Volleyball at the 2016 Summer Olympics: European QualificationNovember 18, 2015

The national teams from Europe will meet in Berlin and Ankara two months from now. A week-long tournament will determine which teams will play in the Summer Olympics. The winner goes to Rio, while the teams that finish second and third must play another qualifying tournament in Tokyo. One wonders if they have enough energy for the Olympics, but it happens every four years.

Here's a preview:

Men's qualification. The German men's volleyball national team may have the home crowd to cheer them on, but they would have their hands full. They will play Belgium, Poland, and Serbia in the round-robin stage. The Polish men's volleyball national team, the reigning world champion, will likely finish first. They were leading the World Cup (two months ago), only to lose their golden chance to the Italian squad. This leaves Germany and Serbia to vie for second place. Experience favours the Serbian squad, but an inspired German team might cause an upset.

Bulgaria, Finland, France, and Russia are in the other group. The Russian squad, the defending Olympic champion, can finish in first place. If they don't lose their focus. France and Bulgaria will likely advance to the semifinals.

Poland will win the tournament, while France and Bulgaria will play another qualifier. Expect both teams to compete in Rio, as it will be a letdown if the French men's volleyball national team won't make it. After all, they were the only ones who beat the Brazilian squad during the finals of the World League. It happened in front of raucous home crowd.

Women's qualification. A host nation will have all the advantages on its side. In this case, the Turkish women's volleyball national team won't play its toughest opponents in the round-robin stage. Unless the German squad can lift up their game, then expect the Turkish women to finish first. The other group will see Italy, Poland, and Russia compete for the top spot. Don't be surprised if the result will go the distance, with the Russian squad playing five sets in all its matches.

The Turkish gals are hard to beat on home soil, while the Russian women's volleyball national team might have some aces on their sleeves. Turkey will win the tournament, while Russia and Italy must travel to Tokyo next May. Fans will see both teams play in Rio. The Olympic tournament wouldn't be exciting without Brazil and Russia competing against each other.

What about Australia? The Australian men's volleyball national team has a good chance of making it to Rio next August. The Aussies, coached by Roberto Santilli, were the best team from the Asia-Pacific during the world qualifier in 2012. Iran will be standing in their way, but Australia will win in five sets.

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