Three-man Italian block against Nimir in Gdansk

The week after the women’s national team of Italy triumphed at the Volleyball Nations League 2022 Finals in Ankara, their male counterparts will host the men’s Finals in Bologna from July 20 through 24. The event will proceed under the same competition formula as the ladies’ tournament last week - a direct knockout format consisting of quarterfinals, semifinals and medal matches – with two games a day, starting at 18:00 and 21:00 local time (16:00 and 19:00 GMT), over the four competition days.

The first two quarterfinals, between USA and Brazil and between Italy and the Netherlands, will be played on Wednesday. The other two, France v Japan and Poland v Iran, will follow on Thursday. The winners of these four matches will spend the weekend in Bologna playing in the semifinals on Saturday and the medal matches on Sunday.

· Watch all VNL 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

Defending champions Brazil will open the Finals with a quarterfinal clash against the United States, one of only three teams to have won 10 matches in the Preliminary Phase. One of those victories came in a four-setter against Brazil during the first competition week in Brasilia. The North Americans finished the stage in third place on a 10-2 win-loss record and 27 points, while the South Americans were sixth in the standings on 8-4 and 24. USA are hoping to claim their third VNL medal after winning bronze in 2018 and silver in 2019. Brazil’s only podium finish so far was last year’s gold at the event in Italy.

Led by the Preliminary Phase’s best scorer, best attacker and best server Nimir Abdel-Aziz, the Netherlands will take on first stage winners and Finals hosts Italy in the second quarterfinal on Wednesday. Both teams will be aiming at their first VNL semifinal. The Italians, who are also reigning European champions, topped the Preliminary Phase table on 10-2 and 31 points, while the Dutch finished just above the cut-off line for the Finals, in eighth place on 6-6 and 17. When they met in Gdansk earlier this month, the southern Europeans mastered a hard-fought straight-set victory.

Olympic champions France will be aiming at their first VNL title as they open their campaign in Bologna on Thursday, with a game against Japan. Each of the two teams arrived at the Finals on a 9-3 win-loss record, with the European side claiming the fourth place in the Preliminary Phase by a one-point margin over the fifth-placed Asians. France have won all four of their previous VNL encounters with Japan, including a clean-slate victory on June 25 of this year in Quezon City. While the French have been on the VNL podium twice, with silver in 2018 and bronze in 2019, the Japanese had never made it to the Finals before.

The last semifinalist will emerge from a clash between reigning world champions Poland and reigning Asian continental champions Iran, also on Thursday. The European team, who were VNL silver medallists in 2021 and bronze medallists in 2019, finished this year’s Preliminary Phase on 10-2 and 31 points, just below leaders Italy on set ratio. They suffered one of their two defeats at the hands of Iran in a rollercoaster five-setter played earlier this month in Gdansk. The Asian squad advanced to their second VNL Finals as the seventh-placed team on 7-5 and 20. They achieved their best result in the competition in 2019, when they finished the first stage in second place, but then dropped to fifth in the final standings.

In the semifinals, the winners of Italy vs. Netherlands will take on the winners of France vs. Japan, and the winners of Poland vs. Iran will take on the winners of USA vs. Brazil.