Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, September 27, 2016 – Mighty Iran and fired-up China set up a clash of the Titans in the Wednesday’s final showdown of the “SMM” 5th AVC Cup for Men at the Nakhon Pathom Gymnasium as the two unbeaten teams survived daunting challenges from their tough rivals in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
China proved a cut above Chinese Taipei to cruise their way past Chinese Taipei in a closely-contested battle 25-23 34-32 25-22 to set up the 2012 final rematch against the Iranians, who moved a step closer to capturing their third AVC Cup title as the world No.7 powered past Asian winners Japan in a hard-fought five-set thriller 25-21 17-25 25-20 23-25 15-11.
China, which lost to Iran in the 2010 final showdown on the rivals’ home soil and avenged the loss by annihilating the Iranians in the 2012 final clash in Vietnam, fielded a well-established line-up led by hard-hitting Ji Daoshuai, powerful Liu Libin and Jiang Chuan in a tough match against Chinese Taipei, the team they had beaten in exhausting five sets in the pool preliminaries.
Chinese Taipei were also strong with highly-experienced players, most of them played in the gold-winning Taichung Bank VC at the last year’s Asian Men’s Club Championship, with devastating left-hander Wu Tsung-Hsuan at the helm.
Jiang Chuan scored a match-high 31 points for China including 27 kills from 44 attempts. Liu Libin added with 10 kills. Wu Tsung-Hsuan led Chinese Taipei with 14 points, all of them through his deadly attacks.
“Before the match, we have never thought about the result. Chinese Taipei are a very strong team with experienced players. They’ve been playing together for a long time. They had more experience than us. The second set was very close as we tried hard to hold them off after they fought back seriously. We next take on Iran in the final showdown, but we have yet prepared for that match. We just want to do our best one at a time. Actually, we have never thought that our match against Chinese Taipei would end in three sets. We expected a tougher task. However, we just wanted to do our best in every match we play,” China’s head coach Li Mu commented after the match.
Meanwhile, Iran had already landed the prestigious AVC Cup in 2008 and 2010 before losing their crown to China in 2012 in Vietnam. At the previous edition two years ago, Iran had a disappointing outing to return from Almaty, Kazakhstan with their heads low in great despair after finishing a below-par fourth place.
In their Tuesday’s semi-final clash against formidable Japan, unbeaten Iran were strong with the likes of powerful attackers Rahman Davoodi, Mohammad Taher Vadi and Alreza Mobasheri, while Japan were led by talented Yuki Ishikawa, who won the Best Outside Hitter Award at the 2015 FIVB World Cup and the second Best Outside Hitter Award at the 2016 World Olympic Qualification Tournament.
Iran, the only team from Asia qualified for the 31st Olympic Games to finish joint fifth place in Rio de Janeiro, were on cloud nine following the remarkable win over Japan. They jumped for joy, danced around and hugged each other.
Alireza Mobasheri top scored with 16 points for Iran including 14 kills from 28 attempts. Amin Esmaelnezhad added with 10 kills. Saman Faezi contributed with 4 kill blocks. Yuki Ishikawa led Japan with 20 points including 15 kills. Issei Otake and Kenta Takahashi added with 13 and 11 kills respectively.
“Before this match, we learned that it would be totally different from the first round. Japan are a very good team with strong players. They spiked well with good defence. Unfortunately, Reza Ghara, one of our best opposite players, sustained a serious shoulder injury and it was very difficult to change anything in the match. It was our fifth match in this tournament and it became more difficult with more pressure. My players played with hearts. I appreciated my players’ hard working in this match,” said Iran’s head coach Shahnazi Naser.
The fantastic win is the fourth final of Iran in the AVC Cup, but another nightmare for the Japanese, who have never advanced to the final showdown since the tournament’s inception in 2008 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. Iran now go up against China in a final showdown of the two unbeaten teams, while Chinese Taipei will battle it out with Japan for the third place.
In the 5th-8th classification round, Australia left the Nakhon Pathom Gymnasium with heads high in pride on Tuesday when they stunned title-holders Korea’s young bloods in thrilling four sets 25-23 25-18 25-27 25-19 to next set up a 5th-6th playoff clash against Kazakhstan.
“Finally we won the game. I’m very happy because this is the team of young guys. It will be experience for them. They can develop for the future and they now can play in the same level. We next play Kazakhstan, which are very tall. We are a bit tired and let’s see when we wake up the next morning what we can do,” Australia’s head coach Italian Roberto Santilli commented.
The other match saw Kazakhstan repeat the similar feat over hosts Thailand after recovering from the first set down 18-25 to take the remaining three sets 25-17 25-17 25-23.
Kazakhstan, which claimed bronze medal at the previous edition at home in Almaty two years ago following a stunning win over Iran in the third-place playoff, had already beaten Thailand 3-1 in their preliminary Pool A clash.
With the dramatic 3-1 win over Thailand, Kazakhstan will next battle it out against Australia, while Thailand will contest the 7th-8th place playoff against Korea.
Kazakhstan b Thailand 3-1 (18-25 25-17 25-17 25-23)
Australia b Korea 3-1 (25-23 25-18 25-27 25-19)
Iran b Japan 3-2 (25-21 17-25 25-20 23-25 15-11)
China b Chinese Taipei 3-0 (25-23 34-32 25-22)
SEPTEMBER 27, 2016
11.30am: 7th-8th: Thailand v Korea
14.00pm: 5th-6th: Kazakhstan v Australia
16.30pm: Bronze-medal match: Japan v Chinese Taipei
19.00pm: Championship match: Iran v China