After Friday’s day off in Ankara, the semifinals of the women’s Volleyball Nations League will be played on Saturday. In the first battle for a spot in Sunday’s final, Serbia will take on Brazil at 15:00 local time (12:00 GMT). Then, at 18:30 (15:30), hosts Türkiye will meet Italy in a duel for the second berth in the trophy match.
VNL semifinals take centre stage on Saturday
Brazil to take on Serbia and Italy to face Türkiye in the quest for medals
Опубликовано 09:39, 15 июль 2022
To get to the Finals, Brazil finished the Preliminary Phase in second place on a 10-2 win-loss record and 29 points. In the first of two quarterfinals in Ankara on Wednesday, the reigning continental champions of South America claimed a 3-1 victory over Japan. Serbia, on the other hand, qualified for the Finals as the sixth-placed team in the Preliminary Phase on 8-4 and 23, and then upset three-time defending VNL champions USA in a five-set quarterfinal battle on Wednesday.
While Brazil made it to the semifinals at all three previous editions of the VNL, and claimed silver medals at the last two, in 2019 and 2021, it will be the first time reigning world champions Serbia reach this stage of the competition. Their best result was a fifth place they took in 2018.
It will be the 21st time these two teams meet since 2007, when Serbia started competing as a country internationally. Brazil won 17 of the previous 20 encounters. The European team last defeated their South American opponents, in straight sets, in the pool stage on their way to victory at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball World Championship. Brazil’s most recent victory, also in straight sets, dates back to last month, June 19, when in a VNL Preliminary Phase game they produced a 3-0 (25-21, 25-9, 25-21) shutout of the Serbs at home, in Brasilia.
Their star outside hitter and captain, Gabriela Guimaraes and opposite Kisy Nascimento were among the best scorers of that match, on 14 points apiece, while middle blocker Ana Carolina Da Silva contributed 13, including six kill blocks. Carol emerged as the best blocker of the entire Preliminary Phase on a total of 56 stuffs, 11 clear of second-ranked Zehra Gunes of Turkey and 14 clear of third-ranked Maja Aleksic of Serbia. Opposite and captain Ana Bjelica and outside hitter Bojana Milenkovic were Serbia’s best scorers in that match.
Reigning European champions Italy finished the Preliminary Phase in third place, just below Brazil on set ratio. On Thursday, they defeated China in four sets to advance to the semifinals. Hosts Türkiye followed up with a four-set win in the last quarterfinal in Ankara, against Thailand. They had won seven of their 12 Preliminary Phase games and collected 23 points to finish that stage in seventh place.
Similar to Brazil, the Turkish team advanced to the VNL semis at all three previous editions of the competition. They took silver in 2018 and bronze in 2021. The Italians, on the other hand, similar to Serbia, have never reached the last four, and their fifth place in 2019 was their best VNL finish so far.
It will be the 20th meeting between Italy and Türkiye at a major world-level competition this century. The Italians won 14 of the previous 19 encounters. However, it was the Turks who took the most recent victory, a 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-19) sweep in their VNL 2022 opening game, played on May 31 in Ankara.
They were led by outside hitter Hande Baladin, whose match-high of 16 points included three aces, opposite Ebrar Karakurt with 14 points and middle blocker and captain Eda Erdem with 10. In that game, however, Italy were without some of their star players, who are on the current squad for the Finals, like opposite Paola Egonu, who hammered out 36 points towards their quarterfinal win over China, or experienced outsides Caterina Bosetti and Miryam Sylla.
The winners of the two semifinals will meet on Sunday at 18:30 local time to lock horns for the 2022 VNL crown. For the first time in history, the women’s VNL title will not be claimed by USA. Three and a half hours earlier, the remaining two teams will battle it out for the bronze.