No rest for European powerhouses, with Olympic Qualifiers in sight


Article Fri, Sep 15 2023
Author: Adrian Costeiu

Just two weeks removed from competing in the CEV EuroVolley 2023 Women, 11 European teams will enter a nerve-wrecking and nail-biting competition, as six tickets will be awarded for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in three Olympic Qualification Tournaments, which are due to take place in Tokyo, Japan, Ningbo, People’s Republic of China and Łódź, Poland.

There will be no room for mistake for any of the 24 sides entering the fray, as the round-robin tournaments will deliver six teams for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the winner and the second-placed side of each Pool, joining hosts France, which are the only qualified team so far, in the prestigious competition. There are 28 matches scheduled for each pool, which are due to take place between 16 and 24 September.

Pool A will take place in Ningbo, People’s Republic of China, with four European teams at the start – Czechia, the Netherlands, Serbia and Ukraine, alongside Canada, hosts China, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

Serbia, which have just earned the silver medals at the CEV EuroVolley 2023 Women, will be looking to seal their fifth consecutive ticket for the Olympic Games, after having finished second at Rio 2016 and third at Tokyo 2020. With star Tijana Bošković in fine form, the European side will aim to secure big wins and use a strong start to motivate themselves before facing the Netherlands and China in the last two matches.

The Netherlands, who played at the Olympic Games at Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Brazil 2016, are coming in with a huge morale boost, after securing the bronze medal at the CEV EuroVolley 2023 Women, losing a single match, in the semi-final against Serbia.

With only four sets dropped throughout the competition and a 3:0 win in the bronze medal match against Italy, the Netherlands had some excellent performances from Nika Daalderop in the last month and could really exert some pressure on the favourites of the Pool.

Czechia, which finished eighth at the CEV EuroVolley 2023 Women will try to secure their first-ever ticket to the Olympic Games, while Ukraine, the ninth-placed side in the European premium competition two weeks ago, have played only once at the Olympic Games, at Atlanta 1996.

Türkiye have been close to perfection this summer, securing the title both at the CEV EuroVolley 2023 Women and in the FIVB Women’s Nations League, with some exquisite performances from their top players.

They will be headlining Pool B, due to be played in Tokyo, Japan, with Bulgaria and Belgium also joining, facing a stern challenge from hosts Japan, the runners-up from Tokyo 2020, Brazil, with Argentina, Peru and Puerto Rico completing the Pool.

Named as the MVP in both the major international competitions she played in after sealing Turkish citizenship, Melissa Vargas will be at it once again, hoping to secure a treble of wins and help her new side, with other players making the All-Star team at the CEV EuroVolley 2023 Women, like Cansu Özbay, Zehra Güneş and Gizem Örge also being strong reasons for Türkiye’s favourite status.

While Türkiye featured only twice at the Olympic Games, finishing ninth at London 2012 and fifth at Tokyo 2020, Bulgaria are aiming to seal their first spot in 44 years, while Belgium have never featured at the Olympic Games.

Pool C in Poland projects to be the toughest one to predict, with plenty of sides aiming for the coveted two places for Paris 2024. Reigning Olympic champions, the United States of America, will be vying to take one of the places available, by finishing on one of the first two places, as four European teams also try to qualify.

Hosts Poland will hope from more of the same from outsider hitter Magdalena Stysiak, who made the All-Star team at the CEV EuroVolley 2023 Women, after Poland finished on the fifth place, being eliminated in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Türkiye. Yet their challenge to return to the Olympic Games for the first time since Beijing 2008 will be tough, especially as Italy are aiming to bounce back after a disappointing ending in the top European competition.

Italy did not lose a set at the CEV EuroVolley 2023 Women until the semi-finals, but their loss against Türkiye was followed by another loss in the bronze medal match against the Netherlands, therefore their confidence might have taken a hit. 

However, Italy have made the Olympic Games five times in a row and will hope to extend their streak to six consecutive editions, while also searching for their first-ever medal, one that has eluded the European powerhouse.

Germany and Slovenia are the other two European sides in the pool, with the latter trying to erase the disappointment from the CEV EuroVolley 2023 Women, where they ended up on the 20th place, with a single win, against Hungary. Colombia, the Republic of Korea and Thailand are the final three teams in the Pool in Łódź, Poland.