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France have stood in Slovenia's way in critical moments over the last decade

Few things spark as much excitement in a sporting event as a good rivalry. When rival teams are on opposite sides of the net, the atmosphere changes immediately, stakes are higher and emotions run stronger.

The 2022 Volleyball Nations League, which is set to start on May 31 and will reunite the 32 top teams in the world, will definitely feature some longstanding rivalries. And what happens next will be streamed live on Volleyball TV.

Look out for the following clashes in particular.

USA vs Brazil (Women)

Rivalries are typically born when teams face each other on multiple occasions, especially when it's in finals or other key matches. And there has been no shortage of those encounters when it comes to USA and Brazil. Since 2008, the teams have met in three Olympic, two VNL and four FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix finals. Last year, Americans and Brazilians met in the VNL gold medal match in Rimini and again two months later at the Tokyo Games. These two teams have been among the very best in the world for the last two decades and, although are both going through a partial rebuild in 2022, will certainly remain among the contenders for the VNL title.

VNL Women's Highlights - USA vs. Brazil

Brazil vs Poland (Men)

The gold medal match at last year’s VNL was the most recent of several huge encounters between Brazilians and Poles. These are two of the countries with the most volleyball heritage, and they have been battling each other for years. The South Americans prevailed against their rivals in the 2021 VNL, and won the gold medal at the 2006 World Championship, only to lose to the Europeans who claimed back-to-back world titles in 2014 and 2018. The teams also feature two of the most explosive hitters in international volleyball in Yoandy Leal and Wilfredo Leon, who were once teammates on the Cuban national team before changing their nationalities to become key players for Brazil and Poland respectively.

VNL Men's Highlights - Brazil vs. Poland

Italy vs Serbia (Women)

The relatively new rivalry between Italian and Serbian women has now grown to the point where it is even more explosive that the rivalry between the two countries' men's teams. And that is because Italians and Serbians repeatedly met at key moments of three major tournaments between 2018 and 2021. The first and most important of those encounters took place in 2018, when the Serbians topped the Italians to win their first world title. In 2019, they got the better of their continental rivals again in the semifinals of the European Championship before winning their second-straight title. Italy, however, got revenge in 2021, shortly after being eliminated by their rivals in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics. They returned to the top of the podium in Europe after 21 years with a victory over the Serbians in front of their home fans in Belgrade.

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Serbia eliminated Italy from last year's Tokyo Olympics

France vs Slovenia (Men)

France and Slovenia are two of the fastest-rising teams in men’s volleyball, having both earned their most significant results within the last decade. The French have been the most successful of the two, with Olympic and European titles and VNL medals to their name, and it feels like every time Slovenia were on their way to a breakthrough result, France were the ones to knock them out of the competition. That was the case last year in the VNL, when the Slovenians were denied their first podium appearance by the French in the bronze medal match, and in the final of the 2015 European Championship, when the reigning Olympic champions forced their opponents to settle for silver. Slovenia’s first-ever Olympic appearance also didn’t materialise in great part because of the French, who defeated them twice in two different qualifiers.

VNL Men's Highlights - France vs. Slovenia

China vs Japan (Women)

When it comes to longevity and tradition, few rivalries can match the one between the Chinese and the Japanese. The main forces in Asian women’s volleyball for several decades, the two nations have played each other in as many as 12 continental finals since 1978 and combined to win all but two of the 20 editions of the Asian Championship ever played, and 13 of the 15 Asian Games held so far. The only Asian nations to hold Olympic and world titles, China and Japan will both attempt to be the first on the continent to win a VNL gold medal.

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Asian powerhouses China and Japan have had historic battles over the decades