Andrea Zorzi added that France's focus on defence also impressed him
Lausanne, Switzerland, October 20, 2014 – With the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championships finishing just over a month ago, two time world champion and three-time World League winner Italy’s Andrea Zorzi shares his thoughts on a memorable tournament.
“In many ways, the World Championship was a weird tournament as it was completely unpredictable.
"Poland played a wonderful tournament and their performance levels were completely unpredictable. On the other side Brazil was considered by everyone, myself included, as the favourites. They didn’t have a great start to the season, losing a few games in the World League, but then they recovered and were one of the best teams in the world, a position they are used to being in. Their problem was they missed the consistency they have had previously, although their approach is always very good. They are pretty good in all fundamentals but they lack consistency in crucial moments. This was characterised during the World Championships in Murilo who had some physical problems. As I said I my review video, I like this Brazil team a lot because they have a good attitude. However, they aren’t as talented as Brazilian teams in the past.
"I don’t have much to add for Poland. We’ve known for years that they are a good team but they always failed under pressure to play their best volleyball. In this tournament there was huge pressure but when they won the opening match in Warsaw something changed. The pressure of playing in front of 60,000 people was big and they played really well. To begin with I thought the problem was Serbia not performing well, but they kept winning and winning and winning and in the end they played wonderful volleyball. It was great teamwork and I was also impressed by the relation between Antiga and his players. He was a player up until six months ago and he has immediately succeeded in coaching. He managed the matches perfectly and you could also recognise he is part of the dream.
"Saying that, I don’t think it will be easy for them to stay playing at this level. They have a lot of confidence and they could be better but I don’t think they will dominate as Brazil or Russia has over the last few years. They have a lot of players retiring so need to fill the gaps. This is certainly the case with as they need to find a new opposite spiker in Mariusz Wlazly.
"France were also a refreshing team to watch and for sure played their best volleyball before the last few matches. Even in the semifinal against Brazil they lost by just a few points. What I really appreciated from France is the way they play in defence. In modern volleyball sometimes we are used to seeing more physical power in blocking and attacking. It’s often cited as the most important characteristic. But France showed us that you can be a good player even if you’re not so tall and that defence is just as important and can win you games. It was exciting to see them play that way. I think the defeat in the semifinal meant they lost focus and were tired.
"Germany had an easier track during the tournament. They are also a very physical team and have Grozer who is probably one of the best attackers in the world. They deserved their bronze medal, even if it was unpredictable, but I prefer France’s style of play.
"Outside of the top finishers, I enjoyed the last two matches from Argentina. I think they are not such a talented team but improved during the tournament which is a good sign for them. I don’t know if they will have the chance to become a top team but their last run in the championship was fantastic, especially beating USA to deny them a place in the third round.
"Whilst many have said Iran were a surprise for me they were not so much. For two or three years they have played very good volleyball and their goal for this tournament was to prove they could be more consistent. They didn’t have the chance to do this so will have to show they can go right to the end in another tournament.
"Both Russia and USA failed to fulfil their potential this year.
"The US is usually a team that exploits opportunities and it was obvious they missed Rooney. They needed a spiker to replace him and although they changed a lot they were still quite consistent. I was surprised they lost to Argentina. I don’t know if victory in the World League was the reason behind their bad performance and whether there were issues with preparation. But they certainly missed one player to keep them competitive until the end.
"As for Russia, after the Olympic Games they found a way to play in focused manner. I remember their victory in the 2013 World League came from approaching it with focus especially in the back row fundamentals. In this tournament they were less focused, less determined. Even if they are physically very talented it isn’t enough if they can’t find the right frame of mind, something they failed to do in Poland.
"Italy were also pretty bad and illustrated their usual problem. Either they dominate a match and win easily or they struggle when they have to fight every rally. This is something they need to learn. It is not easy to win against every opponent unless you are ready to fight for every ball.
"Although the teamwork on display was exceptional there were a number of individual performances that impressed me as well. France’s Earvin Ngapeth and Poland’s Mateusz Mika were two standout players for me. Ngapeth is a complete player. He played perfectly in serve and attack and was a leader on the court. Mika was a surprise though. He was not considered a great player before the tournament but he played a part in some of the most important moments. They are both the right age to compete in 2018 also but time is running very fast and it’s not easy to keep playing at that level for a long period of time. I hope they improve even more but it will be a very tough fight.
"Going on from here, I don’t think one team will dominate the volleyball world as lots of teams are improving rapidly. I hope we don’t have one team that dominates.
"The atmosphere in Poland was unbelievable. It’s not a matter of just numbers. What really impressed me was everyone’s positive attitude. They were always smiling. They are a young country and they enjoy their sport but it seems they are more open and more passionate about everything. Volleyball is a sport they love more than any other country in the world.
"One thing we did take away from the tournament was the necessity of the video check. It’s a useful tool and will no doubt help officials with their decisions in the future, even if there are some improvements to be made.
"I have worked with the FIVB for many years. It was a great opportunity for me to be at the World Championships and explain volleyball to the fans. I really enjoyed doing the interviews because I liked the natural atmosphere with the individual players. What I liked a lot is that even if I am older than the current players my feeling was that when I’m talking with them there is something very natural and I enjoy that. I hope that came across in the videos."Andrea Zorzi is a former Italian volleyball star who won two FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship crowns in 1990 and 1994 as well as three World League titles from 1990-1992 where he also won the Most Valuable Player award at both the 1990 and 1991 editions. He was also a silver medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and won the 1989 European Championship in a career which spanned 325 matches. After retiring in 1998, he collaborated with a number of important Italian TV networks as well as international newspapers as a journalist.