2022 was the year when the World Championship hosted by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), a “big event” that comes every four years, was held. The men’s world championships from August 26 to September 11 and the women’s world championships from September 23 to October 15 thrilled the hearts of world volleyball fans.
In particular, Italy, the men’s championship team, received a lot of attention as it prevented Poland from losing its third consecutive tournament and won the championship for the first time in 24 years. At the end of 2022, we went back to the late summer of last year to see what made Italy rise to the top.
1. High-level homegrown league and strong youth player base
Thais Dull Host (registered name Thais), who played a total of 8 seasons in the Italian league and is now a foreign player of KEPCO, said in an interview with <The Spike>, “The level of the Italian league is high. and the performance of the national team are closely related. In Italy, the league is operated very systematically from division 1 to division 3. The players are also top-notch. In particular, the youth system is very solid, and recently it has almost swept all youth competitions. These players grow up, head to the first division, and become the national team. It’s a great system,” he said. Italy’s rise to the top is attributed to the high level of its league and strong youth system.
As Thais said, the Italian league is considered one of the best men’s volleyball leagues in the world. Not only domestic players such as Simone Gianelli and Alessandro Micheletto, but also superstars from other countries such as Wilfredo Leon (Poland), Erben Ngape (France), and Yondi Real Hidalgo (Brazil) all play in Serie A1, the top Italian league. have. In addition to A1 with a total of 12 teams, A2 with 14 teams and A3 with 28 teams, the lower leagues Serie B and C are also in operation. The Italian Cup and Super Cup, which are cup competitions, also boast a long history and high authority as much as the league. As the level of the league is so high, of course, the interest and affection of the fans towards volleyball and the league is great. It has a solid infrastructure and roots to become a volleyball powerhouse.
The thick youth player base is also one of its roots. The Italian men’s national team won both the 2019 U19 World Championship and the 2021 U21 World Championship. There are also players who have grown into key members of the current adult national team after passing through the national team by age group. Alessandro Micheletto, who was the main player in winning this world championship, was the MVP of the 2021 U21 World Championship. Daniele Labia, who played an active part as the main outside hitter at the World Championships with Micheletto, was also the MVP of the 2019 U21 World Championships, where Italy won runner-up.
And that’s not all. At the European Championships by Age hosted by the European Volleyball Confederation (CEV) this year, the Italian men’s national team won all competitions held from U22, U20, and U18. Among the players who participated in the European Championships by age, there will be players who will become the next Micheletto and Labia and grow into the main players of the adult national team. This is why Italy is expected to continue to maintain its position as a volleyball powerhouse for the time being.
2. A drastic generational shift bears fruit
When Italy’s final roster for the world championships was announced, volleyball fans couldn’t hide their surprise. This is because Ivan Zaitsev, a star player representing Italy, was excluded from the roster. Zaitsev enjoyed moments of glory for the Italian national team in the 2010s, including Olympic silver medals (2016 Rio de Janeiro) and bronze medals (2012 London), as well as two runner-ups in the European Championships (2011, 2013) and two third-place finishes in the World League (2013, 2014). was a player The experience of playing both the outside heater and the opposite position and the explosive charisma of dominating the court were Zaychev’s strengths that could not be replaced. Coach Ferdinando de Jorge’s choice to exclude such a player from the roster raised questions from some fans.
Of course, director De Jorge’s choice was made based on sufficient grounds. First of all, there were signs of deterioration in Zaytsev’s performance in the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) held just before the world championship. Zaitsev only scored a total of 34 points during the tournament. His serve scored only 1 point. Even in the match against Iran, where Zaychev scored the most points with 14 points, the attack success rate was 46.67%, which was below 50%. He still had the ability to attack various courses and his unique charisma, but as he was born in 1988 and was a considerable age, it was felt that he was on the decline in parts affected by physical ability, such as jumping.
In addition, the skills of young wing resources to replace Zaychev, such as Yuri Romano (born 1997), Daniele Labia (born 1999), and Alessandro Micheletto (born 2001), were also on the rise, so Zaychev would not be able to play as a main player in the world 안전놀이터 championship. Prediction was possible to some extent. However, it took a considerable decision to exclude superstar Zaytsev from the roster altogether, beyond simply not using him as a starter. Making such a decision with the burden was not only De Jorge’s declaration of a major generational change, but also a way to reveal his firm trust in young wing resources.
In the end, the director’s bold decision paid off. The three young men of Micheletto, Labia, and Romano played an active role throughout the tournament, leading Italy to win. Italy’s move brought back Wallace de Souza (born 1987), who announced his retirement from the national team, and left Bruno Rezende (born 1986) a considerable amount of playing time, but Brazil, which finished in third place, and the main gun bar in a tight schedule. Toj Kurek (born 1988) drew more attention after revealing his fitness problems and being compared to Poland, who collapsed in the final.
3. The hidden card that made the superstar ‘variable’ that became a ‘constant’
In order to find out the secret of Italy’s victory, of course, you need to look closely at the final match. Two stars played a decisive role in the World Championship final between Italy and Poland on September 11 in Katowice, Poland. As always, one played a big role as a ‘constant’ of the team, and the other appeared at an unexpected timing and acted as a ‘variable’, bringing the flow of the game.
The player who became a ‘constant’ was Italian setter and captain Simone Gianelli. Gianelli, who is considered one of the best setters in the world along with Mika Christensen (USA) and Antoine Brizard (France), performed outstandingly throughout the tournament. He led his team to the championship by fully demonstrating his strengths, such as sharp serve from his unique step, exquisite single-handed pass, and surprise pass feint. It was the final, which was held in the opponent’s country, challenging the championship for the first time in 24 years, but Gianelli did not shrink at all. Rather, he boasted a performance that can be considered his best performance in the tournament.
Gianelli took advantage of the wing resources of Micheletto, Labia, and Romano, as well as middle blockers such as Gianluca Gallasi and Simone Anzani, and played the game leisurely. He went on to directly participate in the attack, complicating the heads of opponent blockers. In addition to his pass paint, he also succeeded in bold open attacks several times, further diversifying the team’s offensive options when he was in the front line. On this day, Gianelli became Italy’s leading scorer, scoring 5 points only through attack.
The serve was also sharp. In particular, the 2nd set was the white rice. Including two aces, he used a series of sharp serves that shook Poland’s receiving line. In a situation where Poland lost the first set, he had to bring the second set with his own skills. Gianelli, who served as Italy’s ‘constant’ throughout the tournament, confirmed that his time had come by winning MVP and Best 7 Setter categories.
If Gianelli played the role of ‘constant’ well, the player who created ‘variable’ was middle blocker Roberto Russo. Italy was ahead of Poland in most positions during the first and second sets of the final, but not in the middle blocker. Poland’s Matteus Wieniek-Jakub Kohanowski duo continued to play strong serves and sharp fast attacks, and continued to compete with Italy’s Galasi-Anjani duo. Coach De Jorge appointed Rousseau, who had been used as a replacement resource for Galassi in the 1st and 2nd sets, as the starter from the 3rd set to make a difference, and this choice was a hit.
Russo brought the flow of the third set, which was fierce with consecutive goals, to Italy. With Italy leading 17-15, Rousseau made a 18-15, 3-point lead with a swift attack. Rousseau did not stop there. He roared as he immediately intercepted Bieniek’s fast attack with a well-timed block. Rousseau, who was put in to strengthen the middle blocker position, succeeded in his own fast attack and blocked the opponent’s middle blocker’s fast attack with blocking, which was a perfect tactical success.
Russo’s performance had a great impact on the team atmosphere beyond tactical success. Italy, who took a 4-point lead thanks to Russo’s performance, managed a more leisurely game and won the third set 25-18, driving momentum and winning the fourth set to lift the championship trophy. Rousseau caused a big crack in the central confrontation between the two teams, which was tense, and became a ‘variable’ in the victory. ‘Constant’ Gianelli and ‘Variable’ Rousseau marked the final point in Italy’s long journey to the top.