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.
Argentina comes in at 11th on our power rankings, designated as a core team for Nations League 2018. They had a disappointing year at World League last year, placing 10th out of 12 teams in Group 1 and finishing with a total of 11 points. For a country with a well-established volleyball program and an Olympic history, many were not satisfied with such a mediocre result.
Argentina has decided to run it back with much of the same core team with one huge addition. This core includes Bruno Lima, Ezequiel Palacios, and Cristian Poglajen on the wing, with Crer and Solé holding down the middle spots, and of course their star player De Cecco at the setter position. The previously mentioned addition is Facundo Conte, a star outside who makes his money playing for Shanghai. He is making his return to the Argentinian national team after taking last summer off. Conte, who placed 5th in the Chinese league in points and had an absurd 59% hitting percentage as an outside, is a fearless and technical attacker. His return adds some much-needed firepower on the wings for Argentina and will force them to think carefully about their outside rotation. One possible answer could be moving Poglajen to the opposite position, even though he is a competent passer. Argentina has had a question mark on the right side for the past few years, so it will be interesting to see if they decided to run Martin Ramos or the 21-year old Bruno Lima at that spot, or if they will have some clever rotations similar to what they ran in last year’s World League.
Argentina’s captain and star player is their setter, Luciano De Cecco. “The Plumber” currently plays for Perugia in the Italian league, helping to lead them to Perugia’s first league title this past season. De Cecco, who is in the discussion for best setter in the world, has the hands and to set every position on the floor from anywhere and the intelligence to pick apart mismatches. On top of that, his excellent synergy with his middles, Solé and Crer, allows them to frustrate opposing defenses with a series fast tempo runs that lock up opposing blockers an free up the pin hitters for plenty of easy swings.
Argentina has world-class players, but the teams above them have fewer weaknesses. The return of Conte and Palacios helps their odds significantly, but it might not be enough to return to the golden days of men’s volleyball in Argentina.
Likely starters (players to watch in italics):
OH: Facundo Conte (Shanghai)
OH: Ezequiel Palacios (Ciudad)
OPP: Cristian Poglajen (Ravenna)
MB: Sebastion Solé (Funvic/Taubate)
MB: Pablo Crer (Bolivar)
S: Luciano De Cecco (Perugia)
L: Ignacio Fernandez (Ciudad)