There's some nagging questions awaiting answers with the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League about to begin in Lille on Wednesday.
Lille, France, July 3, 2018 - With the Final Six of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League just round the corner, set to start Wednesday evening in this northern France city right on the border with Belgium, there's some nagging questions awaiting answers, just before Russia and Poland kickstart the event in the magnificent Stade Pierre Mauroy.
These questions will get their answers through the five-day tournament, so stay tuned and check back here for all the answers at the end of the competition.
Can hosts France ride on the momentum they built up in pool play to thrill their home fans in the finals?
Despite being assured of their place in the finals since the outset, as hosts of the event, France have been on a roll throughout pool play. France finished top of the table with three defeats in 15 matches and plunge into the finals against Rio 2016 Olympic champions Brazil, hoping to repeat their pool play straight-set win in Varna. But as coach Laurent Tillie said, "you can lose or win against any team."
Can the most decorated team in the Final Six lineup set a new trend in this inaugural VNL?
Russia have won more titles than anyone else in the Final Six of the VNL, including (also as Soviet Union) four Olympic golds and six FIVB World Championship titles. The reigning European champions have done exceptionally well in pool play. Question is, can they keep it up in the Final Six when they kickstart the event against Poland on Wedneday? If they manage to take it all the way, it would be their first world title since the 2013 FIVB World League.
Can anyone else join China's Jiang Chuan, Italy's Ivan Zaytsev, Serbia's Aleksandar Atanasijevic and Australia's Paul Carroll in the 'Over 30s Club' of the VNL?
The four are the only players to have scored 30 or more points in a single match so far in the 2018 VNL. They are led by Jiang, who bagged 37 points in China's 3-2 win over France in Lodz, exactly one month ago to the day. Of these players, only Atanasijevic will be present in Lille to bear the brunt of the scoring for Serbia.
Serbia's Aleksandar Atanasijevic beats the Iranian block of Morteza Sharifi and Ali Shafiei in Tehran. The 26-year-old is the only player amongst those in the finals to have socred more than 30 points in a single game at the VNL.
Can Wallace De Souza keep up the scoring for Brazil to top the overall scorers' table?
The 31-year-old opposite has scored 215 points in 15 pool play matches for second place in the scorers table, 58 short of China's Jiang Chuan who leads with 273. Although no one can match Jiang's per match average, Wallace can reach the top on absolute numbers if he scores 15 points on average (considering Brazil play the maximum possible four matches in the Final Six).
Can Russia's Dmitriy Muserskiy retain his incredible 68% attacking efficiency?
The 29-year-old had 145 kills in 213 swings for 68.08% during pool play and leads the best attackers of the competition by a mile. Second best from the participating teams in the Final Six is USA's Matt Anderson on a 'mere' 54.62% (136/249). Muserskiy is also the best blocker amongst the players still in contention, with .52 stuffs per set (26 in total) for fourth place in the overall blockers' table which is led by Bulgaria's Svetoslav Gotsev on .60 stuffs per set (36 in total).
Russia's Dmitriy Muserskiy gets over the German block of Moritz Reichert and Marcus Boehme in pool play action at the VNL.
Can Earvin Ngapeth keep creating havoc on opponents' reception from the service line?
France's 27-year-old outside hitter has served 17 aces throughout pool play to lead the overall servers' table on a .31 average per set. Of the participating players in the Final Six, Anderson is next on .30 (also 17 in absolute numbers) followed by Wallace on .28 (16 in total).