After the women’s Volleyball Nations League 2022 finalists were determined last week, it is time for the men’s participants to earn a place alongside hosts Italy at the men's Finals to be held in Bologna from July 20 through 24. The last week of the men’s VNL Preliminary Phase will be played from Tuesday, July 5, through Sunday, July 10, with exciting clashes set to take place in Osaka and Gdansk.

· Watch all VNL 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

Two-time VNL medallists USA are placed fifth in the current standings on a 6-2 win-loss record and will take on 11th-placed Germany (3-5) in the week’s opening match, set to get underway in Osaka at 15:00 local time (06:00 GMT) on Tuesday. Later in the day, 14th-placed Canada and 12th-placed Argentina, on a 2-6 win-loss record each, will take to the court in Osaka.

Current VNL table leaders France (7-1), hosts Japan (fourth on 6-2), defending title-holders Brazil (sixth on 5-3) and bottom-of-the-table Australia (1-7) are the other four teams in the Osaka pool.

Reigning Olympic champions France will open their competition week on Thursday with a big match against USA, followed by another spectacular clash with Brazil on Friday.

An encounter between North American neighbours Canada and USA will highlight Saturday’s programme in Osaka. A head-to-head clash between two of the main candidates for the berths in the Finals, Brazil and Japan will crown an exciting week in the Japanese city in the closing match on Sunday.

Bulgaria, second from the bottom in the table on 1-7, will take on Finals hosts Italy, who are third on 6-2, in the opening match in Gdansk on Tuesday, set to start at 17:00 local time (15:00 GMT). Hosts Poland (second on 7-1), the reigning world champions and two-time VNL medallists, will be challenged by reigning Asian champions Iran (eighth on 4-4) later on the first competition day.

The other four participants in the pool in Poland will get their week started on Wednesday, with the Netherlands, standing seventh on 5-3, facing China (13th on 2-6), and last year’s semifinalists Slovenia (10th on 3-5) meeting Serbia (ninth on 4-4).

The Netherlands, Iran, Serbia and Slovenia are ranked from seventh to 10th in that order, with two teams either side of the cut-off line for the quarterfinals, so it will be interesting to watch them race for the tickets to Bologna. In addition to Wednesday’s game between Slovenia and Serbia, other direct duels between teams from that group are scheduled on Friday (Slovenia v Iran) and on Saturday (Iran v Serbia).

The VNL’s best attacker Nimir Abdel-Aziz of the Netherlands and best blocker Svetoslav Gotsev of Bulgaria will get to test their skills against each other as their teams go head to head on Friday. Also known for his great serving prowess, Abdel-Aziz will have an opportunity to put the tournament’s best receiver so far, Martin Atanasov, to the test in that match too.

Another important race to watch out for this week is the scuffle between the Challenger teams to avoid relegation. Most threatened at this point are Australia, Bulgaria, Canada and China, lined up in that order from the bottom of the table up. A direct duel between two of these squads, Bulgaria and China, is set to take place on Saturday. While battling to make the Finals, the Netherlands and Slovenia are not completely safe from relegation just yet either.

The competition week will end with a remake of last year’s semifinal between Poland and Slovenia in the closing match on Sunday.