Montreux, Switzerland, September 6, 2018 - After the second day of group matches at the 33rd Montreux Volley Masters sprung several surprises, there is all to play for on Day 3 with the hopes of every team in Pools A and B still hanging in the balance with none safely through to the semi-finals as of yet.
Hosts Switzerland contest the first game of the day in Pool A (16:30 CET) as they look to bounce back from their opening day defeat to China, knowing that defeat will all but end their hopes of progression. Their opponents are the Azzurrine of Italy, who are playing their final group match knowing that a victory within four sets or less could see them seal a semi-final place today should other results transpire in their favour.
The 18:45 CET showdown in Pool A sees China play out their last group encounter, a crunch match with Giovanni Guidetti’s Turkey, before the action returns to Pool B for the final game of the day at 21:15 CET as Brazil’s conquerors Poland look to take a huge step towards a podium finish by taking maximum points from their game with debutants Cameroon.
So what can Volleyball fans out on the Swiss Riviera and watching from around the globe look forward to on what will be a critical round of matches for all teams involved?
Drama starts early with do-or-die clash between near neighbours
With a semi-final place at stake for both Italy and host-nation Switzerland, this early encounter is a must-win game for both sides in Pool A.
Italy play out their final group match here with three points to their name so far, following an opening day defeat to Turkey in straight sets, followed by a straight set win of their own over China. Victory over the Swiss in four sets or less would put the Azzurrine on six points, which would be enough to confirm a place in the semi-finals today if China lose their game against Turkey this evening. A Chinese win in such circumstances in four sets or less would leave Italy potentially at the mercy of Turkey’s result against Switzerland on Friday. A loss for the Italians in four sets or less here would condemn them to the classification ties unless Turkey win their remaining two games.
Defeat for Switzerland would end their hopes of a place in the last four completely, so this is a must win game if they are to harbour any podium ambitions of their own. With both sides needing the win to have any chance of going through, a fast, frantic and nerve-shredding encounter is guaranteed between the two transalpine neighbours.
2. Battle between attacking talent to decide derby clash
Italy’s hopes of taking a step towards progress with victory over Switzerland will largely be pinned on the shoulders of 19-year-old starlet Paola Ogechi Egonu. Over the Azzurrine’s two games, the Opposite Spiker has already contributed 32 points, picking up from her fine form in the European Olympic Qualification Competition and the FIVB Grand Prix. It will be a direct battle between her and Switzerland’s own deadly duo of attackers which will help decide today’s game.
Switzerland’s main outlets are Opposite Spiker Maja Storck- who notched 11 points in their only match so far against China- and Wing Spiker Laura Kunzler, who managed nine. They will have to be at their best today if they are to pack a punch against an Italian defence that has notably improved since the opening day, but with Egonu’s threat almost guaranteed to plunder points for Italy, Kunzler and Storck will be tasked with fighting fire with fire to help the hosts outscore their near neighbours.
3. A clash of the titans with multiple permutations
Turkey’s vital Pool A showdown with China is not only a clash between two of the best sides in the Women’s game, but its outcome will go a long way toward shaping the final group table and determining who will proceed to the semi-finals.
A win for the Turks would see them through to the last four in the event that Italy beat Switzerland in the early match. They would do so one game to spare as Guidetti’s side still have to play out a tie with their Swiss hosts on Friday. With China having played two (coming away one win and one defeat both in straight sets), they cannot afford to lose this game or their hopes of reaching the last four will be left to the mercy of other results. A loss in the event of an Italian win over Switzerland earlier would see An Jiajie’s side eliminated. A Swiss win and a China loss would leave their hopes of going through alive, but hanging by a thread as they would need Turkey to then do them a favour in the last game by beating the hosts in straight sets, which even then may not be enough to see them qualify.
There is more at stake for China with this game being their last chance to notch an all-important second win, whilst Turkey still have another opportunity to seal progression in their final game against the Swiss, albeit in more complicated fashion. Guidetti’s team will surely be looking to do things the easy way and get the win they need against the Chinese, which will prove a confidence booster going forward. With both teams desperate to win, fans can look forward to a heart-stopping clash here.
4. Poland’s young talent set to thrill once again
Jacek Nawrocki’s Poland side announced their presence back on the Swiss Riviera with a resounding tie-break win over defending champions Brazil on Wednesday, and their young stars armed with a licence to thrill are set to please spectators both in attendance and keeping in touch with the game from around the world once more here.
The mercurial Malwina Smarzek notched a remarkable 31 points on her own to help her side to victory in their opening game, but trio Julia Twardowska, Agnieszka Kakolewska, and Martyna Grajber all got into double figures on the night. A remarkable quartet of individual performances from four players either 24 or under, although they did possess a total of 180 international caps between them going into the tie. Such experience at such a young age will only hold them in good stead going forward, and against lesser opposition in Cameroon today, they are sure to put on another spellbinding show.
5. Cameroon’s positive attitude
Despite enduring something of a baptism of fire on Lac Léman’s shores on their welcome to the tournament at the hands of Russia on Wednesday, Jean Rene Bekono Akono’s Cameroon far from disgraced themselves. Despite being unable to match Russia’s intensity throughout the course of the game, the African champions added to the spectacle with some brilliant highlights of their own. They clinched some thrilling rally points, primarily through the efforts of Middle Blocker Stephanie Fotso Mogung (three spikes, four blocks), Wing Spiker Laetitia Crescence Moma Bassoko- who chipped in with nine excellent spikes-, and captain Christelle Tchoudjang Nana (eight spikes) to keep the game competitive, particularly in a closer second set which they lost 17-25. In spite of defeat they left the court in positive mood after the match, eager to treasure and learn from the experience of playing against some of the world’s strongest, with their travelling pocket of supporters still making a noise even at the end as they had throughout the game. This positive attitude, competitive streak, determination and graciousness will surely make the Africans a fans’ favourite in Montreux once more today. They have to win to keep their hopes of a semi-final place alive, but come what may it is doubtful that it will dampen the mood in the Cameroonian camp.
Pool A, 06.09.18. 16:30 CET: Italy vs Switzerland
Pool A, 06.09.18. 18:45 CET: China vs Turkey
Pool B, 06.09.18. 21:15 CET: Cameroon vs Poland