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Sunday, February 25, 2018

The volleyball throne in dispute

Por Fidel Orihuela

Between the tenth and the thirtieth of September, 24 male teams will fight for the FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) World Championship, to be celebrated in nine different cities of Bulgaria and Italy, countries that will have the privilege of co-hosting a Championship, for the first time in history. A total of 134 countries participated in the classification, in which neither the hosts nor Poland, winner and host of the last tournament, had to compete to participate.

In 2014, the European team defeated Brazil in 4 sets and got the second title in the history of the Polish selection, with a relevant player like Mariusz Wlazly, who was selected the MVP of the competition. Almost four years later the Polish team is still a strong one and it can be even stronger if they finally add the Cuban Wilfredo Leon, considered to be one of the best three players of the world, to their roster. The powerful attacker has been out of Cuba for many seasons now and he has been available after the Caribbean country decided not to let him play for its team. Poland is the one team that has shown the most interest in him but there is no certainty in whether the International Federation will allow him to be a part of that team in 2018 or 2019.

Either way, Poland is coming to the tournament looking to get even after being eliminated by the United States in the last Olympics celebrated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2014. Precisely, the North American team is clearly one of the favorites to win in its fifteenth time attending the championships. They were the winners of the NORCECA Men's Volleyball Championship in which the other countries that classified were Dominican Republic, Canada, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Other teams that will show resistance are Brazil, and Argentina, the last one with a significant advance over the last years. However, the European teams will try to win the tournament and leave the prize in the Old Continent again for the second time in the last two decades. Since Italy won for three times in a row (1990, 1994 y 1998), the Europeans have not achieved the same feat. We will have to pay special attention to the teams of Serbia, Holland, Slovenia, Finland, Russia, France, Belgium and the two hosts, Italy and Bulgaria, without forgetting Iran, a country that has stabilized a team with good results. Other participants will be Egypt, Australia, Tunisia, China, Japan and Cameroon.