FIVB Volleyball World Championship
|Current season, competition or edition:
2014 FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship
|No. of teams||24 (Finals)|
|Most recent champion(s)||M: Poland (2nd title)
W: United States (1st title)
|Most titles||M: Russia (6 titles)
W: Russia (7 titles)
|Official website||FIVB Volleyball World Championships|
The FIVB Volleyball World Championship is an international men's and women's indoor volleyball competition. It is the oldest and most important of all the international events organised by the FIVB and must not be confused with the World Cup, World Grand Champions Cup, or the World League/World Grand Prix.
The history of the World Championship goes back to the beginnings of volleyball as a professional, high level sport. One of the first concrete measures taken by the FIVB after its foundation in 1947 was the establishment of an international competition involving teams from more than one continent. In 1949, the first edition was played in Prague, Czechoslovakia. At that point, the tournament was men's only and still restricted to Europe.
Three years later, a women's version was introduced; the events were synchronized and expanded to include nations from Asia, and began to be held in 4-year cycles. By the following edition, there were also teams from South, Central and North America.
Since volleyball was to be added to the Olympic Program in 1964, the 4-cycles were advanced in 2 years after the fourth edition (1960), so that the World Championship may alternate with the Summer Olympics. As of 1970, teams from Africa also took part in the competition, and the original goal of having members from all five continental confederations in the games was achieved.
The number of teams involved in the games has changed significantly over the years. Following volleyball's increase in popularity, they raised steadily to over 20 in the 1970s and part of the 1980s, were then cut short to 16 in the 1990s, and finally set up in 24 after 2002. Today, the World Championship is the most comprehensive of all events organized by the FIVB, and arguably the second most important, surpassed in prestige only by the Olympic Games.
Until 1974, the host nation of the tournament organized both the men's and the women's events, with the single exception of the 1966/1967 games, which took place in different years. Since 1978, this practice has been only occasionally observed, for instance, in 1998 and in the 2006 edition, which was held, as the former was, in Japan.
The history of the World Championship clearly demonstrates how volleyball was originally dominated by European nations.
The first two editions were won by the Soviet Union. In 1956, twice runner-up Czechoslovakia took the gold. There followed two more consecutive wins for the Soviet Union, in both cases over Czechoslovakia. The United States men's national volleyball team, led by captain Eugene Selznick, won the 1960 and 1966 Volleyball World Championships. The Czechs won a gold medal in the 1966 edition.
In 1970, East Germany prevailed over Bulgaria for their first and only title. In 1974, the Soviet Union threatened to take the lead once more, but ended up being defeated by Poland at the final. Nevertheless, they would confirm their leadership by winning, for the third time, two editions in a row.
1986 saw the first relevant confrontation between United States, the rising major force of the decade, and the traditional leader Soviet Union after the Olympic boycotts of 1980 and 1984. As would be the case two years later at the Seoul Games, the issue was settled in favour of the Americans led by Karch Kiraly and Steve Timmons. Italy completely dominated the competition in the 1990s, winning all the editions that took place in this decade (1990, 1994, 1998), led by such players as Lorenzo Bernardi and Andrea Giani.
In the 2000s, Brazil became the leading force in the sport, winning three consecutive editions (2002, 2006 and 2010), the first of which in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the same stage where the Brazilians had been runner-ups in 1982. In 2014, Poland, playing in home, defeated Brazil in 4 sets at the final achieving their second gold medal and preventing what would be a historical fourth title in a row.
If the titles of the women's World Championship are evenly distributed between Europe and Asia, the situation is quite different when nations are taken into account. Except for Italy's single—and for many, unexpected—victory in 2002, the only winners so far have been the Russia (5 times as Soviet Union), Japan, China and Cuba.
The Soviets made a most impressive start by winning the first three editions of the tournament: 1952, 1956, 1960. They were halfway to making it four, since the following edition was to be played in Moscow. Former runners-up Japan, nevertheless, was the champions in 1962 and interrupted the winning streak, repeating the performance in 1967, when the Soviet Union national team did not participate.
The teams faced each other again in 1970, and this time the Soviet Union beat their opponents to collect the gold. In the following edition, Japan took revenge and defeated the Soviet Union in straight sets. Then something extraordinary happened: the world watched astonished as a young Cuban squad left behind the two longtime rivals and secured the first important volleyball title for a continent other than Europe or Asia.
The early 1980s saw the rise of a new Asian force: led by superstar Lang Ping, China stamped its mark on the World Championship's history by winning two editions in a row (1982 and 1986). They also made it to the finals in 1990, but were overpowered by the Soviet Union in its last participation at the competition.
Cuba's 1978 title finally fructified in an aggressive style of play that virtually dominated the 1990s. Led by powerplayers Regla Torres, Mireya Luis and Regla Bell, the Caribbeans won the 1994 and 1998 editions of the World Championship, beating newbies as well as tradition rivals such as Russia and China.
In 2010, Russia once again defeated Brazil in a 5th-set tie-breaker.
The competition formula of the FIVB World Championship has been constantly changed to fit the different number of teams that participate in each edition. The following rules usually apply:
- Twenty-four teams participate in each event.
- Qualification procedures for the World Championship are long and strenuous, lasting over two years.
- Host nations are always pre-qualified.
- The number of spots available per confederation is determined by the FIVB: Europe has usually the highest, and Africa or South America the lowest.
- To participate in the event, a team must survive a number of qualification tournaments depending on its position in the FIVB World Rankings. Low-ranked teams may have to engage in up to three tournaments to be granted a berth; high-ranked teams typically play only one.
- The competition is divided in at least two phases: a preliminary round and a final round. Depending on the number of participating teams, one or more intermediary rounds may also be required.
- In the preliminary round, teams are organized in pools. Each team plays one match against all other teams in its pool.
- When all the matches of the preliminary round have been played, the top n teams in each pool qualify for the following round(s), and the remaining ones leave the competition. The value of n depends on the number of participating teams and the format that will be employed in the finals.
- The FIVB has tried various different formats for the final round(s). For some years now (2004), there seems to be a consensus that at least semifinals and finals must be played according to the Olympic format.
- Quarterfinals may consist of groups of teams playing against each other, or of direct confrontation; in the latter case additional intermediary rounds might be required to reduce the number of surviving teams to eight.
- The tournament implements very tight line-up restrictions: only twelve players are allowed, and no replacement is permitted, even in case of injuries.
|2|| Soviet Union (1952, 1962)
Czechoslovakia (1949, 1966)
France (1956, 1986)
Brazil (1960, 1990)
Argentina (1982, 2002)
Japan (1998, 2006)
Italy (1978, 2010)
|1|| Bulgaria (1970)
|5||Japan (1967, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2018)|
|3||Soviet Union (1952, 1962, 1978)|
|2||Brazil (1960, 1994)|
|1|| France (1956)
|4||Czech Republic ^||2||4||0||6|
|11||Czech Republic ^||0||0||2||2|
- Volleyball at the Summer Olympics
- FIVB Volleyball World Cup
- FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup
- FIVB Volleyball World League
- FIVB World Grand Prix
- List of indoor volleyball World Champions