Triple Serbian block tries to stop the attack by Italy’s Giulio Pinali
Lausanne, Switzerland, June 22, 2019 – Poland and Serbia will lock horns in Milan on Saturday as both sides are still well in contention, but currently below the cut-off line for the finals of the men’s 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
This all-European encounter, starting at 17:00 local time at the Pala Lido, will get the second competition day of Pool 14 going, after the two teams were on different sides of success on the first one. After an epic five-set battle with an extended tie-breaker, Poland emerged victorious over Argentina to improve to a 6-4 win-loss record and 17 points in the seventh place, while Serbia did not manage to win a single set against hosts Italy and dropped to 5-5 and 13 in the ninth.
In last year’s VNL, Serbia shut out Poland to draw the all-time head-to-head record between the two teams level, but then the Poles managed two straight-set wins over this opponent on their way to the title at the World Championship to improve to 17-15.
"I hope tomorrow we will play better,” said Serbia’s captain Nikola Jovovic after the match with Italy. “We also have to consider that for some players this is their first match, so we hope to improve as fast as we can."
Third-placed Italy (8-2, 24) of VNL’s best digger Fabio Balaso will entertain Argentina (4-6, 13) of the tournament’s best receiver Santiago Danani at 20:00.
The earliest matches of the day will take place in Pool 15 at the Rezazadeh Hall in Ardabil, where France will meet Portugal at 15:30 local time and hosts Iran will face Australia at 18:30.
On Friday, Amir Ghafour came into Iran’s match with Portugal as a sub and scored 16 points towards a 3-1 win not only to become the best scorer of the match, but also the best scorer of the VNL so far with a total of 167 points, as well as the best attacker on a success rate of 57.36%. As their team leads the standings on 9-1 and 27 points, two more Iranian players top individual rankings - Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi for blocking and Mir Saeid Marouflakrani for setting.
“All the games are difficult and we have to respect all the teams,” stated Iran’s coach Igor Kolakovic after the hard fight against rookies Portugal.
France (7-3, 22) are fifth and well on track for a spot in the finals, while 13th-placed Portugal (2-8, 7) and 15th-placed Australia (1-9, 7) are two of the challenger teams also racing with each other to avoid relegation.
Two continental derbies are set to take place in Pool 13 at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates – an all-Asian clash between China and Japan at 14:00 local time and a neighbourly encounter between North American standouts USA and Canada at 19:30.
“Playing the United States will be fun. It’s always fun,” said Canada’s captain John Gordon Perrin.
“We always have concerns with Canada so we’re going to prepare well and hope to play with some good energy,” USA’s captain Taylor Sander commented.
Perrin and his teammate Ryan Joseph Sclater contributed 20 points apiece to Canada’s four-set victory over China on Friday. With five wins and 15 points in 10 matches, Canada are within reach of the Final Six spots, while China are still looking for their second victory in this year’s VNL.
Hosts USA, also getting ready to host the finals in July, cruised to a speedy three-set win over Japan, with Taylor Sander and David Smith leading the way with 13 points each. The Americans improved to 6-4 and 19 points. Japan are down to 4-6 and 10.
Brazil kept pace with table leaders Iran to stay second on 9-1 and 25 points before their match with Germany (2-8, 6) at home in Cuiaba on Saturday. The Pool 16 game at the Aecim Tocantins will start at 20:00 local time.
Despite a good blocking effort from Bulgaria, Brazil managed a four-set victory in their encounter on Friday as Yoandy Leal Hidalgo topped the scorers with 15 points. “To start this week with a good victory is important. This positive result will motivate us to keep going in the next matches," said Leal, for whom this was the first national team appearance on Brazilian soil.
Earlier in the day, Russia’s Victor Poletaev delivered 19 points towards a 3-1 win over Germany. Even in the absence of Egor Kliuka, the tournament’s best server so far, the defending title-holders showed their serving power as Yaroslav Podlesnykh hammered four of the team’s seven aces in the match.
Saturday’s early game in Cuiaba features a duel between Russia (8-2, 23) and Bulgaria (3-7, 8), set to start at 17:00.
All VNL matches are available live and on-demand on Volleyball TV
June 21 – all results:
June 22 – full schedule: