Roberto Russo Italy Volleyball Nations League 2024

Middle blocker Roberto Russo helped Italy secure four wins in the opening week of the Volleyball Nations League 2024

One of just two men’s national teams to go undefeated in the opening week of the Volleyball Nations League 2024, Italy continue their push for a spot at the Paris Olympics from Wednesday to Sunday, when the Canadian city of Ottawa hots one of the pools of the second week of the tournament.

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The 19.43 FIVB World Ranking points earned with four victories in Rio de Janeiro two weeks ago took Italy a long way as the world champions are now in second place in the rankings with 361.86 and only an unlikely combination of results over the next two weeks of the VNL 2024 Preliminary Phase would be able to keep them out of the upcoming Paris Games.

This week in Ottawa, the Italians will play Olympic champions France, the United States, fellow Olympic hopefuls Cuba and the Netherlands. Also playing at TD Place will be hosts Canada, Argentina and Serbia.

In order to continue to have success at the VNL 2024, the Italians will rely on star outside hitter Alessandro Michieletto. The 22-year-old was the seventh-best scorer in the first week of the VNL with 65 points and tied for the most aces with ten.

Already guaranteed at the Olympics, the United States are expected to take advantage of the short trip North to Canada to use some of the 13 players selected by head coach John Speraw to compete in Paris in less than two months, such as setter Micah Christenson, opposite Matt Anderson and libero Erik Shoji, who didn't play in week one. The Americans, who won just one of their four matches in Rio de Janeiro two weeks ago, will face Argentina, Italy, Serbia and hosts Canada over the week.

Playing in front of their home fans, Canada will also try to recover from an inconsistent first week, in which they got two wins in four matches – outside hitter Stephen Maar was third in points with 75 and setter Luke Herr ranked second in assists with 93. Their opponents in Ottawa will be Cuba, Argentina, USA and Serbia.

Argentina, Cuba and Serbia continue Olympic battle

Separated by just over 20 points in the World Rankings, Cuba (261.17) and Serbia (238.51) are right now the two main contenders to claim the fourth and last spot in Paris in play at the VNL. The Cubans had a solid first week in Rio, where they got three wins in four matches, adding 24.2 ranking points, and saw Javier Concepcion lead the tournament in blocks (14) and outside hitters Miguel Ángel López (71) and Marlon Yant (70) rank fourth and fifth in points scored. The Caribbean will play Canada, the Netherlands, Italy and France in Ottawa.

Serbia, on the other hand, had just one victory in their four matches in Brazil, seeing their total go down by 14.71 points. In order to keep their hopes alive for the final week of the Preliminary Phase, they will need to get good results against the Netherlands, USA, Argentina and Canada this week.

Argentina are in a safer spot regarding Olympic qualification, appearing well above Cubans and Serbians with 308.13 points, but were passed by Slovenia after they got two wins in four matches in Week 1. The South Americans will try to move up in the rankings this week after playing USA, Canada, Serbia and France.

Volleyball Nations League 2024: schedule and results

They will play in the first match of the week at the TD Place, facing USA at 16:30 local time (20:30 GMT), on Tuesday. Later, at 20:00 local time (02:00 GMT, Wednesday), Canada will play Cuba.

On Wednesday, two more matches will be held, both involving European teams, with Serbia and the Netherlands batting at 16:30 local time (20:30 GMT) and France and Italy meeting later, at 20:00 local time (02:00 GMT, Thursday).

The second week of the VNL 2024 will also have matches in Fukuoka, where hosts Japan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Germany, Iran, Poland, Slovenia and Türkiye will be in action.

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