Nimir Abdel-Aziz the Netherlands Italy Volleyball Nations League 2024-min

Dutch star Nimir Abdel-Aziz had a hard time dealing with the Italian block in Ottawa

Italy completed a successful three-week period on the road on Sunday, when they swept the Netherlands in Ottawa, Canada, and moved up to first place in the Volleyball Nations League 2024.

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The reigning world champions have been on the road since the opening week of the VNL, on May 21, as after winning all their four matches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Italians headed straight to Ottawa, where they prepared for the second week of the Preliminary Phase.

In their last match before returning home, the Italians produced a solid 3-0 (25-18, 25-15, 25-21) victory over European rivals the Netherlands at the TD Place that put them at the top of the VNL standings with 21 points (seven wins, one loss), ahead of Slovenia and Poland, who have 18.

The seven victories in eight matches also moved the Italians to second place in the FIVB World Rankings with 369.30 points. The 25.87 points accumulated since the start of the VNL get the Italians incredibly close to qualifying for the Paris Olympics as they now have a 118.66-point lead over Cuba, the first team outside the qualification zone ahead of the final week of the Preliminary Phase, which will also mark the end of the qualification period.

“We go back home very pleased with the results we got,” captain Simone Giannelli reflected. “Winning three out of four matches in the VNL is always nice and we don’t take it for granted. I even think that our defeat to France will make us stronger going forward as it has shown us where we need to improve. This time on the road also made us come together as a group, which was nice.”

Against the Dutch, Yuri Romanò and Alessandro Michieletto carried the Italian offense, with the opposite producing 18 points (14 kills, three blocks, one ace) and the outside hitter adding another 16 (13 kills, three blocks).

Another key to the Italian victory was limiting Dutch scoring machine Nimir Abdel-Aziz to just nine points, his second-lowest output in the VNL so far. With the captain having a difficult shift, outside hitter Marteen Van Garderen led their scoring efforts with 14 points (12 kills, two blocks).

Serbia win and enter the qualification zone

Also heavily involved in the race to qualify for the Paris Games, Serbia and Argentina were both on the court on Sunday in Ottawa, with different outcomes. The Serbians secured a critical 3-1 (21-25, 25-20, 25-18, 25-23) comeback win over hosts Canada that earned them 7.98 FIVB World Ranking points and pushed them inside the qualification zone.

The Argentineans, on the other hand, fought until the end, but couldn’t handle Olympic champions France, losing 3-2 (25-19, 25-17, 22-25, 26-28, 15-9) and dropping 4.36 FIVB World Ranking points.

With that, Italy (369.30), Slovenia (335.03) and Argentina (302.36) will enter the third week of the VNL Preliminary Phase in a solid position to qualify, while Serbia (251.55), Cuba (250.64) and the Netherlands (217.38) are within close range and continue to fight for the fourth spot in play at the Games.

Volleyball Nations League 2024: schedule and results

The third and final week of the VNL Preliminary Phase will have matches in Ljubljana, where hosts Slovenia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Cuba, Italy, Poland, Serbia and Türkiye will play, and Manila, the Philippines, where Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Iran, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States will be in action.

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