VOLLEYBALL Preview: World Champs begin in Italy and Bulgaria

For the first time, the FIVB men’s World Volleyball Championships will be hosted by more than one country, beginning on Sunday (9th) and continuing all the way through to 30 September. The teams and sites (with the current world rankings):

∙ Group A:
Argentina (7), Belgium (15), Dom. Rep. (38), Italy (4), Japan (12), Slovenia (23)
(Rome & Florence/ITA)

∙ Group B:
Brazil (1), Canada (6), China (20), Egypt (13), France (9), Netherlands (25)

∙ Group C:
Australia (16), Cameroon (30), Russia (4), Serbia (11), Tunisia (24), U.S. (2)

∙ Group D:
Bulgaria (14), Cuba (16), Finland (18), Iran (8), Poland (3), Puerto Rico (29)

The opening round-robin will continue through the 18th of September. The second-round matches (21-23) will be played in Milan and Bologna (ITA) and Sofia and Varna (BUL). The final round (26-30) will be played in Turin (ITA).

The top four teams in each opening-round pool will advance to the second round for more round-robin play in four pools. The four pool winners and the two best second-place teams will advance to the final round-robin of two, three-team pools, with the winners meeting for the gold medal and the two runner-ups for the bronze medal.

Who’s the favorite?

Russia won the FIVB men’s Nations League (which replaced the old World League) for the first time in 2018, defeating France in the final in straight sets. The United States swept Brazil, 3-0, to win the bronze medal. So, on the betting line – and there is one – Russia is the favorite at +290, with Italy second at +425, the United States at +550, France at +600 and Brazil at +650. The biggest longshot is Egypt, at +115,000!

Poland is the defending champion from 2014, winning in front of a delirious home crowd over Brazil in the final, with Germany defeating France for the bronze medal. It was the fourth straight World Championships final for Brazil, which had won the prior three Worlds in 2002-06-10.

All-time, the USSR owns six titles, followed by Brazil and Italy with three each, then the Czech Republic and Poland with two wins each. The U.S. has won once, in 1986 and won a bronze medal in 1994 for its only medals.

Look for match results here.