There's a brand new situation at the 2021 FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League as Week 2 wrapped up on Saturday with intriguing results that have the standings in turmoil.
It's all go at the VNL as men prepare for Week 3
Poland in charge with unstoppable Leon; Brazil bring Serbia crashing down; France on rebound
Published 12:03, 06 Jun 2021
Brazil's victory over Serbia, Poland's upset of Russia and France's rebound win over Japan have all shaped the table, creating huge anticipation for the remainder of the League Round.
But wait at least until the clash, on the closing day of Week 3, between Poland and Brazil - a rematch of the last two World Championships that could have a huge impact on this year's VNL.
Wilfredo Leon was unstoppable on Saturday as he fired away 25 points in four sets, including 7 of his team's 12 aces to bring reigning world champions Poland back from a set down for a 3-1 win over VNL defending champions Russia.
Russia coach Tuomas Sammelvuo tried to react midway through the third set with a couple of substitutions, including bringing on setter Igor Kobzar for Pavel Pankov and Denis Bogdan for Egor Kliuka on the outside - but it never worked.
In addition to Brazil, Poland will face Bulgaria and the Netherlands when they return for Week 3.
And Brazil put an end to any aspirations Serbia may have had after the previous night's win over France.
The reigning Olympic champions' front line caused havoc in attack, with Alan Souza at 63% (17/27), Ricardo Lucarelli at 64% (14/22) and Douglas Souza at 57% (17/30). Douglas added four blocks and an ace to his tally for a match high of 22 points.
Brazil play the Netherlands and Bulgaria before they face off with Poland in Week 3.
France avoided back-to-back defeats after surviving five intense sets of dealing with Japan's defensive skills.
With a changed lineup compared to the one against Serbia in the previous night's defeat, including Antoine Brizard taking up setting duties, France twice came from a set down to eventually prevail in five.
Though Yuki Ishikawa registered the match high of 25 points, France had a more balanced distribution in the scoring with Jean Patry rising just above the pack at 19.
This keeps France very much in the race for a Final Four spot, ahead of them coming up against Russia, Slovenia and Canada in Week 3. Japan, who next week face Australia, Italy and Argentina, are now at 3-3.
Further down the table, USA made short work of Australia in straight sets - but the 2019 silver medallists have some catching up to do in Week 3, when they take on Iran, Germany and Serbia.
Iran, however, jumped up the standings after grabbing their fourth win in six matches, overwhelming Bulgaria in straight sets - though in the second they had to come back from 22-24 and cancel a total of eight set points before Meisam Salehi made the last kill that gave Iran a two-set lead.
Bardia Saadat was way above the rest in scoring with a match high of 17 and an impressive 71% (15/21) attacking efficiency - but it was the entrance of Saeid Marouf in the second set that kept Iran going.
In other VNL action on Saturday, Argentina are gradually getting back on track with a full squad as they recorded their second win of the tournament - a straightforward 3-0 affair over the Netherlands.
The match high in this game, though came from the Netherlands' Nimir Abdel-Aziz who scored 22 points to regain top spot in the best scorers list of the tournament, ahead of Russia's Maxim Mikhaylov and Serbia's Marko Ivovic.
Argentina will now be coming up in Week 3 against Italy, Australia and Japan in an opportunity to cover lost ground. But the Netherlands will have tougher tasks against table leaders Brazil and Poland before meeting Bulgaria.
And Germany put an end to Slovenia's three-match winning streak after coming back from a set down with captain Christian Fromm taking control of the situation in the scoring department at 20 points.
It will not be an easy Week 3 for Germany who are to face Serbia, USA and Iran. And Slovenia too have some challenges ahead when they take on Canada, France and Russia.
Italy, finally, arrived at their second win of the tournament, narrowly surviving a Canadian comeback from two sets down to force a tie-break.
Italy put up some strong blocking that yielded 18 points (5 each from Lorenzo Cortesia and Leandro Mosca) to counter Canada's ferocious serving.
Italy now have Argentina, Japan and Australia ahead of them in Week 3, while Canada will be facing Slovenia, Russia and France.