Earvin Ngapeth serves

Olympic champs France play Germany on Friday

Stand by as the highlight of this year’s international calendar begins today with the opening matches of the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship set to take place in Slovenian capital Ljubljana and the Polish city of Katowice.

The 20th edition of the sport’s flagship event reunites the 24 best teams in the world for 17 days of competition in Slovenia and Poland, including a total of 52 matches across three different cities.

· Watch all FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

Day 1 of the event will feature the first two matches in Pools B, C and D, a World Championship final rematch, four continental derbies, both host nations and a first outing for the only rookies in this year’s edition of the tournament.

The opening match of the event will be played in Ljubljana, at 11.00 local time (9.00 GMT). It will see three-time champions Brazil take on two-time silver and bronze medallists Cuba in Pool B. The two national teams met in the gold medal match of the 2010 edition of the tournament.

Four players that were on the court 12 years ago are still part of the squads this year – Brazil’s Bruno Rezende, Lucas Saatkamp and Yoandy Leal and Cuba’s Robertlandy Simon. The 33-year-old Leal was born in Cuba and represented the Caribbean nation in 2010, but now plays for Brazil and will return to the event for the first time in over a decade.

“We’ve prepared really well for the World Championship,” Leal told Brazilian website Na Nossa Rede. “The last time I played in the tournament was back in 2010 and it’s kind of ironic that my first match with Brazil will be against Cuba. We’re really looking forward to having a strong performance in our opening match and hopefully winning the title again.”

Three hours later, Japan and Qatar will be on the court for the first all-Asian matchup of the tournament, also in Pool B. The Japanese, who will be led by their main stars Yuji Nishida and Yuki Ishikawa, have a long tradition in the event. They first appeared in 1960 and won bronze medals in 1970 and 1974, while Qatar are set to make their first appearance after qualifying via the FIVB World Rankings.

Reigning Olympic and VNL champions France will be on the court in the third match of the day in the Slovenian capital, at 17.30 local time (15.30 GMT), when Earvin Ngapeth, Jenia Grebennikov, Benjamin Toniutti and their teammates will face a German team led by Lukas Kampa, Christian Fromm and Julian Zengler in Pool D.

The home fans will need to wait until 20.30 local time (18.30 GMT) to see hosts Slovenia in action for the first time. The team featuring Tine Arnaut, Klemen Cebulj, Rok Mozic and Toncek Stern will play Cameroon in the second match in Pool D.

Meanwhile, the opening match in Katowice will start at 17.30 local time (15.30 GMT). It will reunite NORCECA rivals the United States and Mexico in Pool C. USA will celebrate the return of star opposite Matt Anderson to the squad, following his absence in their run to silver at the 2022 Volleyball Nations League.

Two-time defending champions Poland will greet their fans at 20.30 local time (18.30 GMT), when they face European rivals Bulgaria. The match should feature an interesting duel reuniting two of the most powerful opposites in international volleyball, namely Poland’s Bartosz Kurek and Bulgaria’s Tsvetan Sokolov. It will probably also see a pair of emerging outside hitters, Pole Kamil Semeniuk and Bulgarian Aleksandar Nikolov take to the court.

The remaining 12 teams will make their debuts on Saturday, August 27, when six other matches, two in each of Pools A, E and F, will be played in Ljubljana and Katowice.

Pool play will last six days, with each team playing once against each of their three pool opponents. After the schedule is completed, 16 teams (all six pool winners and runners-up and the best four third-placed teams) will move forward to the first elimination round.