Tehran, Iran, September 18, 2019 – Australia and Korea, the only two unbeaten teams in this top-tier competition, on Wednesday captured their top spots in respective Pool E and Pool F to lead a strong pack of Top 8 teams to the knockout quarter-finals at the SMM 20th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship, chasing their dreams of making the top four teams.

At the end of the Top 8 playoff encounters on Wednesday, Australia emerged as the Pool E frontrunners with 9 points from three straight wins, followed by Iran with 6 points from two wins against one loss and China with 3 points from one win against two losses. India came in fourth place in Pool E with three losses in a row with no point awarded.

Korea also became one of the strongest teams to be reckoned with in this edition as the formidable rivals have yet lost to any team en route to the Thursday’s quarter-finals. The Pool F winners had 8 points from three successive wins, while title-holders Japan finished second in the Pool with 7 points from two wins against one loss. Chinese Taipei and Pakistan came in third and fourth places with 2 points and 1 point respectively.

The knockout quarter-final encounters on Thursday see Australia take on Pakistan and Korea play India, while Japan go up against China and hosts Iran challenge Chinese Taipei. The four winning teams will advance to the Friday’s semi-finals.

On Wednesday, the last day of the Top 8 playoff matches, in-form Korea struggled hard to beat the determined Japan with a terrific comeback five-set 20-25, 25-23, 18-25, 25-23, 16-14 win. Im Donghyeok and Kwak Seungsuk similarly chipped in with 19 points for Korea, while Nishida topscored with 21 points for Japan including 14 attacks from 34 attacks and a team-leading 5 aces.

Hosts Iran, Asian winners in 2011 and 2013 and the only Asian team eligible for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, proved a cut above India to topple the rivals in another closely-contested, straight-set battle 25-16, 25-21, 25-21. Amirhossein Esfandiar scored a team-high 16 points including 13 attacks, while Seyed Mohammad Mousavi and Yali kept good company to added 11 points apiece. Amit led India with 8 points.

Gritty Australia, powered by hard-hitting Thomas Edgar and Samuel Walker, stormed back to beat China in a close battle 3-1 (24-26, 25-19, 25-19, 25-22) and keep their hopes of repeating the feat at the 2007 edition alive. In Jakarta, Indonesia, the Volleyroos captured their first title in the 2007 Asian meet but have never come that far after that. At the previous edition two years ago, Australia finished 8th place

Chinese Taipei, in their usual style with speed and amazing defensive combinations, struggled to beat Pakistan in thrilling five sets 25-23 17-25 25-20 18-25 15-11. Wang Ming Chun and twin brothers Liu Hung-Min and Liu Hung-Jie all scored with double digits for Chinese Taipei. Wang Ming Chun topscored with 13 points, while Liu Hung-Jie and Liu Hung-Min scored 11 and 11 points respectively. Chinese Taipei also took advantage of the opponent errors with 27 points against the Pakistan’s 22.

Meanwhile, in the 9th-16th playoff encounters, Kazakhstan, silver medallists at the previous edition, stunned the last year’s AVC Cup champions Qatar 3-1 (25-21, 25-23, 13-25, 25-22). Sergey Rezanov emerged as the top scorer of Kazakhstan after scoring 23 points including 22 attacks from 45 attempts. Nikola Vasic led Qatar with 19 points including 16 attacks.

Thailand survived an Indonesia’s scare to win a hard-fought five-setter 25-22, 25-20, 23-25, 23-25, 15-9. Amorntep Konhan scored a team-high 17 points and team-mates Kritsada Somkane and Anut Promchan added 16 points apiece to the team’s tally. Rendy Febriant Tamamilang topscored with 26 points including 23 attacks from 40 attempts.

The Pool H winners Thailand next challenge Kazakhstan, which finished second in Pool G, while Indonesia go up against Pool G frontrunners Qatar on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka and Oman set up a tough clash, but the former fared better to win hard-fought four sets 33-31, 25-19, 23-25, 25-23.

Hong Kong China successfully broke the deadlock in this topnotch tournament when they rallied past Kuwait in dramatic four sets 25-22, 29-27, 24-26, 25-18.

Leung Ho Yin chipped in with 18 points for Hong Kong China, while Abdulaziz Najum Mahmoud topscored with 12 points for Kuwait.

The competitive competition continues through Saturday when the curtain comes down on the 20th episode with the awards presentation and the closing ceremony of the championship.

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