Men's Olympic Volleyball Group B Picks: Argentina vs. Cuba

Cuba

Friday, August 12, 2016 6:19 PM GMT

The Cuban men’s volleyball team has endured a miserable time at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. They have lost all three matches, taking only one set out of 10, and they are virtually consigned to elimination. 

The Cuban men's volleyball team has endured a miserable time at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. They have lost all three matches, taking only one set out of 10, and they are virtually consigned to elimination. You would expect Argentina to compound their misery in the fourth preliminary match on Saturday.

Argentina are ranked sixth in the world by the FIVB but they were considered outsiders at the start of the tournament. Bovada had them ranked eighth out of 12 teams competing, with a huge pre-tournament price of +5000. But they confounded those betting odds and drifted in after winning their first two games. First they swept aside world number 10 team Iran, who were +3300 at the start of the tournament, in a crushing 3-0 victory. It was a hard-fought win (25-23, 26-24 and 25-18) during which they spiked powerfully and blocked well.

Then they surprised everyone beat defending Olympic champions Russia, the third ranked team in the world and fourth favorite betting pick for the gold medal this time around.

Russia had beaten Cuba 3-1 in their opener and were in great form. They would have been confident of victory, but Argentina played phenomenally well on the day.

They really took it to the Russians and beat them 3-1, avenging a 3-0 victory for Russia over Argentina in the women's volleyball. It was a thumping victory for the men's team, with Bruno Lima taking 18 points and Facundo Conte taking 16 to send Argentina to the top of Pool B.

It all went wrong for Argentina last time out, however, as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Poland, the world's second best team in the FIVB rankings. But the game was a lot closer than the score line suggests. Each set was exceptionally close and Argentina only had themselves to blame for losing the final set, which lasted a whopping 38 minutes and saw them miss seven set points. They were punished, but they emerged with great credit and are still dark horses for at least a medal here.

Argentina are joint second in Pool B with Russia, with Poland leading the group, and they are looking good for a quarter-final spot. They will be licking their lips at the prospect of taking on a Cuba team that has performed terribly so far. They are bottom of Group B on zero points, with no realistic hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage.

There was no shame in their 3-1 defeat at the hands of gold medal holders Russia in their opening match, but successive 3-0 defeats at the hands of Egypt and Iran have made them the whipping boys of the tournament. It is a sad state of affairs for the world number 17 team, who were admittedly +20000 underdogs at the start of the tournament, but would have expected to do a lot better than this. Egypt are below them in the world rankings and were +75000 at the start of the tournament, so for Cuba to lose in straight sets to them was pretty woeful.

They look a long way off adding to their sole medal in the event – a bronze way back in 1976 – and it would be a huge upset if Argentina failed to send them home with a comfortable win here. The betting illustrates this clearly: over at Bovada Cuba are +1400 to win this match while Argentina are -10000. That says it all really.