As the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship 2022 unfolds from September 23 through October 15 in the Netherlands and Poland, volleyball fans expect to find the answers to the many questions they have been asking themselves ahead of the big quadrennial competition.
Five questions asked ahead of Women’s World Championship
Published 09:00, 22 Sept 2022
1. Will Serbia repeat their historic success from 2018?
Serbia will play at Netherlands-Poland 2022 as the defending world champions. Four years ago in Japan, they won the Women's World Championship for the first time. Claiming their first title was a difficult task in itself. But defending it will probably be even more difficult and, in this case, that is not just a cliché.
Some of the big stars of Serbia’s golden generation like Milena Rasic, Stefana Veljkovic and Tijana Malesevic have now retired. The good news is, there is plenty of talent eager to replace them – Mina Popovic, Maja Aleksic, Katarina Lazovic, Sara Lozo, to name a few. Even without some of their top players, Serbia managed to earn Volleyball Nations League bronze earlier this year, but now 2018 MVP Tijana Boskovic will be back on the squad to make it even stronger for the World Championship. However, prominent playmaker Maja Ognjenovic will not be part of the team at Netherlands-Poland 2022.
Another key factor could be the change of coaches. After two decades at the helm, Zoran Terzic, who developed the team to make it one of the best in the world, was replaced by Daniele Santarelli. The good news is, Santarelli is also a great coach and has proven that by leading Italy’s Prosecco Doc Imoco Volley Conegliano to great heights in women’s club volleyball.
Not any less important is the fact that Serbia’s competition has grown stronger. After their 2018 triumph, Serbia also triumphed at the 2019 European Championship, but they have not earned any other gold medals since. In 2021, however, they took Olympic bronze and EuroVolley silver. Currently, Serbia are ranked fifth in the world, behind USA, Brazil, Italy and China.
2. Will Italy continue their rise and claim a third big trophy in a row?
Despite their third place in the current FIVB World Ranking, Italy are arguably the strongest team in the world right now and the biggest favourites to win the 2022 World Championship title.
The main argument is Italy’s triumphs at the last two major international competitions they participated in, the VNL 2022 and EuroVolley 2021. And it was not only that they won these tournaments, but also the way they performed on the way to those successes. At the VNL Finals, the Italians dropped only one set against some of the world’s best teams. The question is will their appetite for victory take them to the top of volleyball’s premier tournament and a third consecutive trophy?
Moreover, head coach Davide Mazzanti has brought the exact same line-up of 14 players to Arnhem who won the VNL title at the Finals in Ankara earlier this year. The roster is, of course, highlighted by phenomenal opposite Paola Egonu, currently considered by many the best player in the world.
The recent exploit by their male counterparts at the Men’s World Championship will undoubtedly serve as additional inspiration for the Italian ladies, who will try to match the men’s success. Overall, it has been a great year for Italian volleyball so far. Riding the momentum after both senior national teams won the European Championships at the end of last season, this season Italy won the women’s VNL, the men’s VNL Preliminary Phase and all five of the various age-category European Championships completed so far (U22 Men, U21 Women, U19 Women, U18 Men and U17 Women), as well as the European Youth Olympic Festival in both genders.
3. Will Olympic champions USA reign supreme again?
It has been 20 years since the same team held both the Olympic and the world titles at the same time. Cuba did so between 1994 and 2002. Before that, it was a frequent occurrence with Japan, the Soviet Union and China dominating the world of women’s volleyball.
Now it is the United States who have the opportunity to call themselves Olympic and world champions simultaneously.
The Americans were quite emphatic last year when they won Tokyo 2020 gold without losing a single set in the knockout rounds of the tournament in the Japanese capital. However, at least four key players from their Olympic champions’ squad will not be part of Karch Kiraly’s team as USA battle for their second world title at Netherlands-Poland 2022. Tokyo 2020 MVP Jordan Larson will certainly be missed. So will Kimberly Hill, Foluke Akinradewo and Tokyo Dream Teamer Michelle Bartsch-Hackley.
It will still be a stellar team though. The other two Tokyo Dream Teamers, libero Justine Wong-Orantes and middle blocker Haleigh Washington are on the World Championship roster in the company of stars like Kelsey Robinson, Andrea Drews, Chiaka Ogbogu and many others. With a very similar line-up, USA topped the VNL Preliminary Phase standings earlier this summer, winning 11 of their 12 games, and left the competition only after a hard-fought five-set loss to reigning world champions Serbia in the quarterfinals, enough to keep their number one spot in the World Ranking.
4. Will rookies Colombia achieve a historic first World Championship win?
Colombia are the only team to make their World Championship debut at the upcoming 2022 edition and fans will be interested to see how they perform.
Despite their underdog status, the Colombians will certainly do their best to advance to at least the second phase of the tournament, but even if they just score one win, it will still be a historic achievement for their nation. For comparison, two of the other participants at Netherlands-Poland 2022 managed to claim first victories during the previous edition of the World Championship. Kenya were already making their sixth participation, and Cameroon their third.
It will not be an easy challenge for the South American rookies as they share Pool D with Brazil, China, Japan, the Czech Republic and Argentina, but to raise their hopes, the Colombians (16th) are above the Czechs (19th) and the Argentineans (22nd) in the World Ranking. And let’s not forget that to qualify for the World Championship, Colombia beat both Brazil and Argentina and finished runners-up at last year’s South American Championship.
5. Who will be the best scorer of the World Championship?
One of the key rankings during any tournament concerns the best scorers. The upcoming World Championship will be no exception, especially with so many candidates with enough scoring prowess to join the race for the top of the chart.
Undoubtedly, 23-year-old Italian opposite Paola Egonu is among the favourites. She tallied 324 points to top the table at the World Championship in 2018. So now she could be in a competition with herself to raise another question for the fans – can she improve on her own achievement from four years ago? Since 2018, Egonu has been the best scorer of a number of competitions, including the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship and EuroVolley 2019.
Serbia’s Tijana Boskovic is another clear contender. The 25-year-old opposite led the scorers’ chars at Tokyo 2020, EuroVolley 2021 and Champions League 2017, among others.
The point-making race between Egonu and Boskovic could be made even more exciting if it is joined by typical high scorers from other teams like Belgium’s Britt Herbots, Türkiye’s Ebrar Karakurt, Brazil’s Gabriela Guimaraes, Poland’s Magdalena Stysiak, USA’s Annie Drews, Japan’s Sarina Koga, China’s Li Yingying, the Dominican Republic’s Brayelin Martínez, Croatia’s Samanta Fabris, Thailand’s Pimpichaya Kokram, Canada’s Kiera Van Ryk and many others.