The final eight men's teams are set for the Volleyball Nations league (VNL) 2022 quarter-finals.
Four thrilling match-ups will take place in Bologna, Italy on 20-21 July to decide who will face-off in the semi-finals on July 23.
There should be no shortage of entertainment when defending men's VNL champions Brazil take on three-time Olympic gold medallists USA. Meanwhile Japan have a tough battle on their hands when they meet Tokyo 2020 Olympic champions France. Asian champions Iran will face world champions Poland, while Netherlands secured the eighth and final spot into the quarters and will come up against hosts Italy.
The medal matches will take place on Sunday 24 July.
Read on to find out what to expect from these match-ups, plus the schedule of play and how to watch.
2022 Men's VNL quarter-finals: Stories and stars to watch
Brazil will be hungry to defend their VNL title from 2021 but will have to overcome one of their biggest rivals, USA. The teams have a long history which includes a Brazilian win at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021, and meeting in two Olympic finals at Los Angeles 1984 and Beijing 2008. America were the gold medal winners on both occasions.
The American team qualified for the final phase in third while the South Americans were sixth in the preliminary phase standings. USA has already beaten Brazil in the opening week of the tournament without star setter, Olympic bronze medallist Micah Christenson, who joined the team in the third week of the tournament.
“It’s great to be back with the guys,” Christenson said after re-joining his team. “That’s the part that you miss the most, the competition with your brothers."
On the other hand, Brazil suffered the loss of Alan de Souza due to an ongoing foot injury. His younger brother Darlan has stepped in to replace him.
Poland were runners-up at 2021 VNL and qualified second for the quarters this year after ten wins and two losses in the tournament so far. The world champions will need to overcome Iran next. There are seven Tokyo 2020 Olympians in the Polish squad, and they'll be looking for some big plays from outside hitters Aleksander Sliwka and Kamil Semeniuk and opposite Bartosz Kurek.
Speaking after their win over Slovenia on Sunday, Sliwka said, "Every element can be improved. We are able to compete with any team in the world. Stumbling blocks show us what we should improve and which direction to go. We are preparing for the finals and we will do our best."
Amin Esmaeilnezhad will be one to watch out for from Iran. This is his first VNL campaign and the 25-year-old has scored 193 points and sits second in the overall scoring charts. He's helped lead his side to seven wins out of 12 games in the prelims and will need to step it up a notch if they are to reach the semis.
After qualifying for the quarters, Iranian captain Milad Ebadipou told Volleyballworld, "Our younger players grew a lot between the start of the VNL and now and they’re becoming amazing players. But it’s not over yet.”
The top scorer of the tournament thus far is Dutch star Nimir Abdel-Aziz. He has been instrumental in the Netherlands reaching the quarter-finals after six wins and six loses. The 30-year-old and his teammates will come up against an Italian side looking to put on a show for their home fans. The hosts will be full of confidence given they are the European champions and have already beaten the Dutch in the preliminary phase. The Azzurri have also gained the star power of Ivan Zaytsev who has returned to the court after a knee injury at the Olympics in Tokyo last year required surgery.
Italy's Olympic silver and bronze medallist said on his return to the side, "My last month was mainly dedicated to complete physical recovery. The coaching staff preferred to give me a little more time to work on the knee which is responding well. I think I am in a decent condition. We can improve but I am happy."
The fourth quarter-final clash will see Olympic champions France take on Japan. The French have retained several key players who helped them to gold medal glory in Tokyo, including captain Benjamin Toniutti and Earvin Ngapeth. They qualified fourth for the quarters, while Japan were just behind in fifth.
Schedule: Men’s Volleyball Nations League 2022 Final Phase
All games take place in Bologna, Italy and are listed in local time / CEST (GMT+2)
Wednesday 20 July 2022 - Quarter-finals
- 17:00 - Brazil vs USA
- 20:00 - Italy vs Netherlands
Thursday 21 July 2022 - Quarter-finals
- 17:00 - France vs Japan
- 20:00 - Poland vs Iran
Saturday 23 July 2022 - Semi-finals
- 17:00 - TBD vs TBD
- 20:00 - TBD vs TBD
Sunday 24 July 2022 - Final: Playoff for 3 and 4
- 17:00 - TBD vs TBD
Sunday 24 July 2022 - Final: Playoff for 1 and 2
- 20:00 - TBD (winner semi-final 1) vs TBD (winner semi-final 2)
For full-results and competition schedule - check the official event website HERE.
How to watch Men's Volleyball Nations League 2022 games live
Action from the men's and women's knockout stages are available to watch via broadcast partners and on the official volleyballworld.tv livestreams.