USA’s Drews spikes against Brazil in last year’s VNL Preliminary Round match

A titanic clash between last year’s finalists at both the Volleyball Nations League and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will highlight the programme not only of Saturday’s competition day, but of the entire first week in VNL 2022. Still unbeaten USA and Brazil will lock horns in a battle in Shreveport-Bossier City at 17:00 local time (01:00 GMT on Sunday morning).

· Watch all VNL 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

For Brazil, it will be the fourth match of the competition week in Louisiana. They lead the VNL standings on a 3-0 win-loss record and nine points, after defeating Germany (3-1), Poland (3-0) and the Dominican Republic (3-1). Pool hosts USA are the only team to have yet to lose a set in this year’s VNL, but with only two games behind them, they stand third on six points. So far, the Americans have shut out the Dominican Republic and Canada. After their match against Brazil, they will have one more game to play on home ground, against Japan on Sunday.

It will be the 63rd encounter between USA and Brazil at a major world-level tournament. The South Americans lead 32-30 in the head-to-head. However, the last time they were able to defeat the North Americans at a world-level event was back in 2019, when they claimed a four-set victory in a VNL Preliminary Round encounter. They met again in that year’s final when USA came back from two sets down to celebrate victorious with their second VNL title.

Another four consecutive US wins against Brazil followed – a straight-setter at the 2019 FIVB Volleyball World Cup, two 3-1 victories in VNL 2021 (one of them in the final), and another solid straight-setter, 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-14), for the Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020. In that most recent meeting between the two sides, opposite Andrea Drews led the way with 15 points.

Andrea Drews sat out USA’s 2022 opener against the Dominican Republic, but led the team against Canada, again on 15 points. She and another three American players – Jordan Thompson, Sarah Wilhite and Alexandra Frantti – who scored 15 apiece against the Dominicans, but did not play against the Canadians, are the team’s leading point makers in the tournament so far.

Middle blocker Ana Carolina Da Silva has been Brazil’s leading star in VNL 2022 so far. Over the three games played, 31-year-old Carol produced 19 stuffs leading the best blockers chart of the competition. She added 19 kills in attack and four aces to become her team’s top scorer on a 42-point total. To stand up to their powerful opponents, the Brazilians can also rely on some solid contribution by 21-year-old outside Julia Bergmann in spiking and reception, by experienced playmaker Macris Carneiro in organizing the offence, and by libero Nyeme Costa in defence, among others.

Saturday’s clash will also be another encounter between two legendary coaches. Karch Kiraly, the only person to have been an Olympic champion in both beach volleyball and volleyball and the first male volleyballer to have won Olympic gold both as a player and as a coach, is aiming to lead his Team USA to their fourth consecutive VNL title. Trying to stop them in their quest on the other side of the net will be Ze Roberto, the only coach in the history of volleyball to have won the Olympic titles in both genders. His main goal in this tournament is to do better than the silver medals Brazil had to settle for at the previous two VNL editions.

After this game, Brazil can start preparing for their next VNL pool, in two weeks at home in Brasilia. For the last week of the Preliminary Round, the South Americans will travel to Sofia. USA’s next trips after Shreveport-Bossier City will be to Quezon City and Calgary.

Thailand v Belgium, China v Italy and Bulgaria v Türkiye are on Saturday’s programme for the pool in Ankara, before the attention switches back to Louisiana, where Korea will play against Poland and the Dominican Republic will meet Japan, before USA and Brazil take to the court for the clash of titans.