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Match week 1 – Three days of exciting VNL action coming up at four different venues

The 2019 VNL will start with a match between Begium and USA
Lausanne, Switzerland, May 20, 2019 – The second edition of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League begins at 17.00 local time on Tuesday at the Monbat Arena in Ruse, Bulgaria with the first whistle of the Belgium v USA fixture. Seven more games will be played on Tuesday and a total of 16 more matches will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, at four different venues across two continents – all available live and on-demand on Volleyball TV.

Title-holders the United States scored the very last point of the inaugural 2018 VNL to triumph with the historic title, and will get a chance to score the very first point of the 2019 edition. Coach Karch Kiraly has selected a youthful squad to get the VNL action started, but the defending champions are still the favourites in Pool 2 in Ruse, where they will also face Japan and hosts Bulgaria. With the Asian opponents expected to be a major contender for a spot in the Final Six as well, the Japan v USA clash on Wednesday is potentially the most interesting one in the pool, not to underestimate the encounter between two of the challenger teams, Bulgaria and Belgium, on the same day.

“Last year’s first-ever edition of the VNL was a huge hit with fans and teams alike,” Kiraly said before travelling to Bulgaria. “We’re looking forward to an even better version in year 2, to learning how this youthful week 1 roster responds to the fierce challenges that top-level international competition will surely provide, and to laying the foundation for great development in the years ahead.”

Next to get underway is Pool 4 at the Aleksandar Nikolic hall in Belgrade, where last year’s silver medallists Turkey will take on Korea in the pool opener at 17:00 local time on Tuesday. The Netherlands and reigning world champions Serbia, who shared the fifth place in last year’s VNL standings, are also part of the Belgrade group. The clash between hosts Serbia and Turkey, which could turn out to be the highlight of the pool, is set to start at 20:00 local time on Thursday.

Thailand and Germany will meet in the Pool 1 opener in Opole, set to kick off on Tuesday at 17:30 local time at the Stegu Arena. Three hours later, hosts Poland will try to use the momentum from winning the Montreux Volley Masters last week to overcome their first VNL challenge, World Championship silver medallists Italy. In addition to their success in Switzerland, the home side will be additionally motivated by the fact that they are one of the challenger teams in the VNL at risk of relegation, but even more so by the fantastic Polish fans, which makes them the team to watch in that pool.

Pool 3 is the only one to take place outside Europe this week. At the Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brazilia, hosts Brazil will entertain China, the Dominican Republic and Russia. On the very first competition night, at 20:00 local time, the titanic clash between the South American powerhouse and reigning Olympic champions China, a remake of last year’s bronze medal game, will highlight this week’s VNL action. Russia, a team that could always play a major role in any competition, and the fourth challenger team, the Dominican Republic, will get the party in the Brazilian capital started at 17:00 local time on May 21.

"We will have a difficult competition in this early stage of the VNL, with two traditional opponents, in addition to the Dominican Republic, who have evolved a lot. It will be great to play at home in front of our fans, who always give us great support. They will be fundamental in this first week," said Brazilian star Gabriela Braga Guimaraes - Gabi.

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