Nagoya, Japan, September 12, 2017 – Amir Ghafour and Milad Ebadipour’s fiery performance sparked Iran’s 3-2 (25-19, 23-25, 28-26, 29-31, 15-11) win over Italy in the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Grand Champions Cup at the Nippon Gaishi Hall on Tuesday.
Ebadipour and Ghafour registered 21 and 20 points to lead the Iranian offence, while Filippo Lanza and Oleg Antonov made 23 and 18 points to command the Italian side. Iran benefitted from the 42 turnovers of Italy.
Iran prevailed once more in their second tie-break encounter with Italy. Four of Iran’s five wins at the World Grand Champions Cup have come in five sets. Iran last beat Italy at world level was at the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Poland, where they claimed a 3-1 win.
Italy gave away many points to Iran on their turnovers, which helped the latter take the opening set win at 25-19. Italy bounced back to win 25-23, but Iran came up with good digs to counter-attack and secure the third set at 28-26. In the fourth set, Giulio Sabbi heroics in crucial moments led to an Italian win at 31-29. Iran’s scoring spurts at the start of the tie-breaker, helped their side pull away and complete the victory.
Iran coach Igor Kolakovic: Tonight, we played against a great opponent, one of the best teams in Europe. At the start of the season, we lost 3-0 to them. Today, we had the opportunity to win 3-1 but missed out on that, but I’m happy with the victory. We arrived here with some hopes and dreams and would like to make some surprises against stronger teams than us in the world. Tonight, we made the first surprise. We have opportunities to make surprises in the coming days as we play USA, Brazil, France and Japan.
USA won the Olympic bronze medal, Brazil won gold, Japan are very strong when they play on home court, and France are World League champions, so every day we have an opportunity to make a surprise. Today, the difference between our team and Italy was that they made a lot of errors – they took a lot of risks – but they also made a lot of blocks. But we have good defence and a good counter-attack. We didn’t reach that level when we played in the World League. Every set was close. I’m so happy we finished with the victory, but we played a tough five sets and we need to be fresh for tomorrow.
Iran captain Mir Saeid Marouflakrani: We’re so happy to start with a victory; it’s very important to us. We played with a lot of pressure and had opportunities to close it out in the fourth set, but couldn’t do it. In the fifth set, we played with fewer mistakes but I can’t say I’m satisfied with the team; we can play better volleyball.
We had a bad World League, so we had a lot of pressure. I’ve played a long time for the national team and had good days and bad days, but our youth and junior teams have been playing really well in their World Championships. The youth team won the gold medal and we’ve been playing in the World League for the last few years so now we are playing with the strong teams of the world and we learn a lot from them.
Italy coach Gianlorenzo Blengini: Obviously I’m very disappointed with the result. We’re very disappointed we couldn’t win in the tie-break. The start of the match wasn’t so good, we were too tense and couldn’t play good volleyball. But after that, we kept our hopes up and were able to take the second and fourth sets. We couldn’t win today but Iran deserved the victory. The fact that Iran did so well is not something new. They’ve been playing at a high level for many years now. Today they defended more than us and better than us, which made it an even and tough match. They also counter-attacked very well and generally played better than us.
Italy captain Simone Buti: We’re very disappointed because we wanted to start in a good way but we were unable to win today. It was a very even match but in the most important parts, especially defence and service, Iran did better than us. I think we could have done something on the tie-break but Iran played very well and I want to congratulate them.
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