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From August 26 to September 11, the world was volleyball. And after the amazing spectacle of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Poland and Slovenia, we now have the answers to the five questions we asked at the start of the competition.

1. Will Poland make it three in a row?

No. But they were close...

It seemed like the logical thing, following the pattern that started in the 1990s, with Italy winning three consecutive world titles, Brazil following up with another three in a row and Poland claiming the next two in 2014 and 2018. And indeed, Poland were just two sets away from a third consecutive World Championship triumph.

Backed by their incredible fans, the Polish national team once again showed their tremendous potential, even without their recovering star Wilfredo Leon on the court. They cruised through the pool stage of the tournament with straight-set victories over Bulgaria and Mexico and dropped only one set to the United States. They swept Tunisia in the Round of 16. Five-set battles followed in the quarterfinals and the semifinals as Poland celebrated victories over USA again and Brazil, respectively, to progress to the final.

In Katowice on Sunday night, the home team won the first set over Italy and had a three-point lead in the second, but that was as close as they would get to their third consecutive gold. The Italians proved to be the better team in the final, spoiled the Polish party and became the first country in history, after the Soviet Union, to claim four World Championship titles (1990, 1994, 1998 and 2022) in men’s volleyball. For Poland, the silver was their fifth medal in the competition. They won gold in 1974, 2014 and 2018, and another silver in 2006.

2. Will France win their third consecutive world-level competition?

No.

The times when one team would clearly dominate the world of men’s volleyball are clearly gone. Over the last 32 years, there has been only one period during which the Olympic and world titles were held by the same team - Brazil between 2004 and 2008. Any predictions that Tokyo 2020 Olympic champs France would be the next team to achieve this, especially after they won the Volleyball Nations League earlier this summer, proved incorrect.

Tokyo 2020 MVP Earvin Ngapeth and his teammates topped their pool in Ljubljana, after shutouts of Germany and Cameroon and a narrow five-set victory over hosts Slovenia. In the Round of 16, they had to battle it out through another five-set match, against Japan, and once again emerged with the victory.

However, they had to deal with champions-to-be Italy in a quarterfinal duel. Twice in that match, they had a one-set lead, but eventually bowed out in the tie-breaker and left the tournament.

Now we have matching world and European champions in Italy instead. This is something that has not happened in 21 years. The last three occurrences involved the same country, Italy, between 1990 and 1991, between 1993 and 1997, and between 1999 and 2001. The only other countries in history to have been world and European champions simultaneously were the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.

3. Will Slovenia finally capitalise on their great generation of players at the world level?

Yes and no.

No, because World Championship co-hosts Slovenia were hoping for their first-ever world-level podium. Yes, because, the fourth place was still a historic achievement for the small European nation.

Having made it to the gold medal matches at three of the last four editions of the CEV European Championship and to the semifinals of VNL 2021, Slovenia grabbed the opportunity to co-host the 2022 World Championship, hoping that their inspiring home fans in Ljubljana would help the team on the way to the medals.

And the incredible crowd at Arena Stozice certainly helped. At the country’s second appearance at the FIVB’s flagship competition, captain Tine Urnaut and his teammates mastered 3-0 wins over Cameroon and Germany and lost a tight five-setter to Olympic champs France to advance to the Round of 16 as pool runners-up. Another meeting with Germany lasted four sets, with Slovenia already writing history by reaching their first-ever World Championship quarterfinal. They overcame their next obstacle, Ukraine, in four sets again to find themselves among the best four teams in the world.

However, when it came to the medal matches in Poland, Slovenia’s phenomenal generation of players stopped just short of stepping on to the podium. Italy swept them in straight sets to advance to the final and then Brazil grabbed the bronze by defeating Slovenia 3-1 in the match for third place.

4. Will rookies Qatar snatch their first World Championship win?

No.

The only newcomer at this edition of the World Championship, Qatar were in a really tough pool. To hope for at least one victory when the likes of Japan, Cuba and Brazil were on the other side of the net was ambitious, but certainly not impossible, especially after Qatar had won three of their previous five encounters with Japan at continental-level events.

It did not happen, but the team from the Gulf did not leave Ljubljana completely empty-handed. They won their first-ever set at the World Championships in their second match in Pool B. In the third set of the game, Qatari middle Belal Abunabot was on fire and, delivering three kill blocks, two spiking points and an ace, led the team to a 25-22 set win. The Asian squad were not too far from repeating this feat in their third match, against medallists-to-be Brazil, when they held up through 23-23 in the second set and through 24-24 in the third before bowing out of their rookie World Championship.

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Abunabot in the middle of a three-men Qatari block against Cuba

It was still great to see the competition expand to another country, especially one so invested in the sport.

5. Who will lead the ace party at Poland-Slovenia 2022?

Oleh Plotnytskyi of Ukraine.

Volleyball fans still remember the day when Ukrainian prodigy Oleh Plotnytskyi first made international headlines with his incredible achievements from the serving line. Six years ago, when he was still a junior international, he led Ukraine to the final of the CEV U20 European Championship after a sensational semifinal win over Italy. With his serves, Plotnytskyi single-handedly turned the tie-breaker around from 13-8 Italy’s way to a 15-13 win, on the way to a well-deserved MVP award.

Now Plotnytskyi is the captain of Ukraine’s senior national team and the world again admired his serving prowess at Poland-Slovenia 2022. The 25-year-old outside hitter emerged as the best server of the World Championship, with as many as 18 aces to his name across Ukraine’s five matches. That was six aces more than second-best server Nimir Abdel-Aziz of the Netherlands, who was the main candidate to top that chart before the tournament.

Oleh Plotnytskyi (Ukraine)

Plotnytskyi’s exemplary performance, not just from the serving line, helped Ukraine on the way to a historic success. At their second participation, they finished the first phase as pool runners-up and stunned Nimir and his Dutch teammates in straight sets on the way to the quarterfinals. There, they won the first set against hosts Slovenia, only to lose the next three despite Plotnytskyi’s five aces towards the match high of 30 points.

· Watch all FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship 2022 matches are available on demand on Volleyball TV.