Japan (JPN) vs. Italy (ITA) men - Pool 2 - Preliminary Phase #16055140

Captain Simone Giannelli smiles after another Italian victory in Rio

Italy are back in third place in the FIVB World Rankings as they regained the spot after triumphing in a direct battle with Japan in the Volleyball Nations League 2024, on Saturday, in Rio de Janeiro. Later, Argentina, who are also looking to qualify for the Paris Olympics, secured their first victory in the tournament, beating Germany.

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After getting sweeps over Germany and Iran in their first two matches at the Maracanãzinho stadium earlier this week, the Italians dropped their first set in the tournament against Japan, but came back and managed to come out on top, winning the rematch of last year’s VNL bronze medal match 3-1 (23-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-17).

The teams entered the day separated by just 1.12 points in the FIVB World Rankings and the Italian victory was enough to push them above Japan, earning them 7.56 points and elevating their total to 358.27 - they are also the best-ranked national team among the ones not yet qualified for the Paris Games. With a new total of 344.26 points after the upset, the Asians are in fourth place.

Opposite Yuri Romanò was Italy’s most productive player in the match, registering 20 points (16 kills, two blocks, two aces), three more than star outside hitter Alessandro Michieletto. The second Italian outside hitter, Daniele Lavia, also got to double digits with 11 points.

“Japan are always a difficult opponent because they have some very good hitters,” Italian setter Simone Giannelli remarked. “I felt we managed to play much better after a difficult first set. Our strategy changed a little bit as we adapted to the match and I want to congratulate all my teammates because we got a win in a very difficult match. Brazil will be another tough opponent and the stadium will be packed.”

Blocking was a major factor in the Italian victory as the Europeans outscored the Asians by 15 points to three in that skill, with Giannelli and middle blocker Roberto Russo accounting for four stops each.

On the Japanese side, opposite Kento Miyaura matched Romanò’s 20-point performance with 17 kills and three aces. Outside hitter Tatsunori Otsuka was Japan’s next-best scorer with nine points.

“We didn’t have some key players this week, but still played very well,” Miyaura said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to keep that level today. We were very focused on the first set and played well, but after that, we started making errors and lost our focus.”

While Japan have completed their campaign in the opening week of the VNL 2024 with three wins and a loss, the Italians are the only undefeated team in Rio de Janeiro with three victories and will try to continue this way in their fourth and last match at the Maracanãzinho, on Sunday, at 10:00 local time (13:00 GMT), against hosts Brazil.

Argentina get their first win

In the second match of the day, Argentina secured their first victory in the VNL 2024 by downing Germany 3-1 (21-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-21). Like the Italians, the South Americans also benefited from a massive advantage in blocking points (18 to seven) to secure the win.

Star outside hitter Facundo Conte led the Argentinean offense with 16 points (14 kills, one block, one ace), also getting solid contributions from middle blockers Agustin Loser, who scored 15, including an impressive eight blocks, and Nicolas Zerba, who had 12, with five blocks. German outside hitter Moritz Reichert was the match's top scorer with 18 points (16 kills, two blocks).

Argentina (ARG) vs. Germany (GER) men - Pool 2 - Preliminary Phase #16060447

Loser was on fire at the net, registering eight blocks

With the victory, the South Americans add points in the World Rankings for the first time since the start of the VNL, following losses against Japan and Brazil, collecting 3.87 points with their triumph and remaining in eighth place with 308.12 - they are third among the teams playing for Olympic qualification. Germany dropped one spot and are now 12th, with 232.90.

Argentinians and Germans will also be in action on Sunday in Rio, with the South Americans facing Iran at 17:30 local time (20:30 GMT) and the Europeans playing against continental rivals Serbia at 14:00 local time (17:00 GMT).

Volleyball Nations League 2024: schedule and results

A third and final match will be held at the Maracanãzinho on Saturday, with Cuba battling Iran at 21:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Sunday).

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