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. The six players are close to each other at half nine by nine meters. Nobody can compromise, the ball can be yours at any moment. Points earned are celebrated together, as each deduction point counts 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 happen. 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 in the rankings, there are two of the best players in the world in addition to Igono: Serbian Tijana Boskovic and Brazilian Gabriela Gaby 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 in the final. Serbia is defending its title and has won all eleven matches in the current World Cup. Brazil lost – in the group stage – only to Japan, the team that escaped elimination in the quarter-finals after trailing 2-0.
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. Also at the World Cup, she was the strongest Serbian striker, where her effectiveness was especially amazing: about 56 percent. Thus Boskovic turned over half of the balls you get into the 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 the final, the difference between the two stars is minimal. Boskovic bats in six runs and Gabe five. But with a score of 24-24, “The Boss” gives Serbia the lead, after which the 10-point Brazilian scored the set point for half a meter. 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 Serbian captain continues to score and Gabi and Brazil feel more and more that 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. Gabe takes a silver medal and a place on the World Cup dream team.
For another player in the world, Paula Igono, the World Cup ended in an unpleasant way. 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. Her play during the tournament was criticized domestically even though she scored 275 points. Egonu, a daughter of Nigerian parents, even asks if she’s Italian. A racist statement made during the tournament promoting equality for all through the Equal Jersey campaign, of which Egonu is one of the faces.
It is a painful end to the World Cup for Italy’s top scorer, as the Netherlands women’s national team championship ended unpleasantly a week ago after missing the quarter-finals. Due to the sixth place in the group, the team of the national coach Avital Selinger came in 12th place in the final standings. The Dutch international sighed. The difference to the top of the world is greater than hoped, and none of them were an outsider. Now that the World Cup is over, volleyball players of the level of Tijana Boskovic, Gabi and Paula Igono will no longer be seen in the Netherlands for the time being.
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