FIVB Men’s Power Rankings: 10 Spots, 10 Countries in Diversified Talent Pool
The beach volleyball season can be a strange one to follow sometimes. Unlike golf and tennis, which pace out their major events throughout the season, almost in a quarterly fashion, beach volleyball simply loads them up in the span of a month. It gives a lot of the other tournaments a sort of ancillary feel to them: They’re either used for points to get you into that month-long span of events, or used for points to get you into an event – the Olympics – more than a year down the road.
But with the first two majors of the season – World Champs in Hamburg and the Gstaad Five-Star — now complete, it’s about that time to do an update international beach volleyball power rankings, beginning with the men.
- Anders Mol, Christian Sorum, Norway
One of the most telling signs that a team is as dominant as this one is that it’s an actual, legitimate, totally genuine surprise when they finish third in the world. Third! And it’s crazy! That’s how good Mol and Sorum are. They have made a podium in six consecutive events, in a field that is unanimously considered the deepest the world tour has ever been. Did they win World Champs? No. But they won an arguably more competitive event in Gstaad a week later, in a field that didn’t include a dozen or so teams who wouldn’t otherwise be in a major championship field.
2. Viacheslav Krasilnikov, Oleg Stoyanovskiy, Russia
Everybody who follows beach volleyball – and God bless those who do – somewhat closely over the past half-decade or so has known that Krasilnikov is one of the best in the game, hands down. One of my favorite Krasilnikov facts is that he has only ever failed to make it out of one qualifier. One. On the world tour. That’s absurd. He’s made an Olympic semifinal, been named FIVB Defensive Player of the Year, and has beaten everyone there is to beat. The only question mark on this team was Stoyanovskiy, a 6-foot-9 22-year-old who emerged on the world tour two years ago.
The rate of Stoyanovskiy’s improvement is really only rivaled by that of Alix Klineman’s. In just one year, he has gone from a blocker with a ton of size but not as much skill as some of the world’s best to, simply, one of the world’s best. His setting has improved immensely, and he brings a serve that, when on, rivals Evandro’s. Any evidence you’d need you can find in their semifinal in Hamburg against Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb.
3. Grzegorz Fijalek, Michael Bryl, Poland
Aside from the Norwegians, Fijalek and Bryl are the hallmarks of consistency on this tour. They haven’t had a finish outside of the top 10 since Vienna of 2017, when Bryl was still cutting his teeth on the world tour. They made four semifinals in five events to begin the season, and have since cooled off, yes, taking three ninths in a row, but this is still a team that should be considered a podium favorite in any tournament they play, and one of the few who has all the tools to upset Mol and Sorum.
4. Evandro Goncalves, Bruno Schmidt, Brazil
I kind of hate the fact that I have this team in here, but they do have to be in here. Now, why do I hate it? Because I just don’t enjoy watching this team play. They look like they are having zero fun, sir, when they’re playing volleyball, and I don’t know how sustainable that demeanor is when considering we’re still a year-plus out of Tokyo. But, they do have to be here because, as much as it looks like they’re down 10 points every time someone scores, they’re still really, really good. Bruno looks a little more like the Bruno of old, and Evandro is still an unbelievable athlete with a serve that will score more points than anybody else’s in the world. In the past five events, they’ve won a medal of every color, including a big bronze in Gstaad, beating Italians Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai.
5. Daniele Lupo, Paolo Nicolai, Italy
At the moment, I’d equate these two as the Payne Stewart of the FIVB Tour: Always in contention to win the big events, always finishing well, but rarely actually winning it. Stewart made 10 top-10 finishes before winning his first of three majors, and then it took another five top-10s in between the next one. To be sure, winning majors isn’t easy, and winning world tour events isn’t easy, either, but the reason Nicolai and Lupo aren’t in the top tier with Norway and Russia is that Norway and Russia are winning, and the Italians are not. They’re consistently excellent, with five events in 2019 and five top-five finishes, but no podiums and only one semifinal. A team that consistent is always a threat to win a tournament, but the fact remains that they haven’t actually done so since 2016, in Russia.
6. Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena, U.S.A.
I never know what to do with these guys. When they’re healthy, and playing inspired beach volleyball, they are in that top tier with Russia and Norway, hands down. Dalhausser is still one of two players on the planet – you get one guess as to the other – who can take over a match single-handedly, and Lucena should have a cover story in Men’s Health for being the fittest 39-year-old alive. But then they have these bouts where they just look bored, and when they look bored, they become susceptible to losing to teams like Grant O’Gorman and Ben Saxton or Nikita Liamin and Taras Mysgiv who are all, it should be noted, phenomenal volleyball players, but are still the types of teams that Dalhausser and Lucena used to mop up without much strain. But Phil is still Phil, and Nick is still Nick, and when they’re on, gollee are they on.
7. Clemens Wickler, Julius Thole, Germany
I have trouble putting this team so far down, but I also have trouble putting this team so high, too. There is no doubt that Wickler and Thole, the golden boys of Hamburg, are as good as anyone on the world tour. They’re just not as consistently good as anyone on the world tour. Beach fans were all kinds of fired up about them after their second in Hamburg, as they should have. They navigated one of the toughest gauntlets any tournament will provide this season. But they also lose funny matches, and have thrown a 25th into the mix this season, at a four-star, no less, losing to a pair of teams I’d wager they should beat nine times out of 10.
All that being said, this is a team with a stock to buy, buy, buy heading into Tokyo.
8. Cherif Samba, Ahmed Tijan, Qatar
This is the team I’d label the most athletic and explosive in the world, and one of the most fun to watch for sure. It’s like if you put two Troy Fields together, added a lot more experience, and threw them on the FIVB, this is what you’d get. And, in a similar sense, Samba and Tijan have a crazy high ceiling, able to make plays and win matches they shouldn’t on sheer grit and hustle and explosiveness alone, and also a low floor. That playing style is volatile, and it explains why sometimes they finish 17th, as they did in Ostrava, and why sometimes they win medals, as they did in Xiamen. Either way, it’s certainly no sleeper team, and one fully capable of beating anyone, as evidenced by a pair of wins over Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy this season.
9. Alexander Brouwer, Robert Meeuwsen, Netherlands
Allow Gstaad to show you just how quickly the tides can turn in this sport. In one match, you’re scrapping to get out of pool, a season slipping away, and in the next, you’re beating Brazil’s Andre and George, Dalhausser and Lucena, Lupo and Nicolai and, voila, you’re in the finals of a major. Such is the mercurial season of Brouwer and Meeuwsen, formerly one of the most dominant teams in the world who were mired in a serious slump prior to Gstaad. They didn’t win that final, mind you, losing to Mol and Sorum, but that silver medal should be the galvanization they needed to push them through the remainder of this season.
10. Edgars Tocs, Martins Plavins, Latvia
In nine of the past 10 tournaments, this team has finished in the top 10 and has, somewhat shockingly, surpassed their countrymen, Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins, as the top team in Latvia. They’re capable of beating anyone, but their lack of size – neither stand over 6-foot-5, and Tocs’ listing at 6-foot-5 is a bit generous – is going to make it difficult for them to consistently beat the world’s best. However, they’re consistent, and consistency is what makes Olympics.
First four out
Adrian Gavira, Pablo Herrera, Spain
Alison Cerutti, Alvaro Filho, Brazil
Ondrej Perusic, David Schweiner, Czech Republic
Ilya Leshukov, Konstantin Semenov, Russia
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