Thoughts on Brazil and Russia

July 25, 2009, 11:26 a.m. (ET)

We know that the Finals of the 20th edition of the Men's FIVB World League will be between 2 old, familiar protagonists: BRA and SRB. Seems fitting, as the host will draw a large crowd, ensuring a successful event, and BRA has been very sharp in this tournament, perhaps playing the most consistently good VB of any of the teams so far. 

Brazil's win over RUS was quite easy today, 3-0, with set scores of 17, 21 and 21. In some ways BRA really dominated the match and it was not really competitive. You really have to admire this team for many reasons - they have used quite a few players over the past 6-8 years almost interchangeably and with little or no drop off in performance and results - that is continuing here with 2 new starters and the good performances; they control the ball exceptionally well (led by their outstanding libero) and get good swings on many balls other teams are happy to simply get back across the net; they are fully and unequivocally committed to their system and rarely (if ever) deviate or give it up or change; they usually stress their opponent and make them try to play at their speed; they almost always have more threatening servers than their opponents, servers who can run strings of points or put the opponents in tough sideout situations; they play with the expectation to win and get pushed to perform at their best by their coach relentlessly. As I said, many things to admire!!

The Russia team that played tonight got caught watching BRA and then trying to match the BRA system and tempo and speed, it was a disaster and thus the results. Russia is a very good team - in some ways the equal of the team that played in Beijing - they do have a new setter and a new coach (not insignificant changes). 

It's part of the rally score game and the men's power world that a team can look very different from night to night or match to match. As I believe I said previously; Russia WILL be good, Brazil is good NOW. From a statistical perspective BRA out attacked RUS by a great deal, almost doubling their efficiency - no contest. 

The 2nd semi was a lot closer, though never really in doubt. SRB beat CUB 3-1, losing the 1st set 25-18, then winning the next 3 by scores of 13,21 and 25. Cuba is big, strong, physical and very young - I was pretty impressed. The USA will have our hands full dealing with this team for the balance of the quad.

I like BRA to win tomorrow, but SRB is very good and experienced enough, with great leadership to not lose sight of their own system, and a great home crowd and environment.  I think the Serbs rely a bit too much on their great opposite Miljkovic, and just don't serve and pass as well as BRA; but neither result will surprise me and it should be a great night for the sport. 

A couple other notes; the USA has both a men's and a women's team playing in the finals of the FIVB Beach event today in France; Rogers and Dalhausser for the men and Kessy and Ross for the women. Our terrific media/pr manager, Bill Kauffman will be the head Press Delegate (assigned by the FIVB) for the men's Junior World Championship in India - a nice honor for Bill and recognition of his talents and abilities. 

I would urge you to read the blog by Andrea Zorzi on the FIVB web site; he writes it regularly/daily when there is a major FIVB event - he mixes interviews with players and coaches with his own insights and analysis of the matches and other items of interest. I had the pleasure to coach Andrea for a couple seasons during my time living and coaching in the Italian pro league, back in the early 1990s. He was a wonderful player and a very bright, thoughtful human being. He writes some interesting and unique essays that I almost always enjoy reading. 

This event is being wonderfully hosted and produced by the Serbian Federation, and is an event that I would like to see USAV bid to host; perhaps in 2011 or 2012. There is a very strong American flavor to the event; in addition to  my position on the Control Committee, Tom Blue is also here as a referee delegate, and Paul Sunderland is here to be the commentator on the international feed/signal  that the host broadcaster must provide.  

Just also need to mention that sitting on the Jury table for the Control Committee is surely the singularly worst position to see the match.

Finally, was wondering why a country with the remarkable tradition of Russia would need to go outside its country to hire its national team coaches??

Really, really finally... have to acknowledge that the DOM will be playing for the gold medal at the FIVB World Junior Championships later this morning. This is a great accomplishment for the team of DOM, and especially NORCECA President Cristobal Marte - and also for the entire confederation.