Ardabil, Iran, May 4, 2017 – Reigning champions Iran, Japan and China became the only three unbeaten teams at the SMM 2nd Asian Men’s U23 Volleyball Championship at the 6,000-seater Rezazadeh Indoor Stadium, with Iran and China setting up a clash of the Titans on Friday to decide the Pool E winners.
Hosts Iran, Chinese Taipei, China and Japan topped their respective pools at the end of the pool preliminary matches, but on the very first day of the playoff matches at the round of last eight teams on Thursday, only Chinese Taipei suffered their first loss in the tournament at the hands of in-form Thailand.
Thailand handed Chinese Taipei first loss
Thailand, which finished a disappointing 7th place at the previous edition in Myanmar two years ago, recovered from the first two-set down 19-25 22-25 to Pool B winners Chinese Taipei to win the remaining three sets 25-20 25-18 15-12 over the 2015 Asian U23 Championship bronze medallists in an exhausting encounter which lasted two hours.
Thailand’s head coach Monchai Supajirakul said after the match: “We suffered on the first-ball problem and poor reception. However, making use of player rotation and better substitutions, we came up with improved performance from the third set onwards.”
Thailand will face Kazakhstan in their last playoff match at the round of last eight teams in Pool F on Friday. Coach Monchai is upbeat that Thailand stands a better chance of beating the tall opponents.
“Kazakhstan are not that strong. Despite their height advantage, they always come up with slow movements. We will do our best to beat them.”
Iran came from behind to beat Malaysia in dramatic four sets
Hosts and defending champions Iran overcame a strong challenge from Malaysia in the opening set, which they lost 23-25, to capture the remaining three sets 25-20 25-19 25-21 to stay on course in the top-notch competition at home.
Contesting Pool E, Iran started the match in an aggressive way as they always had a high-volume cheering whenever they scored a point. Malaysia adapted themselves to the match, coping well with the Iranian tactics to win the opening set 25-23. Iran bounced back as they bore the support of around 8,000 spectators on site and gained more confidence to win the second set 25-20, thanks to the captain Rahman Taghizadeh’s fine blocks. Iran stormed on to win the next two sets 25-19 and 25-21 for an eventual 3-1 win over the gallant Malaysians.
Iran next go up against China in a match to determine the Pool E’s winners on Friday.
China downed Pakistan 3-1 to battle it out against Iran
China, led by Liu Zhihao with his scintillating blocks, suffered the first-set loss 18-25 to Pakistan, but came out in full strength to win three sets in a row 25-18 25-11 25-14 for an impressive 3-1 victory over the rivals in their playoff encounter at the round of last eight teams in Pool E.
Pakistan performed superbly in the first set to beat China 25-18, but the Chinese played more consistently and roared back with mighty attacks and solid blocks to sweep the remaining three sets without much effort 25-18 25-11 25-14.
Japan see off Kazakhstan with similar margin in a one-sided battle
On the last match of Day 4, formidable Japan maintained their unbeaten record with 3-0 (25-17 25-17 25-17) demolition of Kazakhstan in Pool F.
Japan’s head coach Fumitoshi Tokunaga said after the match: “We analyzed five tall players of Kazakhstan who became a serious threat for us in this match and our efforts worked out pretty well. We next take on Chinese Taipei, one of the strong teams with excellent combination and solid defence. We will try our best to beat them.”
Sri Lanka beat Uzbekistan in tie-breaker
In the first match earlier, Sri Lanka claimed a hard-fought 20-25, 16-25, 26-24, 28-26, 16-14 win over Uzbekistan in their playoff match in the 9th-11th classification round.
Sri Lanka were playing without their libero Ranmuthu Harshaka Silva, who was sick since their very first match against Japan on May 1. Fortunately, though playing without libero, Sri Lanka still performed well to get out of trouble to beat Uzbekistan.
Sri Lanka b Uzbekistan 3-2 (20-25,16-25, 26-24, 28-26,16-14)
Thailand b Chinese Taipei 3-2 (19-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-18, 15-12)
Iran b Malaysia 3-1 (23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-21)
China b Pakistan 3-1 (18-25, 25-18, 25-11, 25-14)
Japan v Kazakhstan 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-17)
Friday, May 5, 2017
Pakistan v Malaysia
Kazakhstan v Thailand
Iran v China
Japan v Chinese Taipei
Australia v Sri Lanka