VOLLEYBALL: Men’s Olympic qualifying tourneys will send six to Tokyo; U.S. is in Rotterdam

Second-ranked U.S. men in action in Rotterdam in Olympic qualifying (Photo: FIVB)

After a dramatic weekend of women’s qualifying, the men’s Olympic qualifying tournaments are on this week, with six tickets to be punched for Tokyo to join Japan as host in the 12-team tournament.

The six pools, with the 2018 world rankings of the teams shown:

Pool A ~ Varna (BUL): Brazil (1), Egypt (13), Bulgaria (14), Puerto Rico (24)

Pool B ~ Rotterdam (NED): United States (2), Belgium (12), Netherlands (15), South Korea (24)

Pool C ~ Bari (ITA): Italy (3), Serbia (10), Australia (16), Cameroon (23)

Pool D ~ Gdansk (POL): Poland (4), France (9), Slovenia (17), Tunisia (22)

Pool E ~ St. Petersburg (RUS): Russia (5), Iran (8), Cuba (18), Mexico (21)

Pool F ~ Ningbo (CHN): Canada (6), Argentina (7), Finland (19), China (20)

At the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam:

09 August: Netherlands vs. Korea, Belgium vs, U.S.
10 August: Belgium vs. Netherlands, Korea vs. U.S.
11 August: Netherlands vs. U.S., Korea vs. Belgium

The “current” FIVB rankings are from 2018, so they are hardly an indicator of relative strength. More informative data comes from the recently-concluded Nations League; the top six in the 16-team round robin:

1. Brazil (14-1)
2. Iran (12-3)
3. Russia (12-3)
4. France (11-4)
5. Poland (11-4)
6. United States (9-6)

In the finals – held in the U.S., in Chicago – Russia defeated Poland and the U.S. defeated Brazil in the semifinals, and Russia beat the U.S. in four sets in the final. Poland swept Brazil, 3-0, in the third-place match.

Only the winners of this weekend’s pools will advance to Tokyo in 2020. The remaining five slots will be filled in continental qualifying tournaments to be held in January 2020. Look for results here.