Brazil (BRA) vs. Canada (CAN) women - Pool 6 - Preliminary Phase #5450125

Captain Gabi Guimarães will lead Brazil at home in the opening week of the VNL

A two-week period of action-packed elite volleyball matches in Rio de Janeiro is set to begin on Tuesday, when the Brazilian city hosts the first two women’s duels of the Volleyball Nations League 2024.

Between then and Sunday, hosts Brazil, Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Serbia, Thailand and the United States will each play four matches at the iconic Maracanãzinho stadium to start their campaigns in the event. The men will play at the same venue next week.

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The first day of action of the VNL 2024 will already bring encounters with major implications in the race for the last four spots at the Paris 2024 Olympics as they involve two teams still in the mix, with China facing Asian rivals Korea at 17:30 local time (20:30 GMT) and Canada meeting Brazil at 21:00 local time (00:00 Wednesday, GMT).

China are currently the second team still not qualified for Paris 2024 better placed in the FIVB World Rankings, appearing in sixth place, with 329.65 points. The match against Korea won’t help them add a lot to their total, as they most points they get out of it is 0.93 in case of a 3-0 victory, but dropping the game will cost them at least 14.07 points, which could favor teams ranked below them.

The Chinese, who were the first to start their preparations for the VNL, reuniting players in February, won’t have superstar outside hitter Zhu Ting, who recently announced her comeback to the national team, available in Rio, but fellow outside hitter Zhang Changning will be back for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, joining middle blocker Yuan Xinyue and outside hitter Li Yingying this week.

Korea, who have only 93.72 World Ranking Points and currently appear in 40th place, will try to start climbing the rankings and will have new coach Fernando Morales on the bench for the first since his arrival, a few months ago.

In the second match of the day, Canada will try to start a push to return to the Olympics for the first time since Atlanta 1996. They are currently the fifth team among the ones not yet qualified and are looking from the outside, but could close the gap with an upset as a victory over the South Americans could give them up to 14.65 points - Canada did beat Brazil in the VNL 2023.

“This year’s VNL has the additional importance of achieving our goal of qualifying for Paris 2024,” said head coach Shannon Winzer. “Earning a spot in the Olympic tournament requires the time, effort and commitment of more than just the 14 athletes selected to this roster, it’s the effort of the athletes and staff of the program as a whole.”

Playing at home this week, Brazil are already qualified for Paris 2024 but won’t take it easy in front of their home fans as most of their key players, such as middle blockers Thaisa Menezes and Ana Carolina ‘Carol’ da Silva and outside hitters Gabriela ‘Gabi’ Guimarães, Ana Cristina Souza and Julia Bergmann, will be available for selection.

Dominicans, Serbians, Thais and Americans debut on Wednesday

The other four teams in the pool will make their VNL 2024 debuts on Wednesday, with USA and Thailand meeting first, at 17:30 local time (20:30 GMT), and Serbia and the Dominican Republic dueling later, at 21:00 local time (00:00 Thursday, GMT).

Dominicans, Serbians and Americans are already guaranteed in Paris 2024, having booked their spots at last year’s Volleyball Olympic Qualifiers. The hosts of the VNL Finals, Thailand still dream about qualifying but are currently just the seventh best-ranked team still looking for a ticket in the FIVB World Rankings and will need to significantly improve their total of 222 points to remain alive – a triumph against the Americans would be of great help, giving them up to 16.7 points.

VNL 2024 - Match Schedule

Starting on Thursday, three matches will be held daily at the Maracanãzinho until the end of the week.

The Turkish city of Antalya is also hosting a VNL pool this week, with hosts and defending champions Türkiye, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Poland playing there.

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