We've come to the midway point of the opening round of the 2014 Men's Volleyball World Championships in Poland, with 24 of the top nations in the world vying for the ultimate prize.
The top four teams from each of the four pools will qualify for the next round, entering two new groups from which the eventual semi-finalists will emerge. Brazil are looking to defend their 2010 title and are once again favourites to walk away victorious.
Here are the full results for the matches played on Wednesday, 3 September:
The updated standings:
Hosts Poland have started the tournament in an excellent manner, taking the top spot in a group without a clear favourite for the second, third or fourth spots.
Argentina are the top seed (No. 7) but suffered a surprising 3-1 loss against Serbia, who themselves were blown out of the water by the Polish team. The Serbs will play Australia next, and the young Volleyroos have impressed early in the tournament.
Coach Jon Uriarte saw his team (predictably) lose 3-0 against the hosts, and as he told VolleyballAustralia.org, consistency will be key:
Every match at the World Championships is completely different, and I think against Poland we suffered.
The level of precision, how every mistake counts a lot. There is the challenge – we wanted to be prepared for that, but we weren’t.
The challenge is how long it will take to become a consistent team to perform. We suffered yesterday, we will come back today in training with the feeling how painful the mistakes yesterday were, and then we will see if in the next match we can take feedback from what happened last match and do better.
Venezuela complete the list of teams tied for second, with Cameroon yet to record their first points of the tournament. On current form, those two seem likely to miss the cut for the second round.
Brazil easily won their first two matches of the tournament, recording their sixth straight World Cup win against Tunisia on Wednesday, as shared by Infostrada:
#FIVBMensWCH: TUN v BRA: Brazil are on 5-match winning streak at the WCh and can win 6 in a row for 6th time in history of the competition.— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaGold) September 3, 2014
They proved their dominance by handling Germany 3-0 in their opener, but the win over Tunisia came at a cost, as shared by FIVBMensWCH, as they lost captain Bruno Rezende to injury:
Brazil's Captain Bruno Rezende was injured in the right hand and had to go to the hospital #FIVBMensWCH— FIVB Volleyball (@FIVBMensWCH) September 3, 2014
The defending champions will receive a surprising challenge from Finland, the lowest-seeded team in the group. The underdogs surprised everyone when they upset Cuba 3-2 on the opening day and backed that result up with a 3-0 win over Korea, giving them five points and putting them in excellent position to advance.
Cuba's start to the tournament has been dreadful, as they also lost 3-0 to the Germans, but they should still qualify for Round 2 over Korea and Tunisia.
China have announced their return to the highest stage of volleyball with a bang, tying favourites Russia for the lead in Pool C after two matches.
The Chinese took care of Egypt and Mexico in their first two, winning both 3-1, and they looked excellent doing so. For a team that hasn't cracked the top 10 at the tournament in years, the early proceedings are encouraging.
Mexico's Carlos Guerra likes what he has seen from his team so far, although he would prefer to watch their strong play go hand-in-hand with some results:
Bulgaria have somewhat underwhelmed in the early stages of the tournament, but they seem like a safe bet to join the top duo in the next round. The last spot will come down to Canada, Egypt or Mexico, with the Canadians holding a two-point advantage.
Anything seems possible in Pool D, where heavy favourites Italy are currently on the outside looking in and Belgium, the tournament's lowest seed, chase group leaders Iran by a single point.
Belgium took Team USA to five sets and easily defeated Puerto Rico, and with four points already they could cause the shock of the tournament by eliminating one of the favourites.
Iran have ruled Pool B so far, and the USA still seem like a safe bet to make it through, which likely leaves Italy and France to battle it out for the final ticket to the next round.
The Italians hold the tiebreaker thanks to their 3-2 win, but ranked third in the world, they'll need to significantly raise their level of play to hang with teams like Russia and Brazil this year.
For the complete schedule of the 2014 Men's Volleyball World Championships, visit Poland2014fivb.org by clicking here.