Questions answered as thrilling VNL concludes
Russia celebrate with gld medals and trophy at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Lille - their first world title in five years.
Can hosts France ride on the momentum they built up in pool play to thrill their home fans in the finals?
Partly. France did ride on the momentum up until the last match of the competition, topping their pool and doing away with USA in a thriller of a semifinal. But only until they came up against the might of powerful and very physical Russia in the final, on Sunday evening - and could find absolutely no way of stopping them.
On the other hand, France did thrill their home fans, who created a wonderful atmosphere in the magnificent, state-of-the-art Stade Pierre-Mauroy of this northern France city - one of the most memorable moments being the singing of La Marseillaise before the start of each of the hosts' matches.
France thrilled the crowds at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, despite the disappointment of missing out on gold.
Can the most decorated team in the Final Six lineup set a new trend in this inaugural VNL?
Indeed! Russia, who had won more titles than anyone else in the Final Six of the VNL, including (also as Soviet Union) four Olympic golds and six FIVB World Championship titles, delivered in truly dazzling fashion.
After doing exceptionally well in pool play, the reigning European champions carried on through the finals, dropping just one set on the way (to Poland in their opening match of the Final Six), to cap it all with a blinding sweep of hosts France in the grand final.
This is the first world title for Russia since the 2013 FIVB Volleyball World League - though in the meantime they did pick up the prestigious European Championship in 2017.
Can anyone else join China's Jiang Chuan, Italy's Ivan Zaytsev, Serbia's Aleksandar Atanasijevic and Australia's Paul Carroll in the 'Over 30s Club' of the VNL?
With Serbia, and Atanasijevic, crashing out of the competition early and failing to make the medals round, it was France's brilliant opposite Stephen Boyer, who stepped up to leave his mark on the competition.
The 22-year-old joined the exclusive list of players who have scored 30 points or more in a single match with his 31 (25 kills, 3 stuffs, 3 aces) against USA in finals pool play. Boyer is only the fifth player to make the list in the VNL, after China's Jiang Chuan (37, against France on June 3), Italy's Ivan Zaytsev (32, against Brazil on May 26), Atanasijevic (32, against Iran on June 16) and Australia's Paul Carroll (31, against China on June 16). Carroll remains the only player to have made the VNL 'Over 30s club' in a four-set match.
Lucas Saatkamp (here in attacking duties against USA in the bronze medal match) and a tournament-high seven stuffs in a single game against Serbia were one of the highlights of the Final Six.
Lucas Saatkamp of Brazil also made the record books with his tournament-high seven stuffs against Serbia. The 32-year-old middle blocker registered seven blocks in just three sets, tying the standing VNL record jointly held by Iran's Saman Faezi (against China on June 8 in Ufa), China's Liu Libin (against Australia on June 16 in Seoul) and France's Kevin Le Roux (against Brazil on June 16 in Varna).
Can Wallace De Souza keep up the scoring for Brazil to top the overall scorers' table?
Indeed, but with little to spare. The 31-year-old opposite had scored 215 points in 15 pool play matches for second place in the overall scorers table, 58 short of China's Jiang Chuan who led with 273. With Brazil in a downwards trajectory after the Final Six pools, Wallace scored 61 points in Lille to just barely edge Jiang in the overall table, 278 to 274.
However, Wallace was only fourth in the scorers list of the Final Six, below France's Stephen Boyer (75) and Earvin Ngapeth (68), and Russia's Maxim Mikhaylov (63).
Can Russia's Dmitriy Muserskiy retain his incredible 68 per cent attacking efficiency?
Not quite. The 29-year-old got in only 43 swings in the Final Six (not enough to make the list) for 27 kills (62,79) and his overall efficiency in the whole VNL dropped to 66.035 (173/262). Coming into the Final Six Muserskiy stood at 68.08% (145/213).
As it was, Poland's Bartosz Kurek with 63.64 per cent (21/33), followed by France's Stephen Boyer at 59.81 per cent (64/107) were the most efficient attackers of the Final Six. China's Jiang Chuan at 55 per cent (242/440) topped the overall attackers list for the whole VNL.
Can Earvin Ngapeth keep creating havoc on opponents' reception from the service line?
Only up to a point. France's 27-year-old outside hitter served five aces in the Final Six for joint third position in absolute numbers, below team mate Thibault Rossard (7) and Russia's Egor Kliuka (6). Ngapeth's average per set of .31 saw him drop to 6th place in the Final Six servers table.
Overall in the VNL, Ngapeth retained the top position for the whole of the competition with 22 aces - just one above USA's Matt Anderson (who served four aces in the Final Six).
Quick links: FIVB Volleyball Nations League
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