Japan (JPN) vs. China (CHN) women - Pool 2 - Preliminary Phase #4852203

A VNL clash between classic Asian rivals China and Japan coming up this week in Macao

Macao will entertain the teams of Brazil, the Dominican Republic, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Thailand and hosts China for the Pool 3 matches of the second competition week in the women’s 2024 Volleyball Nations League from Tuesday, May 28, to Sunday, June 2. In addition to the spots in the VNL Finals, also at stake during the Preliminary Phase this year are four vacancies in the Paris 2024 Olympic volleyball tournament.

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As many as five of the teams that have not qualified for Paris yet are in the pool in Macao. For some of them, like Italy and China, the trip to the French capital looks like a safe bet, and for others, like Thailand, it looks like a mission impossible. However, Japan and the Netherlands are placed very close to the qualification cut-off in the FIVB World Ranking and for them every game in Macao could eventually prove crucial.

Japan are currently ranked third among the candidates for the four Olympic vacancies, while the Netherlands are first below the red line after losing their place within the qualifying zone to Canada during the first VNL competition week. The gap between these two teams is only about 28 World Ranking points.

After Japan’s first match in Macao, against Brazil on Tuesday at 19:30 local time (11:30 UTC), that gap could either expand by as many as 13.16 points, if Japan shut out the mighty South Americans, or shrink by as many as 6.84 points, if the Asians get shut out themselves. Later in the week, the Japanese team has encounters with VNL rookies and Olympic hosts France, powerful Asian rivals China and already qualified Dominican Republic.

The Netherlands will meet the exact same four opponents during the week, starting with China on Wednesday at 19:30 (11:30). There is a nice 12.81 World Ranking points to gain for the Dutch, if they sweep that game in straight sets, but if they lose by 3-0, China will take away as many as 7.19 points of their score.

Paris-bound Brazil will be aiming to continue their winning streak in VNL 2024. They are running second in the current VNL standings on a 4-0 win-loss record and a full 12 points, behind Poland only on set ratio. After Japan on Tuesday and the Netherlands on Thursday, the Brazilians will also meet Italy on Saturday and Thailand on Sunday.

Pool hosts China are also near the top of the table, currently in third place on 3-1 and 9. They are the main candidate for the Asian Olympic quota, ranked nearly 23 points above continental rivals Japan, and overall the second highest ranked team among those without tickets to Paris, over 50 points above the cut-off. After launching their home campaign against the Dutch, they will meet Japan, Thailand and Italy, in that order, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Also on 3-1 and 9, and behind on set ratio, Italy are fifth in the VNL table after the first competition week. They are the highest-ranked team without an Olympic visa and although over 57 points separate them from the red line, they have to be mindful as they start their week in Macao with a game against France on Wednesday at 16:00 (08:00) and continue with fixtures against Dominican Republic on Thursday, Brazil on Saturday and China on Sunday.

Macao action will get underway on Tuesday at 16:00 (08:00) with a match between Thailand and Dominican Republic. While the Queens of the Caribbean are already qualified for Paris, the hosts of this year’s Finals in Bangkok are almost 91 ranking points away from the qualification zone in the World Ranking. Standing 15th in the VNL table, they are yet to achieve their first win of the season. The Dominicans, on the other hand, are in 10th place on 2-2 and 6.

VNL newcomers France are among the underdogs this season, but have already scored their first win in the competition. They are 13th in the standings on 1-3 and 3. Starting the week against Italy on Wednesday, they will continue to look for growth and team chemistry ahead of hosting the 2024 Olympics.

Meanwhile in Arlington, United States of America, the other eight VNL 2024 participants – Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Korea, Poland, Serbia, Türkiye and hosts USA – will engage in the Pool 4 battles.

The VNL Preliminary Phase features three competition weeks per gender, with each of the 16 teams playing 12 matches. The seven best-placed national teams in the Preliminary Phase will join hosts Thailand for the Finals, which will be held in Bangkok from June 20 to 23.

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