Italy (ITA) vs. USA (USA) men - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #4913681

The United States and Italy will meet in the second semifinal on Saturday

The Volleyball Nations League is going to have a first-time men’s champion in 2023 and Poland, Japan, the United States and Italy line up as the candidates after they advanced to the semifinals of the fifth edition of the tournament in Gdańsk, Poland.

The list will be narrowed to just two potential winners after Saturday’s semifinals, which will have Poles and Japanese battling at 17:00 local time (15:00 UTC) and Americans and Italians dueling at 20:00 local time (18:00 UTC) at the Ergo Arena.

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2023 Finals live on VBTV

The VNL had three different winners in its first four editions with Russia securing back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019, Brazil lifting the trophy in 2021 and France finishing at the top in 2022.

Poland are eager to become the next champions after taking silver in 2021 and bronze in 2018 and 2022, especially playing in front of their home fans in Gdańsk.

The second-best team in the Preliminary Phase, the Europeans had a convincing three-set victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals on Thursday and enter the semifinals with great confidence.

“Japan will be another tough opponent,” outside hitter Aleksander Śliwka said after the match against the Brazilians. “We’ve watched their matches and they’re playing great volleyball in this VNL. Technically, they’re probably the best team in the world now and they defend very well too. We’ll try to give our best for us and for the fans.”

The Japanese will be making their first VNL semifinal appearance this Saturday and will need not only their outstanding technical skills, but also a lot of mental strength to deal with the pressure generated by the loud Polish fans.

The Asians were the third-best team in the Preliminary Phase and were in dominant form in the quarterfinals, sweeping Slovenia to advance. Now, they want to continue making history by claiming their first VNL medal.

“Achieving the goal of making it to the semifinals makes us very happy and gives us a lot of confidence,” outside hitter Ran Takahashi commented. “But we’re not done yet. We need to be ready for the next matches and to battle the top teams in the world.”

Poles and Japanese met on the last day of the VNL Preliminary Phase, in Pasay City, the Philippines, when both teams were already guaranteed in the Finals, and the Europeans won in straight sets. Poland won four of the last encounters between the teams, dropping only a friendly match in Aichi ahead of the start of the VNL 2023.

Volleyball Nations League 2023: full schedule and results

Last year’s runners-up the United States had the biggest challenge among all four semifinalists in the quarterfinal round as the Americans faced defending champions France in a rematch of last year’s final and secured a five-set victory.

After taking silver in 2019 and 2022 and bronze in 2018, the Americans were the best team in the Preliminary Phase and want to celebrate their first VNL title.

“We couldn’t have asked for anything better in the quarterfinals,” team captain and setter Micah Christenson reflected. “We got tested and came out on top, so that prepared us for more important and intense matches, like the semifinals. We’re excited for a great weekend of volleyball.”

World champions Italy are also looking to add a VNL trophy to their collection – their best result in the tournament so far is a fourth-place finish in 2022, which they already matched this year.

With a full-power lineup, the Europeans had arguably the best performance in the quarterfinals, smashing Argentina to advance.

“Every semifinal is a tough one and this one will be no different,” outside hitter Daniele Lavia reacted. “The United States are a very strong and traditional team and will be a really tough opponent. We’ve improved during our journey to the semifinals and got here with more consistency in our game.”

The United States have won four of the last five matches against the Italians, including their most recent encounter, during the VNL 2023 Preliminary Phase, in the opening week, in Ottawa, Canada.

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