Defending Volleyball Nations League champions Brazil and reigning world champions Poland will start their second-week campaigns in the men’s VNL 2022 with a game against each other and as the two top-ranked teams in the FIVB World Ranking. The match, which will open Wednesday’s programme in Sofia at 17:00 local time (14:00 GMT), is a remake not only of last year’s final won by the South American side, but also of the last two FIVB Volleyball World Championship finals in 2014 and 2018, won by the European team. Brazil and Poland also topped the standings with gold and silver, respectively, at the last edition of the FIVB Volleyball World Cup final in 2019.

· Watch all VNL 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

During the first week of action, Poland defeated Argentina, Bulgaria and France and lost to Italy in Ottawa to stand fourth on a 3-1 win-loss record and nine points, while Brazil beat Australia and Slovenia, but lost to USA and China at home in Brasilia to occupy the eighth place on 2-2 and seven points. For the first time in history, Poland rose to number one in the World Ranking, pushing previous leaders Brazil to second.

Brazil and Poland have met a total of 63 times at major world-level competitions. On Wednesday, the South Americans will be looking for their 43rd win, while the Europeans will be aiming at a 22nd victory. They met twice in each of the previous three editions of the VNL, with Poland winning both encounters in 2019 and Brazil dominating in 2018 and 2021.

The last time Brazil and Poland met was in the VNL 2021 final in Rimini. On June 27, 2021, Brazil triumphed with their first title in the competition after a 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-14) victory over the world champs. Some of their heroes in that match, who skipped the first week of VNL this year, have returned to the squad for the trip to Sofia, including two of Brazil’s biggest stars, outside hitters Yoandy Leal, a VNL 2021 Dream Teamer, and Ricardo Lucarelli. The team have also been joined by Darlan Souza as the second opposite to double Alan Souza, the VNL’s best scorer in the first competition week, with a total of 78 points to his name.

Opposite Bartosz Kurek, who was Poland’s best scorer in that final and was named one of the two Most Valuable Players of VNL 2021, will also join the action this week, after skipping the trip to Canada two weeks ago. He is one of eight Polish stars picked by coach Nikola Grbic to make their VNL 2022 debut this week in Bulgaria. The other returnees to the squad are setters Grzegorz Lomacz and Marcin Janusz, opposite Lukasz Kaczmarek, outside hitters Aleksander Sliwka and Kamil Semeniuk, middle blocker and VNL 2021 Dream Teamer Mateusz Bieniek, and libero Pawel Zatorski.

“Poland are a very strong and competitive team, regardless of the formation on the court,” Brazil’s head coach Renan Dal Zotto said. “They are one of the contenders for the title in any competition. It will be a very balanced match, decided in the details.”

After playing against Brazil on Wednesday, this week Poland will also meet Canada on Thursday, Australia on Saturday and USA on Sunday. In Sofia, the South Americans will also face Serbia on Thursday, Iran on Friday and hosts Bulgaria on Sunday.

Wednesday’s VNL schedule offers two more fixtures. The programme will start with a game between Germany and Italy of the Quezon City pool and will end with a match between Serbia and USA in Sofia.