USA (USA) vs. France (FRA) men - Pool 5 - Preliminary Phase #5667296

Americans and French will meet for the second time in two weeks, now with a spot in the semifinals on the line

Just three days after Türkiye were crowned as the Volleyball Nations League 2023 women’s champions, the dispute for gold among the men will begin in Gdansk, Poland, with the first two quarterfinals taking place on Wednesday.

USA, France, Italy and Argentina are the first national teams to get on the court at the Ergo Arena, with the North Americans facing the defending champions French at 17:00 local time (15:00 UTC) and the world champion Italians battling the South Americans at 20:00 local time (18:00 UTC).

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2023 Finals live on VBTV

The two remaining quarterfinal encounters will take place on Thursday, when Japan play Slovenia at 17:00 local time (15:00 UTC) and hosts Poland meet Brazil at 20:00 local time (18:00 UTC). The semifinals in Gdansk will have the winners of the two Wednesday matches meeting on one side of the bracket and the teams that emerge from Thursday’s duels clashing on the other.

The best team in the Preliminary Phase with ten victories in 12 matches, the United States will try to secure their fourth VNL medal. The Americans, however, are still chasing their first gold after taking silver in 2019 and 2022 and bronze in 2018.

Head coach John Speraw has managed his players well in the Preliminary Phase and now has his entire squad ready to contribute in the Finals. Setter Micah Christenson and outside hitter Torey Defalco were key players for the Americans so far and will play big roles against the French.

“The seeding doesn’t matter,” said Christenson. “The quarterfinals are going to be tough. We’re going to get ready to play some high-level volleyball and every game is a final at that point.”

The defending champions didn’t book their tickets to Gdansk until the last day of the Preliminary Phase, advancing in eighth place with six wins. As the Americans, they will also be looking for their fourth medal, but unlike their opponents, they already have a title, won last year – the Europeans also took silver in 2018 and bronze in 2021.

Star outside hitter Earvin Ngapeth, who sat out of the Preliminary Phase, has hinted on a return during the VNL Finals and could join the team’s strong core led by fellow outside hitter Trevor Clevenot, setter Antoine Brizard, libero Jenia Grebennikov and middle blocker Barthélémy Chinenyeze.

USA and France met in the last week of the Preliminary Phase and the Americans made good use of the homecourt advantage in Anaheim to win in three sets. They have also won three of the last five encounters between the teams.

**Volleyball Nations League 2023: full schedule and results**

World champions Italy made a strong push in the second half of the Preliminary Phase, moving up in the standings to finish in fourth place with nine victories, all obtained in their last ten matches. The Italians made their first VNL semifinal appearance last season, but are still looking for their first medals in the event.

Head coach Ferdinando De Giorgi has already announced the 14 players that will make the trip to Poland and he’s taking 11 world champions, including the team’s main stars – setter Simone Giannelli, outside hitter Alessandro Michieletto, opposite Yuri Romanò and libero Fabio Balaso.

Their opponents Argentina are yet to make it to the VNL semifinals and will try to take the world champions down to get in the mix in the battle for medals after ranking fifth in the Preliminary Phase with the same nine victories as Italy.

Olympic medalists Luciano De Cecco (setter) and Austin Loser (middle blocker) played big roles for the South Americans in the Preliminary Phase, but perhaps the best news for the team was the high level of play of young outside hitters Luciano Palonsky and Luciano Vicentín.

The Argentineans prevailed when the teams met in their first match in the VNL 2023, in Ottawa, Canada, winning in straight sets, but the Europeans have dominated three of the last five matches between the sides.

Quick links:
Volleyball Nations League
Subscribe to Volleyball World's Newsletter