Bangkok, Thailand, July 11, 2016 - The FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix is over for another year, but the Finals in Bangkok, Thailand offered plenty to think about as the focus now turns to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Here are a few things to take from the conclusion of the tournament.
Golden Brazil look ready for Rio
It may have taken world No.3 Brazil five sets, but they delivered an eleventh World Grand Prix title by defeating defending champions USA in an enthralling encounter.
It was not so much the win that was impressive, but the nature in which Brazil final achieved it. Five Brazilian players – Fabiana, Sheilla Castro, Fernanda Rodrigues, Thaisa Menezes and Natalia Pereira – scored in double digits while Dani Lins orchestrated the attack with some sublime setting.
Sheila, Fabiana and Thaisa formed part of the last team that won both World Grand Prix and Olympic gold in the same year in 2008. Could history repeat itself eight years later at the Maracanazinho?
USA aim to learn lessons
Defending champions USA came into their final against Brazil having lost just one match – to China – during the whole tournament. In the games they did win they dropped just two sets, a remarkable record for the world No.1.
But coach Karch Kiraly will know only one score matters, and that was the final. In the post-match press conference, the only person on the planet to have won Olympic gold in both beach volleyball and volleyball was keen to move on and learn.
“We learned very valuable lessons from this match. It's good for us to face strong opponents like Brazil. We will go back home and train harder for the Olympic Games in Rio.”
Essentially, expect the US to come out fighting in under a month when they go on the hunt for an elusive first Olympic gold medal.
Guidetti’s glorious girls make history
Less than a year ago the Netherlands completed a clean sweep in the World Grand Prix Group 2 finals, claiming the gold and earning them a place in Group 1. Back then, coach Giovanni Guidetti – who had only joined up with the team in May – said his side needed to prove themselves against the best in the world.
“If you want to get better, you have to play against the best teams. The matches against the United States, China, Russia and others will show where we stand,” he explained. “But I think this team can be world leaders.”
The 43-year-old Italian duly delivered in 2016 as he guided the side to a bronze medal. It was the world No.14’s first taste of podium success since they won the event in 2007, and puts them in a good position ahead of Rio.
The fact they overcame Olympic champions Russia was even more impressive, and we hope to see many more battle between big scoring pair Lonneke Sloetjes and Nataliya Goncharova.
Russia’s match point madness
Russia had the chance to take bronze in just three sets against the Netherlands and will be furious at the fact they let it slip an incredible four times.
The Dutch stayed in touch, but there were four match points on offer for last year’s silver medallists and on for occasions they failed to convert them into a win.
It was astonishing to watch and was arguably the point on which the match turned. Yes, the world No.4 were without some top stars, but it is a worrying sign for coach Marichev Yury who will need more mettle from his side should they reach the medal matches in Rio.
No wins, but plenty of positives for hosts Thailand
Volleyball has long enjoyed huge popularity in Thailand and despite the home side failing to register a win, the fans were in full voice.
The support for not only the home side, but also the excellent play of the visiting five teams was outstanding, with a unique atmosphere created every day. Just listen to the reaction after this Nuekjang spike.