It is time for the final stretch. It is down to the last four. The semifinals of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship 2022 will be played on Saturday and, by the end of Sunday, the new world champions will have emerged.
Poland vs. Brazil and Italy vs. Slovenia in penultimate battles
Published 09:00, 09 Sep 2022
It is all back to the Spodek Arena in the city of Katowice, where hosts Poland will take on Brazil in the first semifinal on Saturday at 18:00 local time (16:00 GMT). Three hours later, co-hosts Slovenia will face Italy in the other semifinal. The medal matches on Sunday will have the same starting times.
Poland v Brazil
The two teams that met in the final matches of the previous two editions of the World Championship will now lock horns a step earlier, in the semifinals. They have both reached this stage of the tournament unbeaten. Poland topped Pool C, dropping a single set to the United States. Then they shut out Tunisia before engaging in a five-set quarterfinal battle and defeating the Americans for the second time in the competition. Brazil, on the other hand, finished first in Pool B, after losing two sets to Cuba. In the Round of 16, they disposed of Iran in straight sets, and in the quarterfinals, they knocked out Argentina in four.
In terms of the individual statistical rankings, Brazilian outside hitter Yoandy Leal is the current leader in the best attackers chart of the tournament, as well as the main candidate for becoming the best scorer of the World Championship as he is now second on 93 points, only two short of Dutch opposite Nimir Abdel-Aziz, who is no longer in the competition. Poland’s middle Mateusz Bieniek is second in the best blockers chart, but is also likely to take the lead as he is just stuffs short of leader Agustin Loser of Argentina's record in the competition. His teammate on the outside, Kamil Semeniuk has the best shot at topping the best servers ranking, but he will need to produce at least eight aces across two matches to catch up with Ukraine’s Oleh Plotnytskyi. At the same time, Brazilian libero Thales Hoss leads the best diggers chart and is likely to finish top of the best receivers' table.
Poland and Brazil will meet for the 65th time at a major world-level tournament. Brazil won 42 of the previous 64 matches. Their most recent encounter took place in the Preliminary Phase of the Volleyball Nations League 2022 and finished 3-1 Poland’s way. Brazil have played in a total of six World Championship finals (including the last five) and have won the title three times. Poland are three-time world champions too. They beat Brazil in both the 2014 and the 2018 trophy matches and lost to the South Americans in the 2006 final.
Italy v Slovenia
Saturday’s semifinal between Italy and Slovenia will offer a remake of last September’s CEV European Championship final, when the Italians claimed the continental title after a tight five-set battle. Italy have yet to lose a match at this World Championship. They won Pool E after three straight-set victories. Then they dropped a set against Cuba in the Round of 16 and finally knocked out reigning Olympic and VNL champions France in a five-set quarterfinal battle. Slovenia finished runners-up to France in Pool D, after losing their direct clash in a tie-breaker. Then they achieved 3-1 wins over Germany and Ukraine to make it to their first World Championship semifinal in history. As they make the trip from Ljubljana to Katowice, they will lose the home court advantage they have had so far in the tournament, but are sure to have a large number of their fantastic fans following them to Poland to continue offering their support from the stands.
Slovenian outside Klemen Cebulj is just seven points behind Leal in the best scorers ranking, and nine points behind in spiking points, so he holds a good shot at making it to the top of these charts by the end of Sunday. Italian playmaker Simone Giannelli is quite likely to top the final ranking for best setters, where he is now second to Argentina’s Luciano De Cecco, while his teammate, libero Fabio Balaso shares the first place in the best diggers chart with his Brazilian counterpart Thales.
Italy won their first World Championship encounter with Slovenia in four sets, four years ago, when they met in the first pool stage of the 2018 edition. After that, they met twice at the world level, both times in the VNL, and exchanged straight-set victories - Slovenia won in 2021 and Italy celebrated a victory earlier this summer. While Slovenia have progressed to the semifinals of the World Championships for the first time, Italy are looking to add a fifth medal to their record of three golds and a silver. However, they have not played in a World Championship final since 1998.