Nine berths still up for grabs as USA and Italy qualify for Rio
USA celebrate winning the Men's World Cup
There is no let up in the tension. The Domo José María Vargas in Maiquetía, Venezuela, hosts the South American qualifier from October 7-11. This is the first of the continental qualification tournaments.
Of the four teams taking part, Argentina and their star coach Julio Velasco, who finished fifth at the World Cup, are favourites to triumph and secure the one ticket to Rio which is up for grabs. Hosts Venezuela (eleventh in the World League), however, will be out to make life as difficult as possible for the favourites. They are joined by outsiders Columbia and Chile.
In the NORCECA region, Canada (seventh in the World Cup) are favourites for the Olympic ticket. The African qualifier is expected to develop into a duel between Egypt, who finished tenth at the World Cup, and Tunisia, who played at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The race for the European Olympic places is likely to be a particularly tough one. While seven of the twelve teams involved in the 2012 Olympic Games in London came from Europe (Olympic champions Russia, bronze medallists Italy, fourth-placed Bulgaria, fifth-placed Germany and Poland, Serbia and hosts Great Britain), this number will be limited to a maximum of four in Rio in 2016. This was confirmed at the FIVB Men’s World Cup, at which only Italy were able to qualify. The continental qualification tournament from January 5-10 in Berlin is set to be a meeting of volleyball giants.
As well as the winner, who qualifies directly, only the second and third-placed teams at this event will still have a chance to qualify for the Olympics. Their final opportunity comes at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Japan, which will take place in May/June 2016.
They will be joined there by the second-placed team from the NORCECA qualification tournament and the second-placed team from the South American qualification tournament. Four Asian teams – hosts Japan, Iran (eighth in the World Cup), Australia (ninth in the World Cup) and China – will also be in action in Japan, as the tournament also serves as the qualification tournament for that continent. In the end, four of the eight teams will leave with tickets to the Olympics. The three highest-ranked teams and the best Asian team will qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The final vacancy will be decided at the second World Olympic Qualification Tournament, due to be held in May/June 2016. The third-placed team from the South American Olympic Qualification Tournament, the third-placed team from the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament, as well as the second and third-placed teams from the African Olympic Qualification Tournament will compete for the final berth. One thing is already certain: whatever happens, North America will provide at least one team more than it did at the 2012 Games in London, when it was represented by just one country. At least two South American teams will be in action in Rio. The millions of volleyball fans around the world can look forward to some exciting and nail-biting action.
Doug Beal, CEO of USA Volleyball and coach of the first United States team to win men's volleyball Olympic gold in 1984, said: "Maracanazinho is a great setting for players and will provide a sensational stage for Olympic volleyball in 2016. Athletes from around the world love to play here at this historic venue and the Brazilian fans know volleyball very well. Volleyball will be one of the most popular sports at Rio 2016 – and with the battle for medals fiercer than ever before, we are sure to witness one of the best Olympic volleyball tournaments of all time."
Click here for more information about the Olympic qualification process.
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