Lausanne, Switzerland, October 20, 2014 – The 2014 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship finished just over a week ago with many teams registering their best ever performance at the memorable tournament.
Four of the 24 teams improved on their historical best and one more tied a previous highest ranking.
USA, who were crowned the new world champions in Italy, had never won gold before in the tournament. Their amazing first place improved on their previous best of second –which the Americans had achieved twice, in 1967 and 2002. USA have now become one of only six countries to have the most coveted of FIVB trophies –the others being Russia (including the Soviet Union), Japan, Cuba, China and Italy.
The Dominican Republic have truly shattered all their historical records, rising high above any expectations and astonishing even their most optimistic of fans. The "Queens of the Caribbean" came within one set of a semifinal berth when they led China 2-0 (and just needed to win by any score) in their last match of Round 3. They finished fifth, a huge leap from their previous best of 11th in 1998. They were 17th in the last two editions.
Of the other top six teams, runners-up China just missed out on repeating their 1982 and 1986 triumphs by winning a third gold medal. But for such a young and new team, second place in the world can only be considered a massive success.
Third place for Brazil, though, was a disappointment for the Olympic champions. The South Americans were chasing the only major title that still eludes them. They lost to Russia twice in tie-breaks in their previous two attempts in 2006 and 2010 and riding on the momentum of their 2012 Olympic gold, they were tipped as favourites to win the World Championships this time around. The bronze medal they ended up with doesn’t improve on their previous bests.
Italy probably have mixed feelings coming out of the tournament. The hosts were outsiders from the outset, but they were hoping to capitalise on the support of the home crowd. And the crowd did deliver, turning out in throngs and filling the venues to capacity – especially in Bari and Milan. The Italians were no stranger to the top step of the podium, having defeated USA in the 2002 final in Berlin for gold. This time, though, they had a brilliant run of 10 wins in 11 matches before going down in their final two (3-1 to China in the semifinals, 3-2 to Brazil in the bronze medal match).
But the biggest let down amongst the top six is likely to be Russia. The defending champions struggled throughout most of the competition finishing fifth to end a very frustrating World Championships. It was their worst finish since the Soviet Union ranked sixth in 1986 and nowhere near their seven titles.
Of the remaining 18 teams, Belgium made their return to the competition for the first time in 36 years. The "Yellow Tigers" finished 11th at Italy 2014, a two-position jump from the 13th place they recorded in 1956. In their only other World Championships appearance they ranked 22nd in 1978.
Kazakhstan played at their third straight World Championships this year, making it to Round 2 to become the most successful squad of any Olympic team sport in their country. Kazakhstan did not register a single win in the second round, finishing 15th. However, that was an improvement over their previous best of 17th in 2002. They were 21st in 2010.
Cameroon was the only other team not to fall below their previous best. The African side equalled their only previous performance of 21st (in 2006).
Check out our infographic with the historical rankings of the top six at Italy 2014 below.