Nikola Jovovic in action during the VNL 2021 match against Argentina

The fourth competition day of the men’s Volleyball Nations League 2022 will open with a duel between Serbia and Argentina. Both teams are on a 1-1 win-loss record, eighth and ninth in the current standings, respectively, so a positive balance is at stake as they come face to face in Ottawa on Friday at 11:00 local time (15:00 GMT), battling to edge forward with a second victory.

· Watch all VNL 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

Serbia started the competition with a four-set win over Bulgaria on Tuesday, but then lost to Olympic champions France in four sets on Thursday. Argentina, on the other hand, started with a straight-set defeat at the hands of world champions Poland, but then bounced back to claim a 3-1 victory over Germany.

Serbia have a wide lead in the head-to-head series against Argentina at major world-level competitions. They won 21 of the previous 31 encounters with this South American opponent. However, Argentina shut out the Europeans in both of the two most recent meetings, in the Preliminary Rounds of VNL 2019 and VNL 2021. The two teams locked horns twice in 2018, with Serbia winning by 3-1 in the VNL and by 3-0 at the FIVB Volleyball World Championship.

On June 17, 2021, Argentina produced a hard-fought 3-0 (27-25, 25-20, 26-24) victory over Serbia in Rimini and went on to finish ninth in the VNL, before celebrating with the bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the silver at the 2021 South American Championship. As many as six players from their Olympic squad are among the 14 athletes in coach Marcelo Mendez’s group in Ottawa – setter Matias Sanchez, opposite Bruno Lima, who was the best scorer of the Olympics, outside hitter Ezequiel Palacios, middle blockers Martin Ramos and Agustin Loser, who was the best blocker of the Tokyo 2020 tournament, and libero Santiago Danani. In addition to these six, another three from the squad that defeated Serbia in the VNL – Nicolas Lazo, Luciano Palonsky and Franco Massimino – will try to do it again in Canada on Friday.

Despite losing to Argentina, Serbia finished higher in the VNL 2021 standings. They took the sixth place on a 10-5 win-loss record. They missed the Olympics, but went on to reach the semifinals of the 2021 CEV European Championship. While many of their star players are not on coach Igor Kolakovic’s team list in Ottawa this week, he can rely on the services of four players from the EuroVolley 2021 squad – setter Vuk Todorovic, outside Pavle Peric and libero Nikola Pekovic, led by experienced playmaker and captain Nikola Jovovic. Outside hitter Miran Kujundzic, who played in the VNL last year, on the other hand, is also back and has been the best server of the competition so far with six aces to his name.

After Friday’s game against Argentina, Serbia will have one more match in the Canadian capital this week, on Saturday against Germany. Then they will travel to Sofia for week two and to Gdansk for week three of the Preliminary Round. The South American team will take on Italy on Sunday in Ottawa. Their next VNL trips will be to Quezon City and Osaka.

Friday’s competition day in Ottawa also includes matches between Bulgaria and Germany and between France and hosts Canada. The programme of the other pool in Brasilia also offers three fixtures, the Netherlands vs. Iran, Japan vs. USA and Australia vs. Slovenia.