Thaisa Menezes spikes for Minas against VakifBank at last year’s Club World Championship in Ankara

Just three days after the end of the men’s competition in Brazil, the best women's club teams in the world will compete at the Club World Champs from Wednesday through Sunday in the Turkish coastal city of Antalya.

A total of 10 matches, two a day across five days, will be played at Antalya 2022. The six participating clubs are split into two round-robin pools of three teams each. The pool winners and the pool runners-up will qualify for Saturday’s semifinals. On Sunday, matches for gold, silver and bronze will finalise the podium at the 15th edition of the Women’s Club World Championship.

Clubs from four countries on three different continents will battle for the title of world champions. Dentil Praia Clube from Uberlandia, Brazil, Turkish tournament hosts Eczacibasi Dynavit Istanbul and Italian champions Prosecco Doc Imoco Conegliano will compete in Pool A, while Gerdau Minas from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Kuanysh Club from Petropavl, Kazakhstan and defending champions VakifBank Spor Kulubu from Istanbul, Türkiye battle for the semifinal spots in Pool B.

Pool A

The tournament will get underway on Wednesday, December 14, at 16:30 local time (13:30 UTC), with a Pool A game between Eczacibasi and Dentil Praia. Also in that pool, the Brazilian squad will take on Imoco at the same starting time on Thursday, and then, on Friday, at 16:00 (13:00), the teams from Istanbul and Conegliano will lock horns to finalise the pool standings.

Although they missed last year’s edition, Eczacibasi are back as one of the favourites for the 2022 title. Led by two-time FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship MVP Tijana Boskovic and featuring other international stars like Serbia’s Maja Ognjenovic, Türkiye’s Simge Akoz and Hande Baladin, Croatia’s Samanta Fabris and Russia’s Irina Voronkova, the Tigers will play for their third world title after being crowned as world champions in 2015 and 2016. The club’s record also includes a 2019 silver and a 2018 bronze.

"We have been preparing for our Club World Championship matches all week long. We are very happy to show that we are a team that can fight and get results in every match,” said Eczacibasi’s young setter Elif Sahin.

2022 South American Club Championship silver medallists Dentil Praia will appear at the Club World Championships for the fourth consecutive time, but they have never medalled at the competition before. The club’s best result was a fourth place in 2018. However, with Ana Carolina Da Silva (Carol), arguably the world’s best blocker, on the squad, they are still unbeaten in the Brazilian Superliga this season. With universal striker Tainara Santos, also a 2022 World Championship silver medallist with Brazil, and top-level players like Anne Buijs of the Netherlands, Brayelin Martinez of the Dominican Republic and Brazilian libero Suelen Pinto on the court, the team from Uberlandia hold an excellent shot at making their first Club World Championship podium.

Pool A will also be marked by the stellar presence of last year’s silver medallists Imoco. The Italian powerhouse will play to return to the top of the world. Club champions from the penultimate edition in 2019, the Panthers were dethroned last year, but are back and are spearheaded by 2021 MVP Isabelle Haak. There is no doubt that the Italian club will aim high in Antalya, relying on a very powerful line-up, including Polish star setter Joanna Wolosz, North American outside hitters Kelsey Robinson, Kathryn Plummer and Alexa Gray, Dutch middle blocker Robin De Kruijf and Italian libero Monica De Gennaro, among others.

Pool B

The first Pool B match will feature VakifBank against Kuanysh, who will get their campaigns going on Wednesday at 19:30 local time (16:30 UTC). On the second competition day, at 20:00 (17:00), the defending titleholders will take on Gerdau Minas. In the last Pool B match, Minas and Kuanysh will face each other on Friday at 19:00 (16:00).

VakifBank, who are the reigning world, European and Turkish champions, are the favourites to win the pool. They are also historically the most decorated team in the Club World Championships and have medalled at all seven of their previous appearances – with gold in 2013, 2017, 2018 and 2021, silver in 2011, and bronze in 2016 and 2019. This season, the VakifBank line-up is highlighted by the presence of Italian star opposite Paola Egonu, the MVP of this year’s Volleyball Nations League and of the 2019 Club World Championship. Brazilian outside and new team captain Gabriela Guimaraes is another huge international star on coach Giovanni Guidetti’s roster, which also features the likes of Türkiye’s Zehra Gunes and Cansu Ozbay, USA’s Chiaka Ogbogu and Kara Bajema, and Dutch international Nika Daalderop.

“We set out for a challenging tournament that we will enjoy a lot. The Club World Championship will be a tough competition with strong opponents this year as well. Our goal is to win it as we did last year,” VakifBank’s playmaker Cansu Ozbay said. “I hope our matches will be enjoyable and very pleasant to watch and we look forward to meeting the Antalya fans.”

Asian club champions Kuanysh might be in the role of underdogs at their Club World Championship debut, but they certainly have what it takes to potentially surprise some of their distinguished opponents. Bulgarian national team setter Lora Kitipova will organize the team’s offence. French outside Maeva Orle and Ukrainian opposite Tatyana Aldoshina are the other foreign players on the Kuanysh roster.

It will be Gerdau Minas’s fifth appearance at the Club World Championships. They have two silver medals from the previous four, after reaching the final in 1992 and in 2018. Last year, the team from Belo Horizonte finished fourth. They qualified for this year’s edition as the 2022 South American club champions. Minas rely on an almost entirely Brazilian line-up, including 2022 World Championship silver medallists Caroline Gattaz, Priscila Daroit, Kisy Nascimento, Julia Kudiess and Nyeme Nunes, as well as two-time Olympic champion Thaisa Menezes. Dominican Republic outside hitter Yonkaira Pena is the only foreigner on the Gerdau Minas squad.

“Disputing the Club World Championship for the fourth consecutive time confirms the success of the Minas project,” said the team’s Italian head coach Nicola Negro. “It is always an honour for us to face the best teams on the planet. We know that we are going to find opponents who play volleyball at the highest level, but obviously we arrive in Türkiye with the dream of winning a medal.”