A star player makes the difference in the Volleyball World Cup

The excitement in the stands is palpable as the ball heads towards Paula Igono. again and again. The ball often ends up with the 23-year-old Italian striker on Saturday afternoon. With twenty smashes, Igono excels in the bronze medal match against the United States (3-0) at Omnisportcentrum. Igono gets a total of 25 points knowing that she can no longer miss the title of top scorer in the Volleyball World Cup. Not because many of the best female players in the world didn’t become world champions.

Volleyball is an extraordinary team sport. On the nine-by-nine-meter court, the six players stand close to each other, and each point earned is celebrated together, just as each opponent’s point is processed together. Is there a sport in which team members often give each other a five-finger double, an encouraging flick or a reinforced fist during a match? But volleyball is also a sport in which individual teams are made. This proves the top three places in the World Cup that were held in Holland and Poland in the past three weeks. All three teams on the podium have an outspoken star player. Among the top five scorers are two of the best players in the world in addition to Igono: Serbian Tijana Boskovic and Brazil’s Gabriela “Gabi” Guimarães.

Boskovic and Gabi are captains of the teams that will make Apeldoorn the volleyball capital of the world on Saturday evening and bring 6,500 spectators to the thrill of first-ball. Serbia is the defending champion, and Brazil has lost the last three times in the final. Serbia won all of their eleven matches in this World Cup, while Brazil only lost to Japan in the group stage – the team that escaped elimination in the quarter-finals after trailing 2-0.

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score points

Tijana Boskovic, 1.93m, plays on the diagonal just like the tall Igono. Its main task: to score points. She has been doing so since she made her national team debut in 2014 and became Serbia’s top scorer in the World Championships when she was seventeen years old. She is also the strongest Serbian striker in this World Cup, where her effectiveness was particularly striking: 55.58%. So Boskovic turns more than half of the balls he receives into a score. In this regard, no one comes close to Boskovic.

Gaby, 1.80 meters long, multi-level. As a by-pass runner she is much more than just a goalscorer and this is also evident from the various tournament stats. Not only has Gabe been high on the points standings, she’s the best receiver and second on the rigs list, which means she does a good job defensively as well. Gabi made his national team debut in 2012, after the golden period for Brazilian volleyball players, who became Olympic champions twice in a row. Bronze in the 2014 World Cup and a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics are the most important international awards for Gabi, who missed the previous World Cup due to a serious knee injury.

In the first set of Saturday’s final, the difference between the two stars is slim. Boskovic bats in six runs and Gabe five. But in the last stage, with a score of 24-24, the “leader” gives Serbia the lead, after which the 10th-seeded Brazilian crushes half a meter at a set point. It turned out to be a harbinger of a match that would be decided remarkably quickly. Brazil can still go on in Group B, but it’s Boskovic’s nine points that ultimately make the difference: 25-22. In Group C, the Serbia captain continues to score and Brazil quickly feels they have no chance: 25-17. Serbia is an undefeated champion, Boskovic was chosen as the best Qatari striker and the most important player, just as in 2018. „I love playing volleyball, and that’s it‘, pretty much all she has to say next. Gabe takes a silver medal and a place on the World Cup dream team.

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Italian Paola Igono, earlier this week in the semi-final against Brazil.
Photo by Sander Koning / ANP

For another best player in the world, Paula Igono, the World Cup finals are approaching in an unpleasant fashion. A bystander photographed the top scorer after the bronze victory over the United States, telling her manager that she had played her last game for the Italian national team at the moment. Despite a score of 275, criticism in her country of her playing during the tournament was apparently great, and someone is said to have asked Egonu – the daughter of Nigerian parents – if she was Italian. A racist statement during the tournament promotes equality for all through the Equal Jersey campaign, of which Egonu is one of the faces. A sad end to the Italian top scorer’s World Cup, as the Dutch women’s team championship also ended secondarily a week ago after missing the quarter-finals. Due to the sixth place in the group, the team of national coach Avital Seiling came in 12th place in the final standings. The players sighed that the gap with the top of the world was greater than they had expected. This is not surprising, because the Dutch national team currently lacks a player from the outside category. Volleyball players of the caliber of Tijana Boskovic, Gabi and Paula Igono will not appear in the Netherlands for a while.

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