Round foes in the first four matches (defeating USA, losing to Brazil and France). Poland overcame the tough start, earning the last spot into the Finals on the penultimate day of the preliminaries. Overall, Poland finished the preliminary round in fifth place with an 11-4 round.
Karol Klos serves for Poland
Karol Klos, Poland’s 28-year-old captain, is one of two players who have Olympic Games or World Championship experience for his team in Chicago. He feels the journey to reach the Finals Round has been beneficial for the youthful roster, as well as who represented their country to get to this stage.
“It was a long journey for all 24 players on our national team because we played everyone depending on which week we played,” Klos said. “It was long, but it was a successful journey for the national team of Poland, the twice world champions. But also for the young guys who are here in Chicago with me – I am one of the oldest ones here. But for them, it was an amazing experience to get something from these games. It is also a nice journey in front us in the next few days.”