A week ago, the CEV drew lots to determine the pools for the 2017 Men’s European Volleyball Championship. The host nation, Poland, chose the 4 nations to be seeded at the top of each pool (which were the 4 highest ranked teams in the latest FIVB World Rankings). Then, the rest of the teams were ranked according to their CEV rankings and drawn round-by-round until all four pools were set. After that, the cities were randomly drawn to assign each pool to a city. The only restriction is that France and Slovenia, the gold and silver medalists from the last championships, could not be allocated to the same group.
The winning teams in each group automatically advance to the quarterfinals, while the 2nd and 3rd place teams for each group will advance to play in the “playoff” round for the right to advance to the quarterfinals.
The 2017 European Championships will be held from August 23rd through September 3rd.
Pool by Pool Breakdown (each country with latest FIVB World Rank)
Pool A in Gdansk: Poland (#2), Serbia (#10), Finland (#17), Estonia (#38) Average Rank – 16.75
All 4 teams in this group are returning from the 2015 edition of the championships. While it does have the toughest average rank based on FIVB World Rankings, it’s the one group that doesn’t have a medalist from the last edition of these championships. In fact, while each of the 4 teams advanced to the playoffs round last year, none of the four teams made it further than the quarterfinals. Playing against the hosts from Poland, the 2014 World Champions, won’t be easy for any of these teams, though. Serbia, the 2015 World League Champions, are the best bet to knock them off the top of the group in the grueling double round robin format.
Pool B in Szczecin: Italy (#4), Germany (#11), Slovakia (#29), Czech Republic (#27) Average Rank – 17.75
The Olympic silver medalists from Italy came up short in the Olympic final in a 3-0 sweep against Brazil, but pushed 2 of 3 sets to extra points. In a neutral setting, Italy, led by the hottest opposite hitter in the world Ivan Zaytsev, might have won that game. Germany has not played well of late, but were 3rd at the last 2014 World Championships. Them as the 2nd team, plus Slovakia as the defending silver medalists, will make it tough for the Czech Republic to emerge from the group.
Pool C in Krakow: Russia (#5), Bulgaria (#16), Slovenia (#30), Spain (#32) Average Rank – 20.75
On paper, this is the easiest group beyond Russia. The overall difficulty of the group will depend on whether Bulgaria (2nd in 2015) and Slovenia (4th in 2015) can regain their form after disappointing 2016s. Spain, meanwhile, will have the chance to prove the form that earned them a surprise 4th-place finish in the 2016 World League
Pool D in Katowice: France (#9), Belgium (#18), The Netherlands (#23), Turkey (#24) – Average Rank – 18.5
The 2015 champions France will be back to defend their title, but the French are a bit wounded. They finished a disappointing 9th at the Olympic Games and then the 2015 tournament MVP Atonin Rouzier announced that he would retire from international competition. This will be the most wide-open group, where anybody could emerge among the 3 teams that advance to knockout stages.