By Marie Louise Principe

Chiba, Japan, September 18, 2021 – Hosts Japan and defending champions Iran set the final showdown to contend the title at the 21st Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship as they won their respective semifinal matches at the Chiba Port Arena on Saturday.

Japan went for a 3-1 win (25-16, 22-25, 25-21, 25-20) in their semifinal match against Chinese Taipei, which now qualify the home team for the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Russia in 2022.

“I am so relieved with victory tonight because it was a match for the qualification of World Championship,” said Haku Ri, who helped the team with 16 points in the victory in front of the main event crowd in the main competition hall.

“We are happy to play in front of our fans. They really make us encouraged,” added Ri.

Japan hold the most number of titles in the competition’s history, and will gun for their tenth in the final in Sunday.

“We came here to win this tournament, so we will do our best in the match tomorrow (against Iran),” added Ri.

Iran booked one of only two available slots for the World Championship, with their 3-1 match (25-22, 17-25, 25-22, 25-17), against a challenging China Team.

Captain Milad Ebadipour Ghara helped the team with 12 points, but also with his leadership amongst the new players of Iran.

“I think we are really lucky because we have an amazing new generation of players. Of course they are young but they are really amazing guys,” commented Ebadipour.

Iran will look to retain their title from the 2019 edition. They have likewise previously won the Championship in 2011 and 2013

“The qualification for the World Championship in 2022 in Russia is very important and now we have it. What’s important now is the gold medal,” added Ebadipour.

Earlier, Australia defeated Pakistan in straight sets, 3-0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-23), and will play for the 5th-6th place classification match on Sunday.

Curtis Stockton led all scorers with 19 points from 16 attacks and 3 service winners.

Qatar will also look to finish the competition at 5th place, as they took a 3-0 (25-16, 32-30, 25-22) win against Korea.

Opposite Oughlaf Youssef led the Qatar side with 16 points, while Korea’s Han Kukmin scored 24 points in the loss.

Over at the Funabashi Arena, the eight remaining teams played the semifinals to classify for the 9th to 16th places in the competition.

Uzbekistan ushered in their first victory, via tie-break against Thailand, 3-2 (28-26, 23-25, 25-19, 22-25, 20-18), in the opening match in the second competition hall.

Uzebekistan captain Akhrorjon Sobirov scored 29 points in the match, from 22 attackes, 4 blocks and 3 aces.

Hong Kong, China, likewise, went for their first victory, after taking the decider, 3-2 (25-22, 22-25, 25-21,20-25, 16-14) against Kuwait.

So Chun Hin scored 22 points, with Cheung Ngai Yiu adding another 18 markers for the win.

Later, Bahrain bested Kazakhstan, 3-1(16-25, 25-23, 28-26, 25-22), with Ali Ebrahim charting a total of 22 points in the match.

In Saturday’s last match in the second hall, India defeated Saudi Arabia in straight sets, 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-23).

Jerome Vinith Charles and Ashwal Rai combined for 30 points to help boost India to victory.

The Finals on Sunday will determine the champion team of the 21st edition, as the competition returned to Japan after first hosting the championship in Tokyo.

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