The Canadian men’s national team will be looking to recover from Monday's 3-0 loss to Russia when they take on another Top Ten team, Bulgaria. The match is scheduled for early Monday morning.
This eastern european powerhouse opened the tournament with a east 3-0 win against Mexico, and are on of the favourites to win the group. One of the most consistent teams in the world and are always a medal threat.
They might also be the perennial bridesmaids, seemingly always a step away from the podium. They finished fourth in the World League in both 2012 and 2013, at the Olympics in London, and again at the 2013 European Championships. One thing that bodes well for you if you’re a fan of the red and white is their record in 2014 - managing one lone win in the World League.
They boast some of the most impressive talent in the world. Tsvetan Sokolov is arguably the best opposite in the world, bringing a scary amount a size together with some serious skill. The top opposite at both the 2013 World League and World Club Championships (playing for Trentino), Sokolov has the ability to take over games from the baseline with his cannonball of a serve, and at both sides of the net.
So if you haven’t already figured it out - tomorrow mornings match is going to be a slugfest, with probably the two most physically imposing opposite hitters in the game going toe-to-toe.
Schmitt, who led all Canadian scorers with only 11 points against Russia, will be looking to bounce back and solidify himself as one of the most physical players in the game - and what better way to do it than go up against Sokolov.
But while the majority of the focus will be on the Schmitt vs. Sokolov match-up, the key to Canada’s success won’t be winning the battle - but winning the war. It’s inevitable that Schmitt will see the bulk of the volume, and it can almost be guaranteed right now that he will lead the team in points at the end of the match. But what good is scoring the most points if you don’t win the game?
The “just give Gavin the ball” mentality that sometimes plagues our National teams cannot be on display tomorrow if Canada is to get their first win of the tournament. While the offence will focus a lot on the right side of the court, other players on the court have to take the opportunities that open up. With both stars on opposite sides of the court, it won’t be Schmitt’s job to stop him - only to match him shot for shot. Instead, Canada will have to step up defensively: establishing a block that will challenge Bulgaria’s hitters while playing solid defines around the block.
Another way to slow down Bulgaria will be with the serve. As with most big-banging teams, their serve receive can sometimes come into question, With 16-year veteran Andrey Zhekov running the show, if Canadian serving can get him running around the court, they’ll have a much easier time defending the 34-year old’s offence.
Finally, it will be important for Canada to keep a level head and no get caught up in the result of the match. In the undesirable outcome of a loss, not panicking will be essential since Mexico, China, and Tunisia are still to come. All three teams could have the potential of stealing a match here and there, but they are still without a doubt matches that Glenn Hoag's squad should walk away win.
To follow all our coverage of the 2014 FIVB World Championships, check out our tournament homepage!