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2024 Summer Olympics

World’s top men’s volleyball teams gear up for Olympics at VNL Manila

The third consecutive staging of the FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League here in the Philippines is set to begin on Tuesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, following a press conference on Monday at the Makati Shangri-la.

Eight teams, including fan favorites Japan and, for the first time in the country, the United States, will compete at this venue in Pasay. Most squads are vying for qualification to the Top 8 in the tournament’s Final Round in Poland.

“We’re thrilled to be here again, and we know Filipino fans are amazing, so we’re excited to play in front of them. This week is crucial for us to reach the Finals, so we’ll give our best in every match and showcase our best volleyball,” said Yuki Ishikawa, captain and outside hitter for Ryujin Nippon, with a record of 6-2.

Meanwhile, Micah Christenson, the veteran setter and captain for the Americans, expressed his joy at finally playing in the Philippines, stating, “Throughout our career, and speaking for the whole team, we’ve felt a lot of love online and on social media from Filipino fans. So, to finally be here and experience it firsthand is a pleasure. We’re also excited to feel the atmosphere in the arena.”

Canada, the tournament’s surprise team with a 4-4 win-loss record, will face off against the Asian side on the opening day at 8:30 p.m., following the curtain-raiser at 5 p.m. between Brazil and the Netherlands in the same Pasay arena, which will also host next year’s FIVB Men’s Volleyball Championship.

“I think this is a significant week; some teams are aiming to qualify for the Olympics, while others are striving to reach the top eight. And I’m sure everyone is trying to figure out their position heading into the Olympics,” said head coach Bernardo Rezende, whose Brazil team currently holds a 6-2 record, ranking sixth.

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Joining these teams are reigning Olympic champions France, also with a 6-2 record. Returning to the country after their 2022 victory, the European side understands the importance of maintaining their strong performance leading up to their home Olympic Games.

“We’re in a good position and want to maintain that level. Of course, winning the VNL is our goal, but our ultimate aim is Paris. It’s a different focus,” said long-time head coach Andrea Giani.

Also present in the country are Olympic-bound Germany (3-5) and Asian standout Iran (0-8).

Between the two matches, the formal launch of the country’s hosting of next year’s World Championship will take place.

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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