International Volleyball



With Italy, Japan, Netherlands and Germany in the pool, the race for Olympic tickets will heat up right from the start

The sixth edition of the Volleyball Nations League is just about to get underway. 2024 action will serve off on Tuesday in Antalya with the opening game between Bulgaria and the Netherlands starting at 17:00 local time (14:00 UTC). These are two of the eight teams to compete in the 16 Pool 1 matches this week, from Tuesday to Sunday.

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In addition to pool hosts and defending champions Tรผrkiye, in this group only the teams of Poland and France have already secured their berths at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. All of the other five are still in the race for Olympic tickets, some well within reach, some right on the edge, and others with a very distant shot, so the hunt for precious FIVB World Ranking points is set to heat up right from the start.

While the Bulgarians are the lowest ranked team in the pool and arrive in Antalya with a young squad, having practically given up any hopes for an Olympic miracle, the Dutch are up there, currently holding the last qualifying spot above the cut-off line. With Canada breathing down their necks, just some 22 points behind in the chart, the Netherlands will be forced to storm the match in full force. While a win over Bulgaria will not add a lot to their score (3.82 points for 3-0, 1.32 for 3-1, or 0.01 for 3-2), a loss at the hands of the southern European team will cost them dearly (11.98 points for 0-3, 13.68 for 1-3, or 16.18 for 2-3).

Tuesdayโ€™s programme will also offer a big game between Italy and Poland, with the first whistle blowing at 20:00 (17:00). Italy are the highest ranked team without a ticket to Paris yet, but thatโ€™s no reason for relaxation as the situation could change quickly. Playing their four games in Antalya without many of their star players is a risk they are willing to take and only time will show if that risk was justifiable. A lot of ranking points could move from one teamโ€™s basket to the otherโ€™s depending on the outcome of this match, going from 9.37 Italyโ€™s way to 10.63 Polandโ€™s way in case of a straight-set game.

The other four teams in the pool will get their VNL campaigns underway on Wednesday. 2023 Volleyball Challenger Cup winners and Olympic hosts France will make their historic VNL debut at 17:00 (14:00) against Germany. The Germans will, of course, be keen to…

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