For those of you new to these 2018 men’s nations league previews, this will give you a better idea of the teams that you’re unfamiliar with and will allow you to follow the tournament more easily. The format consists of 5 weekends of round-robin play starting May 25th taking place in different locations around the world followed by a final round in Lille, France on July 4-8th.
I’ll be doing the previews in reverse order of my own personal, unofficial power rankings. Feel free to let me know why your team is too low.
The German team enters Nations League 2018 as a Jekyll and Hyde. Last summer was a tale of two German teams; one that sputtered out in group 3 of the world league and one that came second in a competitive European championship. Here’s some background on how that came to be. Germany has a bit of a rocky relationship with the FIVB. In 2015 they withdrew from the World League, which the FIVB was obviously not pleased about, and demoted the German men’s team to group 3 in 2016. In that world league, Germany went up against a stacked young Slovenia in perhaps the highest-level group 3 final that has ever taken place. In 2017 world league they sent their 2nd team and rested their starters in preparation for the European championships, where they placed 2nd. So clearly their priorities haven’t been with international competitions.
Germany’s lineup is packed with big hitters, a Berlin Wall of blockers, and passing that gets the job done. Their two-headed dragon on the outside comes in the form of Christian Fromm and Denys Kaliberda. They are both veterans of the German National Team, each averaging over 2.5 kills/set last summer at the European championships.
The most intriguing member of this lineup is also the youngest an tallest, Tobias Krick. The 19-year-old 7-footer, who is currently playing in Frankfurt, is a middle with a rare combination of lateral quickness and spiking power. He has the ability to quickly get to the pins to strengthen an already formidable German block. His court awareness allows him to thread the ball around the block on even tough sets, which is a valuable asset for a team that is looking for any offense it can get without their star opposite, Gyorgy Grozer.
A youtube highlight reel waiting to happen, Grozer averaged a very impressive 4.27 kills/set in last year’s European Championship. He is nowhere to be found on this year’s roster, due to the fact that he’s getting up there in age and had a rough club season where he was traded halfway through the year.
Their setter and captain is Lukas Kampa, a 6’5 athlete who played for Jastrzebski Wegiel in Poland last season. Kampa completes this team with his excellent hands, threatening attacks on the 2nd ball, and chemistry with the other veterans on the roster. Some of these guys have played together for years, and this chemistry shows in their ability to connect on any number of sets. Their defense is completed with Marcus Bohme in the middle and Zenger at libero. At 211cm, Bohme is capable of shutting down opposing middles and outsides, while Zenger’s quickness and agility save balls that seem completely unattainable.
We have most of the team that made a run to the European finals against Russia last summer returning, except for first attacking option Grozer. We also have many familiar faces from the World League team that couldn’t even win Group 3. This team has the talent to make it to the final 6, but history has shown that they just don’t care about international competition, so for that, they are ranked #10.
Likely starters (players to watch in italics):
OH: Christian Fromm (Arkas Izmir)
OH: Denys Kaliberda (Ziraat Bankasi Ankara)
OPP: Simon Hirsch (Gi Group Monza)
MB: Tobias Krick (United Volleys Rhein/Main)
MB: Marcus Böhme (Olympiacos Piraeus)
S: Lukas Kampa (Jastrzebski Wegiel)
L: Julian Zenger (United Volleys Rhein/Main)