Here we are. The European Women's Championships are on the starting line.
From tomorrow, Friday 23 August, to Sunday 8 September, the best of continental volley will take the field to aim for the throne of Europe.
Twenty-four teams at the start, divided into 4 pools of six teams each. It will be played in Turkey, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia: each country will host a Pool, in which obviously the home team will be present. The top four in each group will qualify for the first knockout round, when the knockout stage begins and will lead to the final match scheduled in Ankara.
POOL A (in Ankara, Turkey): Turkey, Serbia, Bulgaria, France, Finland, Greece.
POOL B (in Lodz, Poland): Poland, Italy, Belgium, Ukraine, Portugal, Slovenia.
POOL C (in Budapest, Hungary): Hungary, Holland, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Romania, Estonia.
POOL D (in Bratislava, Slovakia): Slovakia, Russia, Germany, Belarus, Spain, Switzerland.
Certainly among the favorites there will still be Serbia, Russia and Italy, dominating the last 6 Europeans with 2 wins for each team. Together with them the Netherlands, for three times a finalist, and then Turkey, Poland, Germany and Belgium, all of them medal in the last 10 years.
Let's analyze in detail the characteristics of the main protagonists of this European.
Repeating the success is one of the most difficult jobs in the world, it is a dirty job but someone has to do it: Serbia presents itself to the continental event as a reigning champion team and as such it will be the team that everyone wants to beat. We are talking about a battleship that plays aggressively as usual and has a very experienced setter like Maja Ognjenovic.
In attack the Serbs rely mainly on Tijana Boskovic and Brankica Mihajlovic, a couple capable of breaking up any kind of defensive device with their power and class. At the center is Stefana Veljkovic, a star with a huge, granitic wall talent and punctual in the early days where all its explosiveness comes to light.
The Serbian technical superpower is so obvious that to imagine it scratched is material from pure volleyball distopia, but one of the few defects, perhaps the only one, of this national team could be the excessive confidence in its own means.ù
Italy's approach to Eurovolley is linked to that silver medal won at the last World Cup and qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics reached a few weeks ago.
Two excellent results that have generated great enthusiasm around our national team: Paola Egonu will always be the lighthouse of the group, the star called to let loose to the sound of points by showing all its proverbial explosiveness.
The Blue Panther will be deployed diagonally with Ofelia Malinov, a dribbler attentive to the high ball game and able to vary the game very effectively. At the center we will rely on two between Cristina Chirichella, Sarah Fahr, Anna Danesi and Raphaela Folie, elements that ensure walls and excellent coverage and to the service can also do a lot of harm to the opponents. In the band CT Davide Mazzanti has several options of absolute technical depth available that could allow him to vary the tactical scheme in case of need. Lucia Bosetti is the veteran of the group, precious both in defense and in her ability to play against the wall; Miriam Sylla is a luxury “mouthpiece” that has already been appreciated nationally for her charisma, while Indre Sorokaite will have to be taken into serious consideration if things don't go right. Finally, there is Monica De Gennaro who certainly needs no introduction: the best free in the world that once again will have to support Italy with its spectacular defenses.
There are few certainties in life: birth, death, and the power of Russia in volleyball.
And be assured that this time too we will have to deal with the team led by Vadim Pankov, never out of the top six in their thirteen participations to the Europeans. The pivot of everything is the usual Nataliya Goncharova: constant point of reference in the offensive phase for the setter Evgenija Startseva, the opposite class '89 is the lethal weapon, the hammer that overwhelms, sweeps away everything and beats the iron when needed, when the balls are hot, when the point is at all costs. In the offensive dynamics of this national team are also very important the "guns" Ksenia Parubets and Irina Voronkova, to be taken with pincers and potentially devastating if on the right evening. The best is offered by Russia, however, at the center with Irina Fetisova and Irina Koroleva, always solid and effective on the wall, while the rare ones that are called into question at first strike the balloons at stratospheric heights. In short, it will not be the most talented team, it will not have the deepest roster, it will not be going through its best historical moment, but the Russian team is always a tough, tenacious opponent who will sell dearly.
Do you have five euros to bet and are you looking for the surprise? Point them at Turkey, a team that has grown a lot in recent years and a bullying candidate for a place on the podium: possible outsiders, Giovanni Guidetti's girls will have to play their cards well. In addition, I am one of the host countries and the support factor can weigh heavily. The roster that will take part in this continental event is characterized by a mix of young people ready to establish themselves as new stars, on all the opposite Ebrar Karakurt and director Cansu Özbay, and players at the highest point of their career, like Simge Aköz and Kübra Akman. And we must not forget Eda Erdem: captain and charismatic leader of this national team, it is an experience center that provides ample wall guarantees and is devastating in the first place. The great unknown however is the position of Meliha Ismailoglu, stopped by the FIVB for not having respected the two-year stop foreseen for the change of sporting nationality: its absence has weighed a lot in the qualifications to the Olympics.
The role of the very favorite in Pool C lies with the Netherlands, which should easily take the first place. The CT Jamie Morrison can count on a very deep, proven and strong roster in all departments. Lonneke Slöetjes has the credentials to be one of the most prolific opposites of the competition and, together with the setter Laura Dijkema, forms a diagonal to keep an eye on. We find players of absolute value even among the power plants with Robin De Kruijf and Yvon Beliën, undoubtedly two of the best performers of this role in recent seasons, and among the hammers with Maret Grothues and Anne Buijs to guarantee class and experience. Finally, the contribution of Celeste Plak and Nika Daalderop's bench should not be underestimated, strikers who can make the difference even in the current match. Winning is difficult even if you are the favorite, let alone when the competition is so ruthless: the goal of the national Oranje remains the podium, but with this amount of talent aiming for the big target is a must.
Poland - which will host Pool B and some matches of the final phase - is a national team that is experiencing a period of renewal. And God forbid, given that since 2011 he has not reached the European quarter-finals. It is obvious, however, that the presence of Joanna Wolosz in directing gives that something more to a team that has all the characteristics to aspire to a good result. Agnieszka Kąkolewska and Zuzanna Efimienko-Mlotkowska ensure substance and solidity in the center, while the opposite Malwina Smarzek and the young hammer Magdalena Stysiak are two forces of nature, always ready to unleash their power. The ring played at the VNL with the sixth place in the Round Robin raised the bar on Polish ambitions: if the defensive system will hold up and the offensive fluidity will make a small step forward, then the word "medal" can really enter the thoughts of the trained girls by Jacek Nawrocki.
Poland - which will host Group B and some matches of the final phase - is a national team that is experiencing a period of renewal. And God forbid, given that since 2011 he has not reached the European quarter-finals. It is obvious, however, that the presence of Joanna Wolosz in directing gives that something more to a team that has all the characteristics to aspire to a good result. Agnieszka Kąkolewska and Zuzanna Efimienko-Mlotkowska ensure substance and solidity in the center, while the opposite Malwina Smarzek and the young hammer Magdalena Stysiak are two forces of nature, always ready to unleash their power. The ring played at the VNL with the sixth place in the Round Robin raised the bar on Polish ambitions: if the defensive system will hold up and the offensive fluidity will make a small step forward, then the word "medal" can really enter the thoughts of the trained girls by Jacek Nawrocki.
Little pressure and a lot of freshness brought by the youth can be the pivot from which to start the reconstruction of the Belgian national team after the bad performances offered at the last European, finished in 14th place. It is difficult, however, to understand where this time the band of coach Gert Vande Broek will arrive: it is a genuine loose cannon for its unpredictability. On the card the passage of the first round would not seem to be in discussion, but it will be to be seen with what placement; in the case of second place, a softer mate could give the Yellow Tigers some more ambition to reach the quarter-finals. Many fortunes will depend on Britt Herbots, the '99 class spiker of the Unet E-Work Busto Arsizio, although you have to be careful to label Belgium as a team with only one player: Kaja Grobelna, Jutta Van De Vyver and Celine Van Gestel are talents ready to to fully blossom and to establish itself further at a European level.