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Sunday, 7 August 2016

#BetweenTheRings: Men's Indoor Volleyball Preview
Competitive field means podium finishes will be tough


Volleyball...in Brazil...what could be more exciting?  The volleyball program in Brazil is without question one of the best overall programs in the world.  The men's indoor team will be gold medal favourites, entering the event as the #1 ranked team in the world.  However, with 9 of the top 11 nations in the world qualifying for Rio, expect to see an all out war on the court throughout this competition.

The #RioRewind details on men's volleyball at the Olympics:
  • Volleyball has been contested at every Summer Olympics since 1964.  Rio 2016 will be the 14th edition of the tournament.
  • Parity has been seen throughout the history of men's volleyball.  The US and Russia lead the way with 3 gold medals apiece while 2016 host nation Brazil has won 2.  Other nations to find the top of the podium include: Poland, Japan, Netherlands and Yugoslavia.
  • Brazil is the only nation to have qualified for all 14 Olympic tournaments.  While the program struggled in the early years of the competition, they have been the most consistent over the past 3 Olympics, making the final every time.  They won gold in 2004 and finished runner-up the past two Olympics, losing to USA in 2008 and Russia in 2012.
  • Russia (combined with Soviet Union results) will be making their 13th appearance at the games.  They have found the podium 10 times in the previous 12 appearances, only missing the podium in 1996 (4th) and 1992 (7th).  
  • Speaking of consistent results, Italy will be making their 11th appearance and have made at least the SF round in 6 of the previous 10 Olympics.  Similar to Russia, Italy is the only other nation to have reached the SF stage at the past 5 Olympic Games.  However, Italy has never won a gold in the event with their best result being a silver in 1996 and 2004.
  • Rio 2016 will also mark the debut of one nation: Iran.  Mexico  will be making only their 2nd Olympic appearance.  While Mexico is not considered a threat to advance out of the group stage, Iran could be a dark horse threat.
Ok, if we look at the history of the sport over the previous 3 or 4 Olympic competitions, we should almost write in Brazil, Russia and Italy as the podium finishers right?  Considering they enter the event as the 1st, 3rd and 4th ranked teams in the world, you wouldn't be far off.  But will we see #historyrepeating in Rio?


Pool A

Brazil (1) - Ok so, as with most sports, Brazil qualified here as the hosts.  However, don't underestimate that qualification as backdoor entry.  Brazil is the #1 ranked team in the world.  They will want to make up for those back-to-back Olympic final losses and would love nothing more than to find the top of the podium on their home court.  They won a silver at the 2014 world championships but do enter this competition on a bit of a disappointment after losing the 2016 World League final to Serbia. 

Italy (4) - Speaking of the 2016 World League, Italy also comes to Rio with a bit of disappointment after losing the 3rd place match to France.  Italy has been one of the most consistent teams at the Olympics and in World League competition.  They will be looking to build on the bronze medal from London.  Italy qualified for Rio after finishing runner-up to USA at the 2015 World Cup.

USA (5) - The US have strong build up heading into Rio after winning the 2015 World Cup.  Recent success at the World League also leaves USA as a medal favourite, winning bronze in 2015 and finishing T5 in 2016.  The victory at the World Cup resulted in automatic qualification for USA.

Canada (10) - Welcome back to the Olympics Canada...it's been 24 years!  Canada last competed at the Olympics in 1992.  This will only be their 4th Olympic appearance with their best showing being 4th in 1984.  Canada suffered heartbreak to start 2016 when they were upset in the North American qualification final vs Cuba on their home court.  Not to mention to injury to Canada stud Gavin Schmitt.  Odds looked very slim for the team to be here at the end of January.  However, the team regrouped and won a spot in Rio finishing 4th in the last change World Qualifier in Japan.  They come in on a hot streak too!  They recently won Group II of the World League, earning automatic qualification into the 2017 World League.  Oh and of course they welcome back leader Schmitt in Rio!  They could be a dark horse for a podium position.

France (10) - Similar to rival Canada above, France also needed to take the long road to get here having finished 3rd at the last chance World Qualifier.  France will be quite familiar with most of the teams in their pool as well.  They finished 3rd at the 2016 World League, rebounding from the SF loss to Brazil and beating Italy.  They also have experience facing USA in World League action and beat Canada in the qualifier tournament. 

Mexico (24) - Mexico qualified for their 2rd Olympics winning the 2nd last chance qualifier tournament, beating Chile, Tunisia and Algeria.  Mexico is going to be in tough to win sets in Rio, let alone win matches, given their competition.  Mexico comes to Rio after struggling in the World League Group III action, finishing 1-5.

#TwineTime Projected Standings:  1. Brazil  2. Italy  3. Canada  4. USA  5. France  6. Mexico

Pool B

Poland (2) - The #2 ranked team in the world comes to Rio as a medal threat but have not been playing their best volleyball leading up to the competition.  At the 2016 World League, Poland finished a disappointing 3-6 record.  Luckily for them, as hosts of the Final Stage, they ended up with a T5 overall finish.  Poland did finish 1st the last chance Olympic qualifier tournament in Japan to book their spot here.  Their pool is wide open with 5 teams all having a legit shot to advance.  Poland cannot afford to slip up as they did in the World League.

Russia (3) - The defending Olympic champions will be looking for their record 4th volleyball gold medal in Rio.  They earned their spot in Rio by winning the European qualifier, beating France in the final.  Russia just missed a Top 6 finish at the 2016 World League, finishing with a 5-4 record.  They will be a medal threat once again.

Argentina (6) - Perhaps the one team in the field many are not talking about but could sneak their way onto the podium.  With attention being on South American rivals Brazil, as well as Poland, Russia, Italy and USA, Argentina could end quietly moving through the pool and into podium position.  Argentina won the South American qualifier tournament to earn their spot and come to Rio fresh off a 3-6 World League record.

Iran (8) - Looking for a complete podium dark horse?  Welcome debut nation Iran!  Do you ever remember a debut nation, in any sport, ranked 8th in the world and a team with serious podium potential?  Iran qualified for Rio at the Asian qualifier tournament, which was coupled with the last chance qualifier.  They finished 6-1 and competed against fellow qualified nations Poland, France and Canada to get here.  This is a good team!  They also finished 4-5 at the 2016 World League.

Cuba (15) - Can the upset kids strike again?  Cuba upset Canada at home to win the North American qualifier and book their ticket here.  While the Cuban women's team have often been considered a power house in the sport, the men's program has been hit and miss.  This will only be the 7th Olympics for Cuba, with their best appearance being a bronze medal in 1976.  Cuba last competed at the Olympics in 2000, where they finished 7th.  Cuba competed in Group II at the 2016 World League, finishing with a 3-6 record and missing the playoffs.

Egypt (17) - Egypt have little attention on them entering Rio but could surprise a few nations if they are overlooked.  While Pool A is stacked with equal power, Pool B is wide open and Egypt could just steal a few sets, maybe even collect a win, against their competition.  Egypt qualified for Rio by winning the African qualification spot.  They also competed in Group II at the 2016 World League, finishing with a 4-5 record and missing the playoffs.

#TwineTime Projected Standings:  1. Russia  2. Poland  3. Iran  4. Argentina  5. Egypt  6. Cuba

Knockout Stage

Quarterfinals

Brazil over Argentina
Canada over Poland
Italy over Iran
USA over Russia

Semifinals

Brazil over Canada
Italy over USA

Bronze Medal

Canada over USA

Gold Medal

Brazil over Italy

#TwineTime Medal Picks

Gold - Brazil
Silver - Italy
Bronze - Canada

Stay up to date on all the #BetweenTheRings #Rio2016 Previews below:

Welcome to Rio 2016
Women's Football Preview
Men's Football Preview
Tennis Preview
Rugby Sevens Preview
Men's Basketball Preview

Also, don't forget to have YOUR voice heard on what sport(s) you are most excited about watching during the XXXI Olympiad by voting on the #TwineTime homepage.