Italy (ITA) vs. Türkiye (TUR) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15656061

Fan-packed VNL venue in Antalya

After a week of top-calibre women’s volleyball, the Turkish Mediterranean city of Antalya is set for another week of spectacular action as it welcomes the Pool 1 matches in the men’s Volleyball Nations League as well. The sixth edition of the competition will get underway on Tuesday with the opening game between Bulgaria and France starting at 17:00 local time (14:00 UTC), setting off a Preliminary Phase with 96 top-level matches over three competition weeks, at the end of which the seven highest-placed teams will join hosts Poland for the VNL Finals and, what is different this year, the line-up of men’s volleyball participants in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be finalized.

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Among the eight teams to compete in Antalya this week, four have already qualified for the Olympics – Canada, Poland, the United States and hosts France. The other four, however – Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Türkiye – are still in contention for the remaining vacancies, and every match they participate in will have a direct impact on the FIVB World Ranking, which will eventually determine who gets a ticket to Paris. As the ranking currently stands, Slovenia are third in line for the four available berths, while the Netherlands and Türkiye are second and third below the cut-off.

Bulgaria, on the other hand, have a very distant shot at the vacancies and only a miracle could qualify them for Paris. For example, if they manage to stun reigning Olympic champions France in Tuesday’s opening match in straight sets, they will improve their World Ranking score by a solid 16.94 points, but will still be another 76.21 points behind Serbia, the last team currently above the qualification line. Of course, the Bulgarians, just as much as the qualified French or anybody else, will do their best to achieve success in every match, not only to improve their ranking score towards life after Paris, but also to try and qualify for the VNL Finals.

Tuesday’s second match is set to get the home crowd roaring again, as the men’s national team of Türkiye will make its much anticipated VNL debut with a match against Canada, starting at 20:00 (17:00). If they win the three points from the match, they will earn enough World Ranking points (10.64 for 3-0 or 8.14 for 3-1) to jump above both the Netherlands and Canada in the chart and get much closer to the red line. They will surpass the Dutch even if they win by 3-2, but the 5.64 points they will take away from Canada will put them just 0.16 points below the North Americans. If Canada win, however, they will take away between 4.36 and 9.36 points from Türkiye, which would push the Turks below the next best contender Iran.

The other four teams will get their VNL 2024 campaigns underway on Wednesday. When the Netherlands and Slovenia take to the court at 17:00 (14:00), it will be a battle. Even though the distance of over 70 ranking points between Slovenia and the first team below the cut-off Cuba seems quite respectful, the rate at which it could melt down need not be underestimated. Meanwhile, the gap of 38.64 points between Serbia and the Netherlands will be significantly narrowed, if the Dutch take the 14.82 points that come with a 3-0 win over Slovenia. Even a 3-2 victory will move a good 9.82 points from Slovenia’s to Netherlands’ basket. To avoid that, the Slovenians will fight for a win that would move points in the opposite direction – from a tiny 0.18 for a 3-2 victory to a much more meaningful 5.18 for a 3-0 sweep.

Wednesday’s programme will end with a huge clash between the number one and the number two teams in the World Ranking, Poland and USA, respectively. With both teams confirmed for Paris, the focus will fall on a simple dilemma – who will win this remake of last year’s final and edge in front of the other in this year’s race for VNL honours. But since with the new World Ranking tool on the VNL website this information is just a simple arithmetic calculation away, it is worth noting that if the Americans beat the Poles in straight sets, the gap between the two teams on top of the World Ranking will shrink to just under seven points, but if it goes the other way around, a Polish sweep would widen it to 46.89 points.

🇵🇱 POL vs. 🇺🇸 USA - Highlights Final | Men's VNL 2023

Of course, there will be plenty of exciting matches for the rest of the week in Antalya, as well as in the other pool in Rio de Janeiro, featuring hosts Brazil in the impressive company of Argentina, Cuba, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan and Serbia.

The VNL Preliminary Phase will feature three competition weeks per gender, with each of the 16 teams playing 12 matches. The seven best-ranked national teams in the Preliminary Phase will join hosts Poland for the Finals, which will be held in Lodz from June 27 to 30.

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