Ardabil, Iran, May 9, 2017 – Iran pulled off a hard-fought 27-25 26-24 25-20 victory over formidable Japan in the final showdown at the SMM 2nd Asian Men’s U23 Volleyball Championship at the packed Rezazadeh Indoor Stadium to successfully defend their crown with remarkable unbeaten record on Tuesday.
The fired-up Iran’s exceptional win before a huge crowd of around 8,000 home fans not only gained a sweet revenge for the bitter loss of their men’s senior team to Japan in the final clash at the 2015 Asian Men’s Senior Championship in Tehran, but also shattered Japan’s sweet dreams of making it three in a row at this year’s Asian Championships. Japan have already claimed the first two Asian Championships in the Girls’ U19 in China and the Boys’ U19 Championship in Myanmar. The Asian Men’s U23 Championship was the third AVC tournament which saw Japan in final showdown, but they went down to the invincible hosts and title-holders Iran.
However, since their scintillating wins over Thailand and Chinese Taipei in their respective semi-final clash on Monday, Iran and Japan have already become the top two teams from Asia to qualify for the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Men’s U23 World Championship in Cairo, Egypt from August 18 to 26.
Among guests of honour who watched the clash of the two unbeaten teams in the Tuesday’s showdown were Mr. Davarzani, Deputy Minister of Youth & Sports Ministry of Iran and President of Iran Volleyball Federation, Mr. Soltanifar, Youth & Sports Minister, and IRIVF Secretary-General Dr. Afshardoust.
Japan proved a tough nut to crack in the first set, as Iran sent in six substitutions to cope with the Japanese tactics to win the hard-fought set 27-25. The second set was a similar script when both sides were locked into a tight contest. However, Iran proved steadier to come up with a better final assault to take the thrilling battle 26-24. Their confidence boosted after a commanding 2-0 lead, Iran went on their mighty attacks to win the third set 25-20, the closely-contested match and the championship.
Iran’s head coach Juan Cichello congratulated Japan as both teams secured berths for the World Championship and said: “We will rest for some days and after ten days, we will start our 12-week preparation for the world meet in Egypt. We are also planning to compete in friendly matches with our main opponents in the world meet.”
Earlier, Chinese Taipei clinched bronze medal after producing a comeback 3-1 (19-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-22) win over old foes Thailand in the third-place playoff. For Chinese Taipei, the victory was not only a sweet revenge over Thailand as they went down 2-3 to the tough rivals in the playoff match at the round of the last eight teams on May 4, but also a pride they have regained as they successfully maintained their third spot achieved at the previous edition in Myanmar two years ago. Thailand also had something to cheer about as their fourth-place finish was beyond their initial expectation. Thailand finished a distant 7th position in the previous episode.
Chinese Taipei’s head coach Yu Ching-Fang expressed his satisfaction over the third place his team had won and said: “We tried for a better position in this championship, but we are now satisfied with the similar third place we won in Myanmar two years ago. Our last loss to Thailand in this tournament helped us have a better analysis of them to win this match.”
Meanwhile, China took the fifth place following a one-sided battle against Pakistan in the 5th-6th place playoff, which was won by the Chinese 25-15, 25-13, 25-13.
China’s head coach Zhang Qiyong admitted that his team dropped from their best and their fourth place at the previous edition in Myanmar. “This is the first experience of my players here. To finish fifth in this championship was not that bad, but we will try to come back much stronger for a better finish in future championships.”
Kazakhstan struggled hard in the 7th-8th place playoff match against Malaysia before powering past the spirited rivals in hard-fought five-set thriller 22-25, 25-11, 25-23, 20-25, 15-10. Kazakhstan, which finished a disappointing 13th in Myanmar two years ago, claimed the 7th place this time, with Malaysia in 8th position. Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and Australia returned with the 9th-10th-11th places respectively.
TUESDAY’S FINAL RESULTS
7th-8th playoff: Kazakhstan b Malaysia 3-2 (22-25, 25-11, 25-23, 20-25, 15-10)
5th-6th playoff: China b Pakistan 3-0 (25-15, 25-13, 25-13)
Bronze medal match: Chinese Taipei b Thailand 3-1 (19-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-22)
Championship match: Iran b Japan 3-0 (27-25, 26-24, 25-20)
FINAL TEAM RANKINGS
1. Iran – qualified for 2017 Men’s U23 World Championship in Egypt
2. Japan – qualified for 2017 Men’s U23 World Championship in Egypt
3. Chinese Taipei
10. Sri Lanka
BEST INDIVIDUAL AWARDS
Best Setter: Masaki Oya (Japan)
Best Libero: Suo Hou-Chen (Chinese Taipei)
Best Outside Spikers
Masato Katsuoka (Japan)
Esmaeil Mosafer (Iran)
Best Opposite Spiker: Amin Esmaeilnejad (Iran)
Best Middle Blockers
Lee Hsing-Kuo (Chinese Taipei)
Sahand Allahverdian (Iran)
Most Valuable Player: Rahman Taghizadeh (Iran)
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