The Coronavirus pandemic has interfered heavily with the sporting calendar. No event has felt the impact more so than the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which, in the end, did not go ahead because of the virus.
The good news is that the event has been rescheduled to open on July 23rd, 2021, although there have been calls for another cancellation. That is 364 days later than planned, but, as they say, better late than never. We can look forward to some amazing volleyball out on the Olympic courts.
Team USA going for Gold
In every Olympic event, the USA brings it, and 2021 will be no different. Both the men’s and the women’s teams have qualified for the Games and will be looking to come home with no less than Olympic gold.
Who will be getting on the plane to Tokyo? Well, that is expected to be decided a little later, with the men’s coach, John Speraw, expected to nominate his team during the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, which takes place from May 28 to June 23 in a competition bubble in Italy. Team USA came away with a bronze medal from Rio 2016, and they will be looking to do much better in Tokyo.
It is also a little too early to say who on the women’s team will be going to Tokyo. Again, team nomination is expected to take place during the FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
Coach Karch Kiraly is thought to be hoping that a combination of experience and youth will bring home the gold from Japan. Just like the men, the Team USA women came away from Rio with bronze medals and will be hoping to transform those results into gold this time round for indoor volleyball.
The Road to Tokyo
Winning is the way to go to get into an Olympic games team tournament. Both the men’s and the women’s teams won their pool in 2019 FIVB qualification tournaments to make it to the Japanese capital.
The men did this on Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, at a tournament which took place from August 9 to 11. The team were in Pool B and beat Korea, the Netherlands, and Belgium to top the pool and qualify.
The women did so in Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, at a tournament held from August 2 to 4. The team played against national sides from Argentina, Bulgaria, and Kazakhstan in Pool C and came out on top in the pool.
Who will the USA play?
The women’s team went into the 2021 season ranked 2nd in the world and will provide tough opposition for their opponents at the Games.
They were set to be in Pool B and, in 2020, would have faced off against China, Italy, Russia, Argentina, and Turkey for a place in the knockout stages of the competition. The first four teams in each pool go through to the quarter finals. This pool is particularly fierce, since it features the number one team: China, who have been back-to-back FIVB champions. A giant could fall.
The men were heading for Tokyo ranked third and also might have appreciated a less tough pool. In Pool B, they have to contend with the reigning Olympic champions, Brazil, who won’t want to give up their title easily and were undefeated in the 2019 FIVB season. In the fight for one of the quarter final places, the team will also be facing Tunisia, France, Argentina, and Russia in their pool.
The competition will run from July 24 to August 8. The preliminary rounds will conclude on August 2. The organizers had originally planned to mix things up and, instead of concluding with the men’s event, close with the women. Whether they intend to stick to this plan is unclear.
Popularity of volleyball in America
Volleyball is something of a niche sport and has picked up in popularity in America. In recent years, the country has seen a trend of young sports players, especially girls, moving away from college basketball and towards volleyball.
Part of this is because of the physicality of the game and of the importance of physical size. A player’s height is less of an issue in volleyball. Players also prefer the net between them because they do not like having to check players. Basketball has more of an intensity to it, whereas, despite being just as competitive, volleyball feels somewhat more relaxing, strangely.
Betting on volleyball
Of course, it is not only players who will be taking an interest in how Team USA fares on the volleyball courts of Tokyo. The legalization of sports betting in several states such as Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania means that anyone who likes to place a wager on the results may also be following the team’s progress and how it performs in the run-up to the Games.
Part of the excitement for anyone betting on Team USA or any other team comes in the variety of bets they can place. They can bet on the outcome of a match, of the tournament, on the score, on the number of points scored or on who will an individual set, for instance.
Tokyo 2021 will be an interesting Olympics. Contests will be competitive, but spectators will also be curious to see how the event plays out in the wake of the Coronavirus. They can be sure, however, that Team USA will certainly be giving their country everything they have in a quest to come home a gold medal to the good.