World Championship co-hosts Poland and Slovenia in action at the 2022 VNL

With the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship set to take place from August 26 to September 11, this is a look at the six pools to be played over the first six days of the competition. The Pool Phase will be followed by the Round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. The top two teams from each pool, plus the four best third-placed teams, will progress from the Pool Phase to the Round of 16.

· Watch all FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

Pool A in Katowice: Ukraine, Serbia, Tunisia, Puerto Rico

· Historically, Serbia have won gold medals from major competitions like the Olympic Games (as FR Yugoslavia), the FIVB Volleyball World League and the CEV European Championship, but they have never topped a World Championship podium.

· In 2021, Puerto Rico won their first-ever NORCECA Championship title and qualified for the World Championship.

· Tunisia finished 11th at last year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games before defending their African Championship title and claiming a World Championship berth.

· As the next highest ranked team in the FIVB World Ranking not already qualified, Ukraine were invited to replace Russia, who were declared ineligible to participate in all international and continental events until further notice.

· It will be only the second time Ukraine play at a World Championship, after finishing 10th at their debut in 1998.

With a line-up including numerous top-level international stars, Serbia are the favourites to win this pool. They have not made it to a World Championship podium since their 2010 bronze and will be eager to medal internationally for the first time since their 2019 EuroVolley gold.

However, there is likely to be a fierce battle between the three other teams in the pool for the remaining tickets to the Round of 16. Featuring a high-calibre player like Oleh Plotnytskyi and probably enjoying a lot of support from the stands in Katowice, the team from neighbouring Ukraine are a strong candidate to grab the second place in the pool standings.

SRB vs CAN17

Serbia’s star opposite Aleksandar Atanasijevic about to serve

Pool B in Ljubljana: Brazil, Japan, Cuba, Qatar

· Brazil played the last five World Championship finals and the last four Olympic gold medal matches.

· They have won all but one of the 34 editions of the South American Championship, including the last one in 2021, which guaranteed them a spot at the 2022 World Championship.

· Japan finished seventh at last year’s Olympic Games hosted in Tokyo, before also welcoming the 2021 Asian Championship and booking a ticket to the World Championship as continental runners-up.

· The most recent of Cuba’s four World Championship podiums was in 2010, when they won silver.

· Playing at a World Championship for the first time in history, Qatar are the only rookie among the 24 participants.

While Qatar could produce some surprises, as the underdogs in the pool, the matches between Brazil, Japan and Cuba look very open.

The Asians and South Americans began the season with excellent performances at the Volleyball Nations League 2022, qualifying for the Finals and finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Cuba, meanwhile, earned the right to play in next year’s VNL by winning the Volleyball Challenger Cup 2022. They did so without some of their best players, which means they have even more potential to unveil as they take to the World Championship courts.


Japan’s Yuji Nishida against a block by Brazil’s Ricardo Lucarelli and Isac Santos in VNL 2022

Pool C in Katowice: Poland, USA, Mexico, Bulgaria

· Poland are set to defend their back-to-back World Championship titles from the previous two editions of the competition. They are the number one team in the World Ranking and a co-host of the competition.

· USA qualified for the World Championship as the number seven team in the World Ranking. After their VNL 2022 silver, they are up to number five.

· Bulgaria have collected a total of five World Championship medals in the history of the competition, but none since their 2006 bronze. It will be their 19th appearance, the most among all 24 participants.

· Bulgarian middle Svetoslav Gotsev was the best blocker of the VNL 2022 Preliminary Phase with 35 stuffs to his name.

· In 2021, Mexico won their first Pan American Cup title since 2007.

The clash between USA and home favourites Poland will be a remake of this year’s VNL semifinal, when the Americans celebrated a straight-set victory. It will certainly be the highlight of Pool C, and is likely to be crucial in the race for first place in the pool standings.

It remains to be seen if Bulgaria, with some of their major stars returning to the squad, or Mexico, enjoying a pressure-free underdog status, can pull off any surprises in Katowice.


USA’s TJ Defalco against a three-man Polish block during the VNL 2022 semifinal

Pool D in Ljubljana: France, Slovenia, Germany, Cameroon

· After the greatest success in their history, an Olympic title at Tokyo 2020, France went on to win their first VNL gold in this year’s edition of the competition, with star outside Earvin Ngapeth earning the MVP award at the two events.

· France qualified for the World Championship as the team ranked fourth in the world. Since then, they have climbed to number two.

· France finished third at Argentina 2002 to claim their only World Championship medal so far.

· Slovenia were three-time back-to-back silver medallists of the last three editions of the European Championships.

· Germany’s only medal from a major world-level competition this century was their 2014 World Championship bronze. (East Germany triumphed as world champions in 1970.)

· Cameroon secured their spot at the World Championship as runners-up of the 2021 African Nations Championship in Rwanda.

France are on a roll. With excellent players available at every position, their team is a finely-tuned volleyball machine, ready to beat anyone at any time. It would be no surprise to anyone if they win their pool in Ljubljana, and they could also win the whole tournament.

After reaching three consecutive continental finals, Slovenia co-host this World Championship hoping to capitalise on a great generation of players. They are capable of putting up a fight for the top spot in the pool standings and as France and Slovenia did not meet at this year’s VNL, it is a tough encounter to call. While Cameroon are the clear underdogs, Germany will hope to upset the French and Slovenes, unless they want to measure their record against the other third-placed teams in the Pool Phase for advancement in the competition.


Ngapeth smiles after France’s win in the VNL 2022 final

Pool E in Ljubljana: Italy, Türkiye, Canada, China

· Italy are three-time world champions, but they have not medalled at the World Championships since their last gold in 1998.

· Italy’s most recent major success was the EuroVolley 2021 title, which qualified them for the World Champs.

· China played at 14 and Canada at 11 previous editions of the World Championships, but neither team has made it higher than seventh place.

· Canada qualified for the World Championship as NORCECA Championship runners-up. They finished eighth at last year’s Olympic Games.

· Türkiye won two silvers earlier this season, in the CEV European Golden League and in the Volleyball Challenger Cup, falling just short of a promotion to VNL 2023.

Italy are certainly the team to beat in this pool. The men's team fell just short of the VNL podium in Bologna in July and will be eager to make up for it with a medal at the World Championship.

However, all three of their opponents in Ljubljana are capable of pulling off a surprise against the pool favourites, while the matches between them will be completely up for grabs. Canada, China and Türkiye have enough talent and potential to do better at this World Championship than they have done historically, and will definitely push hard to accomplish that.


Italy’s Gianluca Galassi and Alessandro Michieletto on the block against China’s Peng Shikun in VNL 2022

Pool F in Ljubljana: Argentina, Iran, Netherlands, Egypt

· Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallists Argentina booked their spot at the World Championship as 2021 South American Championship runners-up.

· Dutch opposite Nimir Abdel-Aziz and Argentinean libero Santiago Danani combined to top five of the seven individual rankings in the VNL 2022 Preliminary Phase. Nimir was the best scorer, the best attacker and the best server, while Danani was the best digger and the best receiver.

· The Netherlands are the only team in Pool F to have ever reached a World Championship final. That was in 1994. They are also the only team to have won an Olympic title, in 1996.

· In 2021, Iran won their fourth Asian continental title to qualify for the World Championship.

· Egypt finished 20th at the 2018 World Championship and are currently the number 20 team in the World Ranking.

Underdogs Egypt might be able to upset some of their opponents in the pool, like they did with China at the 2018 World Championship. However, the three-way race between Iran, the Netherlands and Argentina, without a clear favourite, is set to highlight the battles in Pool F.

The three teams finished seventh, eighth and ninth with similar records in the VNL 2022 standings, which shows how equally matched they are ahead of their upcoming encounters in Ljubljana. They all have the potential and the ambition to do well, not just in the pool stage, but at the World Championship as a whole, and as they lock horns in the Slovenian capital, it will be down to how they perform on the day.


Dutch opposite Nimir rejoices after a five-set win over Argentina in VNL 2022