Thailand (THA) vs. Japan (JPN) women - Pool 6 - Preliminary Phase #5578577

There is plenty of excitement awaiting the fans as the 2024 season of the Volleyball Nations League gets underway next week. All seven teams that have already qualified for the women’s volleyball tournament at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games – Brazil, Dominican Republic, Poland, Serbia, Türkiye, United States and hosts France – will be among the 16 strong squads competing in the women’s VNL, while four of the five remaining vacancies will be distributed among the other nine participants and decided during the Preliminary Phase of the upcoming competition, based on the FIVB World Ranking.

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This means that pretty much every single one of the 96 Preliminary Phase games will carry its charge and thrills, in view of qualifying for the Finals in Bangkok, in view of qualifying for Paris, or in view of recent history, but these are our five hard-picked must-see matches in chronological order:

THAILAND v CANADA, May 18 in Rio de Janeiro

As event hosts, Thailand are already qualified for the VNL Finals and their main task during the Preliminary Phase will be catching up with a few teams above them in the World Ranking and climbing up above the cut-off line for Paris 2024. Canada are the first one of their direct rivals for the Olympic tickets that Thailand will meet head to head in the VNL. The Asians are currently the third team, while the North Americans are the first team below the line, so I lot could depend on the outcome of the game between them.

SERBIA v TÜRKIYE, May 30 in Arlington

Serbia and Türkiye are two European archrivals that have engaged in plenty of top-calibre battles in recent years. Two years ago, Serbia won the world title. Last year Türkiye won everything. They met in the 2023 CEV European Championship final and offered a five-set spectacle, in which Türkiye emerged victorious from the heavy battle. This will be a clash between the reigning world champions and the reigning VNL and European champions, but there is more... This will be a clash between the two most successful coaches in women’s volleyball recently – Giovanni Guidetti and Daniele Santarelli – who practically switched their national teams before last season.

JAPAN v CHINA, May 31 in Macao

No Asian team has qualified for Paris 2024 yet, so the continental berth is still up for grabs. It will go to the highest ranked Asian team at the end of the VNL Preliminary Phase and Japan and China are the main contenders. Before the start of the competition, China are ranked number six, while Japan are ranked number nine. The gap between them is less than 25 ranking points, so the face-to-face encounter between the two in this classic Asian derby, which always carries a special charge anyway, could prove crucial in the race for Olympic tickets.

BRAZIL v ITALY, June 1 in Macao

Brazil and Italy are undoubtedly among the strongest teams in the world and every encounter between them can produce a top-level game. They met in the VNL 2022 final, but in 2023, they were both knocked out in the quarterfinals by the two eventual finalists, and in 2024, will be eager to find their way back to the podium. Italy will be driven by the extra motivation that they have yet to qualify for Paris. Brazil are already qualified, but they have not won a major world-level competition since 2017, while losing as many as six finals during that period, and must be eager to break that “curse” as soon as possible.

POLAND v USA, June 1 in Arlington

Poland and United States will return to Arlington for a remake of their spectacular five-set encounter in the VNL 2023 bronze medal match, which took place at the same US venue and was won by Poland, who outlasted the reigning Olympic champions dramatically, in the overtime of the tie-breaker, to celebrate their first VNL medal. This way the Europeans also got back at the Americans for the five-set loss they suffered earlier in the tournament. They met again at the FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier in Lodz. Poland won again, this time in four sets, but both teams ended up qualified for Paris.

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