Canada (CAN) vs. USA (USA) women - Pool 4 - Preliminary Phase #16209923

Captain Alexa Gray is looking to lead Canada to Paris 2024

The last competition week of the women’s 2024 Volleyball Nations League Preliminary Phase is set to get underway in Fukuoka on Tuesday. As Japan welcome seven national teams for the Pool 6 matches, the main focus will fall on the Netherlands and Canada, who are running neck and neck in the FIVB World Ranking, on the edge of the qualification zone for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Of course, qualification for the VNL Finals in Thailand will also be at stake during the week.

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While the booking of Olympic tickets for Italy, Japan and China seems like just a formality to be officially confirmed next Monday, that’s far from being the case with the Netherlands and Canada. Before the start of the competition week, the Dutch are holding the last qualifying spot for Paris, but the North Americans are a mere 2.21 points below them in the World Ranking, so the two teams are practically on a level start into the week, at the end of which one of them will celebrate an Olympic ticket.

Canada will start their Pool 6 campaign against Italy on Tuesday at 19:20 local time (10:20 UTC) in a match, in which they can do as positively as earning 13.82 World Ranking points to as negatively as dropping 6.18 points. The Netherlands will get their Fukuoka week underway on Wednesday at 15:30 (06:30) with a game against reigning world champions Serbia. A 3-0 win would earn them as many as 11.87 points towards the ranking, but a 3-0 loss would cost them 8.13. Most anticipated will be the direct clash between the two teams on Friday at 15:30 (06:30), whose result may provide some answers, but may also tie the knot tighter before the last games on the weekend. Canada will also play against hosts Japan on Thursday and France on Saturday, while the Netherlands will meet Olympic champions USA on Thursday and Korea on Sunday.

The two teams are also well in the race for the Bangkok Finals, with Canada placing sixth in the current VNL standings on a 5-3 win-loss record and 15 points and the Netherlands occupying ninth place on 4-4 and 12.

Among the teams competing in Fukuoka, Italy stand the highest in the current table, in third place on 6-2 and 19, right above Japan in fourth on 6-2 and 18. After meeting the Canadians on Tuesday, the Italians have to face Korea on Friday, USA on Saturday and Serbia on Sunday. Meanwhile, the home team will open their week in Fukuoka with a Wednesday game against Korea at 19:20 (10:20). Hinotori Nippon will then take on Canada on Thursday, Serbia on Saturday and USA on Sunday.

Paris-bound USA are standing eighth in the table on 4-4 and 13, just below the cut-off for the Finals. In order to improve, they will be looking for a good result in the pool opener against France on Tuesday at 15:30 (06:30), as well as in their remaining games against the Netherlands on Thursday, Italy on Saturday and Japan on Sunday.

The team of Serbia also has a good shot at Bangkok. The southern Europeans are in 10th place on 3-5 and 9 and their programme in Fukuoka includes matches against the Netherlands on Wednesday, France on Friday, Japan on Saturday and Italy on Sunday.

The other two teams in the pool, Korea and France, stand 14th and 15th, respectively, on 1-7 and 4 each and are unlikely to meddle into the race for the VNL Finals. They will face each other, however, on Thursday in what is likely to be an honourable duel for a better position in the table. The Asian team will also look to improve their record as they meet Japan on Wednesday, Italy on Friday and the Netherlands on Sunday, while the French VNL rookies will continue working on their team’s chemistry ahead of hosting the Olympic Games this summer in matches against USA on Tuesday, Serbia on Friday and Canada on Saturday.

Also this week, but in Hong Kong, China, the other eight VNL 2024 participants – Brazil, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, Germany, Poland, Thailand, Türkiye and hosts China – will engage in the Pool 5 battles.

The VNL Preliminary Phase features three competition weeks per gender, with each of the 16 teams playing 12 matches. The seven best-placed national teams in the Preliminary Phase will join hosts Thailand for the Finals, which will be held in Bangkok from June 20 to 23.

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