Dmitriy Volkov was Russia’s best scorer for the 3-0 win over Portugal on Friday
Lausanne, Switzerland, June 8, 2019 – Reigning title-holders Russia and bronze medallists USA will lock horns on competition day five of the men’s 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. The titanic clash is set to get underway on Saturday at 19:00 local time at the Ufa Arena in the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan.
This will be the second match for each of the two opponents in Ufa. On Friday, hosts Russia delivered an emphatic shutout of rookies Portugal, with a 15-point contribution from 2018 VNL Dream Teamer Dmitry Volkov, to improve to a 3-1 win-loss record in the league. At the same time, USA dropped to 1-3 after a four-set defeat at the hands of Italy. Benjamin Patch was the most prolific American player on the court, stringing up 24 points, all spikes.
“To play at home is always good,” said Igor Kobzar, captain of the Russian team. “We expect an exciting match at a completely different level. I hope we will succeed...”
United States won 10 of the last 14 encounters with Russia in major world-level competitions. In last year’s VNL, however, the Russians defeated the Americans twice in straight sets – in a preliminary round match in Italy and at the finals in France.
In the earlier Pool 6 game in Ufa, Portugal will challenge Italy at 16:00. Marco Ferreira was the team’s main point-maker against Russia, scoring 14 times, while Italy’s Gabriele Nelli hammered out twice as many against USA – 23 spikes, 3 blocks and 2 aces – to stay on top of the current best scorers ranking with a total of 85 points so far.
"I’m happy for a really good result in an amazing game against a great team, but on Saturday we will have a very difficult match against Portugal, so we have to stay focused," stated Italy’s captain Simone Giannelli.
Table leaders France will try to add a fifth victory to their impeccable record as they take on hosts China at the Beilun Sports and Arts Center in Ningbo at 19:30 local time. On Friday, last year’s VNL silver medallists took out world champions Poland in four sets, with Jean Patry once again showing off his scoring skills on the way to a 22-point haul, and libero Jenia Grebennikov continuing his great performance in defence, which brings him to the top of the best diggers ranking. China, on the other hand, recovered from their three-match losing streak to shut out Bulgaria on Friday and hope to build upon this success as they face France on Saturday. The Pool 5 hosts showed a phenomenal blocking effort with Zhejia Zhang, Libin Liu and Longhai Chen scoring 14 of the team’s 18 stuffs combined.
“We showed the best performance since the start of the VNL this year, especially in blocking, reception and attacking. I hope we can keep this performance on to the next matches,” said China’s coach Raul Lozano.
Poland and Bulgaria will meet in Saturday’s early match in Ningbo, starting at 16:00. After losing their games on Friday, they dropped to 2-2 and 1-3, respectively. Bulgaria’s Svetoslav Gotsev, last year’s best blocker of the preliminary round, reminded of his skills in the match against China, stuffing five balls to become the team’s top scorer of the match with a total of nine points. Despite falling to France, Poland outplayed their opponents in blocking. Their most prolific player of the game, Piotr Lukasik, made four of the team’s 15 blocking kills for a match total of 17 points.
"We played OK, but I have to say France did better. We are going to try to be a little bit better to win the game against Bulgaria," commented Poland’s coach Vital Heynen.
In Pool 7, taking place at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza in Tokyo, Brazil emerged victorious from a five-set thriller against Iran to remain the only team yet undefeated in the competition, next to France. To stay that way, the South Americans will have to outplay hosts Japan in their encounter set to start at 18:40 local time on Saturday. Brazil’s Ricardo Lucarelli Souza scored 20 times to top the charts of the hard-fought match, while Japan’s Yuki Ishikawa exploded with 28 points, including four stuffs and three aces, towards a straight-set win over Argentina, which brings the team up to a 2-2 win-loss record and him to the top of the current best attackers ranking.
Iran (3-1) and Argentina (2-2) will be looking to bounce back as they face each other at 15:10. Iran’s Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi impressed with 19 points, including five blocks, against Brazil, and climbed to the top of the best blockers chart, while Argentina’s Federico Pereyra, who came in as a sub during the first two sets to stay on as a starter in the third against Japan, managed to deliver as many as 18 points.
"We should not think about this match too much,” he said. “We want to focus on the next one."
"This weekend in Japan is very important for the road to the final six, but we started with a loss,” commented Iran’s Milad Ebadipour. “However, we will try to adjust our condition and get back on the winning track."
Canada and Germany started their Pool 8 weekend off with victories before facing each other in the last match on Saturday’s VNL programme, set for 19:10 local time at the TD Place in Ottawa. After the loss in their very first match last week, Canada’s winning streak is now up to three in a row. In Friday’s latest match, the hosts mastered a 3-0 victory over Australia, with Sharone Vernon-Evans leading the way on 20 points. The Germans had to persevere through a nip-and-tuck-setter against Serbia, but thanks to Christian Fromm, who made 25 points, including three of the squad’s six aces in the match, they were able to improve to 2-2.
“For our next match, we have to be better with block-defence, because team Canada will play even faster and hit harder. We had a lot of possibilities that we didn’t convert to points, so we have to improve this," said Fromm.
In a clash between the two bottom-placed teams in the standings at 16:10, Serbia and Australia will each look for their first win in this year’s VNL. Lincoln Alexander Williams’ 18 points were not enough to change the course of Australia’s game against Canada. Even captain Dusan Petkovic’s 27 points did not help Serbia sufficiently to emerge victorious from the five-setter with Germany.
“I think this was a good game,” stated the captain after the match. “We were close today and I hope tomorrow we’ll take that one step forward."
All VNL matches are available live and on-demand on Volleyball TV
June 7 – all results:
June 8 – full schedule: