From Wednesday to Sunday in Sapporo top six teams from preliminary round will fight for title in World Grand Prix 2013 and for points to FIVB World Ranking. Tournament will be played in Round-Robin system.

 

 

It’s really hard to predict who can win this edition. In last three Grand Prix editions United States won three times in a row, while Brazil was runner-up in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Third places took Italy (2010), Serbia (2011) and Turkey (2012). From mentioned teams only Turkey didn’t find place in Final Six. Other competitiors of final tournament this year, China and Japan weren’t so successful in Grand Prix throughout last years. China last medal got in Ningbo in 2007 (silver), Japan didn’t get any single medal in this tournament, what is for me surprising.

Teams’ rosters (key players are in bold):

Brazil
Setters: Danielle Lins, Claudia Silva
Opposites: Monique Pavao, Sheilla Castro
Outside Hitters: Fernanda Garay, Gabriela Guimaraes, Michelle Pavao, Priscila Daroit
Middle Blockers: Fabiana Claudino, Thaisa Menezes, Adenizia Silva, Juciely Barreto
Liberos: Fabi (Fabiana De Oliveira), Camila Brait

China
Setters: Jingsi Shen, Yang Mi
Opposites: Chunlei Zeng, Lei Zhang
Outside Hitters: Ting Zhu, Ruoqi Hui, Yimei Wang, Na Yin
Middle Blockers: Yunli Xu, Junjing Yang, Yunwen Ma, Congcong Liu
Liberos: Zhan Chen, Xian Zhang

Italy
Setters: Noemi Signorile, Letizia Camera
Opposites: Valentina Diouf, Indre Sorokaite (also OH)
Outside Hitters: Carolina Costagrande, Caterina Bosetti, Valentina Fiorin, Cristina Barcellini
Middle Blockers: Martina Guiggi, Valentina Arrighetti, Raphaela Folie, Christina Chirichella
Liberos: Monica De Gennaro, Alessia Gennari (also OH)

Japan
Setters: Haruka Miyashita, Naoko Hashimoto
Wing-Spikers: Saori Kimura, Yukiko Ebata, Risa Shinnabe, Mizuho Ishida, Miyu Nagaoka, Akari Oumi
Middle Blockers: Nana Iwasaka, Kanako Hirai, Riho Otake, Aimi Kawashima
Liberos: Kotoki Zayasu, Arisa Sato

Serbia
Setters: Maja Ognjenovic, Bojana Zivkovic
Opposites: Jovana Brakocevic, Ana Bjelica
Outside Hitters: Brankica Mihajlovic, Brizitka Molnar, Sanja Malagurski, Tijana Malesevic
Middle Blockers: Milena Rasic, Natasha Krsmanovic, Stefana Veljkovic, Nadja Ninkovic
Liberos: Suzana Cebic, Jasna Majstorovic

United States
Setters: Alisha Glass, Jenna Hagglund
Opposites: Kelly Murphy, Nicole Fawcett
Outside Hitters: Kimberly Hill, Kristin Hildebrand, Regan Hood (also OPP), Cassidy Lichtman
Middle Blockers: Christa Harmotto, Lauren Gibbemeyer, Lauren Paolini, Rachael Adams
Liberos: Tamari Miyashiro, Kayla Banwarth

Looking into team rosters we didn’t have many changes comparing with last games. Coaches decided to use their best players. Even teams from Europe: Italy and Serbia have their best players, though Final Six ends at 1st September and from 6th September starts Euro Volley in Germany and Switzerland. Rosters can change a bit in American or in Japanese team (they can of course remain as posted here), rest should look as above.

Final Six schedule (times in GMT):

28th August, Wednesday
04:30 Serbia – China
06:30 Brazil – USA
10:10 Japan – Italy

29th August, Thursday
04:30 USA – Serbia
06:30 Italy – China
10:10 Japan – Brazil

30th August, Friday
04:30 China – USA
06:30 Brazil – Italy
10:10 Serbia – Japan

31th Sugust, Saturday
04:30 Italy – USA
06:30 Brazil – Serbia
10:10 Japan – China

1st September, Sunday
04:30 Serbia – Italy
06:30 China – Brazil
10:10 USA – Japan

Fight between all teams will be thrilling. We can expect many dramatic games, part of them should end after tiebreaks. Watching all teams in Preliminary Round, I suppose that USA will be again on the podium, but not necessarily as winner fourth time in a row. With Americans in Top 3 will be two from three: Serbia, China, Brazil. Although Japan is a host, after last weekend I note this team as a bit weaker from others. Italy had quite easy schedule throughout three weekends and in my opinion it’ll be a big challenge for “Azzure” to beat USA or Serbia. Every team had some ups and downs during these 9 rounds of games, but I hope that this time everyone will be ready for a tough challenge. Of course it can be even harder for european teams to maintain peak form for almost three weeks, from first battles in Final Six (28th August), till Finals in Euro Volley (14th Spetember).