2017 Preview: Men's Club World Championship beckons
Defending champions Sada Cruzeiro, who secured their third title in four years in October, remain the dominant force in the Brazilian Superleague. In the run-up to Christmas, they defeated rivals Sao Paulo 3-2 to claim a ninth win in nine matches. Cuban-born Yoandy Leal scored 22 points and was voted MVP of the big game. Sada Cruzeiro currently have 12 wins from 12 matches.
Meanwhile, defending European champions Zenit Kazan of Russia started their quest for a ticket to the 2017 edition of the FIVB Men's Club World Championship with a dynamic straight-set sweep of Turkey's Arkas in Izmir, as the pool phase of the European Champions League got underway.
Powered by top scorer Maxim Mikhaylov (19 points) and USA's Matt Anderson, who added 14 points, the runners-up from the 2016 FIVB Men's Club World Championship in Betim overwhelmed Arkas. The win came three days after star coach Vladimir Alekno celebrated his 50th birthday.
The FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship has consistently grown in importance since its debut in 1989.
The last time the competition was held, in Betim (Brazil) in October 2016, it featured eight teams. As well as Sada Cruzeiro, Brazil was represented by another team in the form of co-hosts Minas Tênis Clube.
Neighbours Argentina sent UPCN San Juan and Personal Bolívar, who, like record winners Trentino Diatec, made it to the tournament courtesy of a wild card. The club champions from the continents of Europe (Zenit Kazan), Asia (Taichung Bank) and Africa (Tala'ea El-Gaish) were also involved.
Sada Cruzeiro won again, making them the second most successful team in the history of the FIVB Men’s Club World Championship, behind Italy’s Trentino, who have won four trophies. However, the Brazilians have set their sights on becoming the most successful team. As such, the defence of their title in 2017 is one of the goals for this remarkable team.
“This is the story of a team that works incredibly hard every day to win. And we are not at the end of this story,” said Sada Cruzeiro's coach Marcelo Mendez. The Brazilian team won in 2013, 2014 and 2016 – the only times so far that a South American team has won the prestigious trophy.
The other nine times the tournament was held, European teams emerged triumphant. Eight titles went to Italy (Trentino 4, Milano 2, Parma 1, Ravenna 1) and one to Russia (Belogorie Belgorod in 2014). Teams from Asia have finished on the podium on two occasions.
The most successful team without a title win are Zenit Kazan. The Russians have made it onto the podium four times, but have had to settle for two silvers and two bronze medals.
“It would be a dream to finally win and be crowned world club champion,” said coach Alekno.
The most successful team in the history of the FIVB Men’s Club World Championship, Diatec Trentino, who finished third in the 2016 Club World Championship, are competing in the second-tier CEV Cup this season. Their opening match in the competition is not until the new year. As such, Trentino would need a wild card to prevent Sada Cruzeiro from securing their fourth win …
FIVB Men’s Club World Championship winners:
1989 - Maxicono Parma (ITA)
1990 - Mediolanum Milan (ITA)
1991 - Il Messaggero Ravenna (ITA)
1992 - Misura Milan (ITA)
2009 - Trentino BetClic (ITA)
2010 - Trentino BetClic (ITA)
2011 - Trentino Diatec (ITA)
2012 - Trentino Diatec (ITA)
2013 - Sada Cruzeiro (BRA)
2014 - Belogorie Belgorod (RUS)
2015 - Sada Cruzeiro (BRA)
2016 - Sada Cruzeiro (BRA)
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