Jiangmen, China, January 11, 2020 – Terrific Jiang Chuan scored a match-high 23 points as hosts China demolished Qatar 3-1 to set up a highly-anticipated final showdown on Sunday with old foes Iran at the AVC Men’s Tokyo Qualification 2020 at the Jiangmen Sports Centre Gymnasium.
The dramatic 25-22 25-18 23-25 25-20 win has given China a step closer to securing their place in the Tokyo 2020, which will be their third appearance in the Olympic Games since they last tested their mettle in the 2008 Beijing Games as the Olympic hosts. In the Sunday’s showdown, China are due to challenge unbeaten Iran, the team they went down in straight sets in the preliminary Pool A match on January 9.
China, current world No.20 and 6th place at the last year’s Asian Senior Men’s Championship in Iran, fielded a formidable squad in this top-flight competition, eight of them competed in the last year’s Asian meet including a superb duo of Jiang Chuan and Liu Libin, the first Chinese men’s player who played professionally with a foreign club (currently playing for Japan’s JT Thunders).
Captain Jiang Chuan was in irresistible form in the first set as the 205cm star spiker provided a sublime demonstration of his immense skill and inspiring leadership as he spearheaded China to an early 15-10 lead in their do-or-die clash against Qatar, the team which have never qualified for any other FIVB competitions, but captured the 2018 AVC Cup for Men title in Taipei and 4th place at the 2015 Asian Senior Men’s Championship.
Qatar, fielding almost the same lineup as the last year’s Asian meet in Iran, where they returned with a disappointing 9th position, counter-attacked well to reduce the margin 20-21, thanks to fine attacks from Brazilian-born Geraldo Graciano Da Silver Filho and solid blocks from Belal Nabel Abunabot and Ibrahim Ibrahim. With Jiang and Dai penetrating the Qatari defence with their exceptional attacks, China took the hard-fought first set 25-22.
Holding a 1-0 advantage, China still gained the upper hand to race to an early 15-9 lead in the second set, but the Qataris fought hard for a good run of three consecutive points to narrow the margin 12-15. The strong visitors’ delight did not last long as China also did likewise moments later. Jiang Chuan was instrumental in scoring 4 points in a row to stretch it to 19-12 and China maintained that superb form to seal the set 25-18.
As China went on some spectacular attacks for back-to-back points and gained control, Qatar rallied back from 15-17 to 22-22 before Geraldo Graciano Da Silva Filho and Belal Nabel Abunabot powered the determined Qataris to 25-23 comeback win in the set.
In the fourth set, both sides fought neck and neck, pouring everything they had to win the set. However, boosted by a large crowd of more than 2,500 home spectators, China lived up to all expectations, with devastating Jiang Chuan entertaining the crowds with some thundering back row attacks and Dai Qingyao blunting the Qataris blocking efforts with his exceptional cross-court spikes. Taking a narrow 22-20 lead on the home stretch, China, thanks to the 207cm Zhang Zhejia’s efficient blocks, never looked back after that to capture the set 25-20, match and a final berth.
Jiang Chuna chipped in with 23 attack points for China, while Dai Qingyao, Zhang Zhejia and Liu Libin kept good company to contribute 13, 12 and 11 points respectively. Renan Ribeiro led Qatar with 13 points including 12 attacks from 26 attempts.
Qatar head coach Argentine Camilo Andres Soto: “Congratulations to China on being qualified to the final. They played very well tonight. I knew they have prepared very hard for months. Today China forced more constantly than us in the beginning while we committed too many mistakes in the first two sets. That’s why we lost the game. Too late to start the game as we expected.”
Qatar captain Ibrahim: “It was a really good game, which was out of my expectation. China was playing amazingly at the beginning, but we could not catch them. The moment when we started to reverse, we made some mistakes and lost the last set. I hope in the future, we will have more nice games like this with China.”
China head coach Shen Fulin: “After four days of competitive competition, we finally won the chance to compete in the final. Both sides did their utmost tonight. I am happy to see my players give it all out and held fast to the principle under great pressure. Tomorrow we will play to the fullest with no regrets.”
China captain Jiang Chuan: “We did well in the first two sets, but there were some ups and downs in the fourth set, including receiving and serving, as well as offense. As far as I’m concerned, we were a little bit impatient in the first set, spiking and defense in the third set. Luckily we made up for that with brilliant blocking. I’d like to express my gratitude to Qatar for delivering such a fantastic performance with us to all fans. As we all know, Iran is one of the great teams in Asia, we shall depend on the teamwork as usual, sparing no efforts to embrace the challenge with the greatest enthusiasm and the highest morale.”
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