LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02: Donald Suxho #7 and Richard Lambourne #5 of United States celebrate a point with the rest of their teamamtes in the second set against Brazil during Men's Volleyball on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Earls Court on August 2, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The preliminary phase of the 2012 Olympic men's volleyball tournament concludes on Monday in London with the 2008 Champions from the United States are still very much alive in their quest to repeat. However, as Saturday's collapse against Russia showed, there are plenty of obstacles in the way of an American repeat A glimpse at where things stand and who's in line to make the quarterfinals follows the jump.
Note: The FIVB awards teams 3 points for a win and none for a loss in most cases; however, if the match goes to five sets, the winning team earns just two points and the losing team picks up one.
Current Standings: 1. Poland, 2. Bulgaria, 3. Italy, 4. Argentina, 5. Australia, 6. Great Britain (eliminated)
Three of the four quarterfinal positions for Group A are set, and the last is likely to go to Argentina (6 points), thanks to their upset win over Bulgaria (9 points) on Saturday. The Argentines only need to defeat eliminated Great Britain (0 points) (11:45 a.m. ET) in a game where the crowd will very much be against them to move on. As for the Bulgarians, who are looking for their first Olympic medal since a silver in 1980, they take on 2004 silver medalist Italy (8 points) (9:45 a.m. ET). The winner will likely be in position A2, with the loser probably claiming slot A3 or A4, though Argentina's set ratio is poor enough (1) to likely keep them in fourth spot. The No. 1 seed for the group will likely go to World League champion Poland (9 points) who plays Australia (4 points) in their final match (4:30 a.m. ET). The Australians can only qualify if they defeat the Poles in less than five sets and the Argentines lose to the hosts in less than five.
Projected Standings: 1. Poland (12 pts.), 2. Bulgaria (11 pts.), 3. Italy (9 pts.), 4. Argentina (9 pts.), 5. Australia (4 pts.), 6. Great Britain (1 pts.)
Current Standings: 1. USA, 2. Brazil, 3. Russia, 4. Germany, 5. Serbia, 6. Tunisia (eliminated)
The defending champions from the United States (10 points) were the first team in Group B to clinch a quarterfinal berth, which they managed to do on Thursday. However, they stumbled badly against Russia (8 points) in their next match, losing in five sets, after having match point in the third. Still, the Americans can win the group with a win over already eliminated Tunisia (0 points) (3 p.m. ET). Meanwhile, the Russians close against 2010 World bronze winner Serbia (5 points) (6:30 a.m. ET), a team that likely must win to stay alive. The reigning World Champions (and Beijing silver medalists) Brazil (8 points) also face a team that needs a win to guarantee advancement, Germany (5 points) (5 p.m. ET). In the event of a pair of logjams, Brazil has an edge on Russia for the second spot, thanks to a 3-0 win and slightly superior set ratio (2 vs. 1.8), while the Germans topped the Serbians 3-2 and a 0.75 to 0.7 lead in set ratio.
Projected Standings: 1. USA (13 pts.), 2. Brazil (11 pts.), 3. Russia (11 pts.), 4. Germany (5 pts.), 5. Serbia (5 pts.), 6. Tunisia (0 pts.)
Those projected standings result in this projected bracket...
(A1) Poland vs. (B4) Germany
(B2) Brazil vs. (A3) Italy
(A2) Bulgaria vs. (B3) Russia
(B1) USA vs. (A4) Argentina
Both top seeds would have difficult paths to a rematch of the World League championship game in this scenario, as the Poles would face either a Brazilian team that gave them a fight in the World League finals round group stage or group rival Italy in the semifinals, if they get past a slightly underachieving German team in the quarterfinals. On the other hand, a possible rematch with Russia would loom for the Americans on the other side, though I'm sure the Bulgarians would love to avenge the 3-0 loss the U.S. handed them on their home court in Sofia in the World League.
UPDATE: Australia upset Poland in four sets, but the victory was for naught, as Argentina swept Great Britain anyway to qualify for the quarterfinals out of Group A. The Polish loss, combined with Bulgaria's 3-0 win over Italy, pushed them down to spot A2, just behind their Eastern European rivals. In Group B, the Americans swept Tunisia to claim first place. Germany claimed the final quarterfinal place in the group, even with a loss to Brazil. That's because Serbia also fell to Russia. The results combined with Germany's head-to-head result win over the Serbs, pushed the Germans through.
There was also a drawing of lots between the second and third place teams in each group, so the bracket is a bit different than expected.
Here's the schedule for Wednesday's quarterfinals at Earls Court.
Poland Bulgaria vs. (B4) Germany, 4:30 p.m. ET (B2) Brazil (A2) Poland vs. (A3) Italy (B3) Russia, 2:30 p.m. ET (Top half semifinal Friday at 10 a.m. ET) (A2) Bulgaria (B2) Brazil vs. (B3) Russia (A3) Argentina, 9 a.m. ET
(B1) USA vs. (A4)
Argentina Italy, 11 a.m. ET (Bottom half semifinal Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET)
The gold medal game will be Sunday at 8 a.m. ET, with bronze scheduled to be decided at 4:30 a.m. ET.
Much like in basketball, a European team will be guaranteed a place in the gold medal game, while it's likely a team from the Western Hemisphere will oppose them. The FIVB's unique draw system means we may see a Beijing final rematch in the semifinals on Friday.
Who are your picks for the medals?
Follow Mr. Dobbertean's Olympic thoughts on his personal Twitter account.