Montreux, Switzerland, September 7, 2018- With the early 16:30 CET match on Day 4 of the 33rd Montreux Masters in Pool A virtually a dead-rubber with Turkey already through and Switzerland unable to qualify, attention is fixed on the two final Pool B fixtures as Russia and Poland face-off at 18:45 CET in a key encounter with the winner progressing to the last four, whilst Brazil take on Cameroon at 21:15 CET knowing that victory will see them safely through.
As Pool B veers toward a dramatic conclusion on Day 4, what do Volleyball fans out on the Swiss Riviera and following the action from home have to look forward to on a day that is sure to bring more passion, drama, action and emotion?
Russia & Poland cross swords with the highest stakes
As far as a crunch match between two traditional rivals goes, the stakes in this one couldn’t be higher.
The equation is simple: Poland enter the match top of Pool B with five points, two ahead of the Russians in third (three points). Forcing a tie-break at the bare minimum would be enough to secure qualification for Poland courtesy of the extra point, whilst Russia have no other choice but to win the game within four sets to leapfrog the Poles and qualify. Defeat for Poland would end their hopes of reaching the last four, unless Brazil lose to Cameroon without picking up a point.
A winner-takes all contest between two strong sides, and a rivalry with a potted-history. This is sure to be the game of Day 4 as Pool B reaches its dramatic conclusion and a partisan crowd at Salle Omnisports du Pierrier is expected to be in attendance to ensure this one is played out in an atmosphere fitting for the occasion.
Attacking edge to decide crunch clash
As Poland and Russia prepare to rub shoulders, respective coaches Jacek Nawrocki and Vadim Pankov will be looking to the attacking edge of their teams as the key to securing a decisive victory.
Russia have the age and experience on their Polish rivals, with an average age in the squad of 25 compared to Poland’s 22 years, and it is one of the more seasoned players in the Sbornaya squad, 29-year-old Opposite Nataliya Goncharova, leading the way in their scoring charts with 30 points (26 spikes, three blocks, and a lone ace).
All in all there are five Sbornaya players who have reached double figures over the two matches they have played thus far the quartet alongside Goncharova being Irina Fetisova (19 points), Kseniia Parubets (18 points), Irina Zaryazko (16 points), and Irina Voronkova (13 points). Though there is a balanced blend of youth and experience having a positive impact for Pankovs side, for out of those four, three of them are 24 or under. More interestingly so, Middle Blocker Irina Fetisova actually celebrates her 24th birthday today. She will be determined to make it a happy one as her team bid to get the win they need to secure a semi-final spot, and Fetisova herself will surely look to be a standout performer.
Much excitement from this contest will stem from the clash between Russia’s ‘Fab Five’ and Poland’s own quintet of attacking talent. 22-year-old Opposite Malwina Smarzek is the leading individual scorer out of both sides, with 31 points from just one match, notching her entire tally over five sets in the win over Brazil, before being rested for Poland’s win over Cameroon. Middle Blocker Agnieszka Kąkolewska has proven more than an attacking threat as well as a defensive colossus at the net, with seven blocks, 14 spikes and four aces to mark a total 25 points in two games, whilst Martyna Grajber, Julia Twardowska and Martyna Lukasik have notched 22, 21 and 15 points over the two fixtures they have played respectively. Whichever attack can exert the most influence on the game will go a long way toward deciding which of these exciting sides will come out on top and stay in the hunt for a medal.
Brazil set to thrill in must-win game
Given that both of their nearest rivals in Pool B play each other in the final round of matches, Brazil go into this game aware that victory in straight sets against a so far winless Cameroon will guarantee a semi-final place.
Having been narrowly edged by Poland in a five-set classic last time out following a thrilling opening win over Russia in four sets, Brazil take to the court once again and will look to put on a show for those in attendance and watching live back home or around the world.
And they have more than enough attacking talent in their array of resources with five players having accumulated double figures individually. The combined tallies of this quintet of Gabriela ‘Gabi’ Guimaraes, Rosamaria Montibeller, Drussyla Costa, Fernanda ‘Fe Garay’ Rodrigues and Ana Carolina ‘Carol’ da Silva add up to a monumental total of 129 points. Gabi and Rosamaria actually make up two of the three leading points scorers at this year’s Masters, joined by Italy’s Paola Ogechi Egonu.
Turkey aim to top Pool A with three wins from three
Giovanni Guidetti’s Turkey may already be sure of their semi-final place, but the Italian mastermind will want his team to put in a strong performance in their final group match with Switzerland to not only go into the last four as group winners but maintaining their momentum, form and confidence.
With Switzerland yet to win, one may expect the Turks to put on an entertaining show in attack, but Guidetti may well opt to rotate his side to give some of his fringe players a chance centre stage with one eye already on Saturday’s semi-final. Even if he does take up this option, his younger stars will undoubtedly be keen to make the most of their opportunity and impress their coach, but whether the Swiss could potentially take advantage of the Turks not starting full strength remains to be seen. A lot will depend on how Guidetti lines up his team, but he will demand the same high standards nonetheless whether the tie proves largely one-way traffic or a far tighter encounter.
Can Cameroon bow out of group stage on a high with first win?
Debutants Cameroon have found their first Montreux Masters to be a steep learning curve, though credit is due to Jene Rene Bekono Akono’s side, who have taken a positive attitude toward playing against some of the world’s best whatever the result may be.
In truth, they have more than played their part in making their encounters entertaining despite their failure to win a set, engaging in some quite remarkable rallies and demonstrating their attacking prowess with a trio of players having hit double figures, including captain Christelle Tchoudjang Nana (24 points), Laetitia Crescence Moma Bassoko (19 points), and Stephanie Fotso Mogoung (16 points). Nine points shared between the trio have come from block points, which also shows an ability within the team to persist with defending even in the midst of an opposition onslaught.
Defending champions and World Number Four seed Brazil are going to prove stern opposition once again with their wealth of riches in attack and defence, but Cameroon will approach the game with the positivity and determination that has been so typical of their performances so far, and aspire to take that forward into their classification match on Saturday.