Volleyball Nations League 2022 Calgary Women - NEDvsCAN - 041

Dutch setters Laura Dijkema and Britt Bongaerts

The much anticipated first whistle at the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship 2022 will be expected in Arnhem, the Netherlands on Friday, September 23, at 18:00 local time (16:00 GMT). Croatia and co-hosts Poland will take to the court at the magnificent GelreDome stadium for the first of two matches on the first competition day and the first of 100 games to be played at the World Championship through October 15. In Friday’s second match, the Netherlands will entertain Kenya at 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT).

Poland and Croatia will open the race in Pool B. The other four teams in the pool will join the action on Saturday with games between Türkiye and Thailand and between the Dominican Republic and Korea, also in Arnhem. The rest of the round-robin fixtures in that pool will take place in the Polish city of Gdansk from September 28 through October 1.

Coach Stefano Lavarini’s 14-player Polish selection for the World Championship is led by charismatic setter and captain Joanna Wolosz, while 21-year-old opposite Magdalena Stysiak is expected to spearhead the offence and deliver points. On the opposite side of the net, experienced opposite Samanta Fabris is the high scorer in coach Ferhat Akbas’s squad, while 22-year-old middle Bozana Butigan will lead the Croatian team’s blocking efforts.

The last encounter between Poland and Croatia took place five years ago in a 2017 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Group 2 game. With Wolosz in charge of conducting the offence, the Poles marched to a 3-0 (25-10, 25-9, 25-18) victory.

Poland have played at 10 of the previous 18 World Championships and made it to three podiums, but it has been 60 years since their last medal. They took silver at the inaugural tournament in 1952 and bronze in 1956 and 1962. Croatia have never medalled at a World Championship. They appeared at three editions and a sixth place in 1998 was their best result.

The Netherlands are the clear favourites in their opening Pool A match against Kenya on Friday evening. All games in that pool will be played in Arnhem, with the team of neighbouring Belgium joining the action in a match against Puerto Rico on Saturday afternoon and Italy taking on Cameroon later that day. The remaining fixtures are scheduled to take place until October 2.

While the home crowd will certainly be the Netherlands’ ‘15th player’ at this World Championship, coach Avital Selinger’s selection of 14 players is highlighted be the presence of experienced playmaker Laura Dijkema, who will be sharing setting responsibilities with Britt Bongaerts. Kenya’s coach Luizomar De Moura will rely on the leadership of 33-year-old captain Mercy Moim, on the spiking prowess of 23-year-old opposite Sharon Chepchumba and, most of all, on the team’s fighting spirit to guide them into the next round.

The Netherlands and Kenya met twice in 2019, with the Dutch celebrating straight-set wins on both occasions. First, they mastered a 3-0 (25-17, 25-10, 25-10) shutout in a Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifier in Italy. Then they hammered out a 3-0 (25-12, 25-19, 25-17) sweep at the FIVB Volleyball World Cup in Japan.

The Netherlands competed at as many as 14 of the previous World Championship editions. Four years ago, they finished fourth in their best result so far. Kenya have played at six World Championships, and registered their first-ever win only at their most recent appearance in 2018, a straight-set victory over Kazakhstan.

Action in Pools C (Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Kazakhstan, Serbia and USA) and D (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Czechia and Japan) will get underway with matches on Saturday. The top four teams in each pool will advance to the second pool phase of the tournament, which will determine the eight quarterfinalists.

· Watch all FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.