Surabaya, Indonesia, July 24, 2017 – Strong teams powered past the minnows on the opening day of the SMM 19th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship being held simultaneously at the Tri Dharma Peutrokimia Gymnasium and Wahana Ekspresi Poesponggoro Gymnasium, with formidable Japan kicking off their title defence campaign with a scintillating straight-set 25-17 25-16 25-17 win over Sri Lanka on Monday.
Japan, fresh from claiming a slot for the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Italy and Bulgaria after winning the AVC Qualifier Pool B in Australia, rested their best players including Takashi Dekita and Yuki Ishikawa in this first match, but fielded young talents including Issei Otake. Hideomi Fukatsu, who won the Best Setter Award at the previous edition in Iran, still remained with the Japanese side in an attempt of helping the team retain the title.
“I have one thing to say….good to win. We next play Vietnam and I think we have nothing to worry. We just play the match and do our best. This is the same Japanese team which won the AVC Qualifier in Australia, but only half of the team players competed with the team which captured the Asian title in Iran two years ago,” said Japan’s head coach Yuchi Nakagaichi.
Tall and towering Australia, which have also qualified for the next year’s World Championship following their second-place finish at the AVC Qualifier Pool B, used the height advantage to attack powerfully and block solidly for the convincing 25-17 25-20 25-16 win over Hong Kong.
“It’s a little bit difficult for us to find our normal rhythm. This is a new tournament with new teams we have never played before. I’m happy that we won as the match went on and we hope to get better and better. Against Thailand on our next match, I think it’s very important and we expect a good match for the fans. Most of our team players are from the World Championship AVC Qualifier Pool B. We changed only one libero and one receiver.” Australia’s head coach Mark Lebedew commented after the match.
Iran, former two-time Asian champions, but reportedly sending a U23 squad this time, and China, respective silver and bronze medallists at the previous edition in Tehran two years ago, also registered their first win on Monday. Iran, current world No.7 and the only Asian team which competed in the 2017 FIVB World League Group 1 to finish a distant 11th place this season, sailed past Iraq in comfortable straight sets 25-17 25-16 25-21, while the Chinese side had a little problems in thrashing Thailand 25-19 29-27 25-13.
Earlier, hosts Indonesia pulled off a hard-fought 3-1 (25-23 25-20 22-25 26-24) victory over fighting Saudi Arabia in the curtain-raising encounter, while Kazakhstan recovered from going down in the first two sets 18-25 20-25 to take the remaining three 26-24 25-19 15-10 in an exhausting thriller.
Chinese Taipei also made their mark on the first day of the top-tier tournament to outclass Pakistan in straight sets 25-17 25-16 25-13 and Korea bagged their first win after a 3-0 (25-17 25-19 25-17) demolition of Vietnam.
On Tuesday, Indonesia have a mountain to climb as they will face Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia challenge Qatar in Pool A, while Iraq take on Chinese Taipei and Iran face Pakistan in Pool B. The Pool C encounters see title-holders Japan face Vietnam and Sri Lanka go up against Korea, with Thailand playing Australia and Hong Kong taking on China in Pool D.
After the end of the pool round-robin preliminaries on Wednesday, only top two teams from each pool will make the cut for the quarter-finals. The teams finishing third and fourth places from each pool will be relegated for the 9th-16th classification round.
Pool round-robin preliminaries
Indonesia b Saudi Arabia 3-1 (25-23 25-20 22-25 26-24)
Kazakhstan b Qatar 3-2 (18-2520-25 26-24 25-19 15-10)
Chinese Taipei b Pakistan 3-0 (25-17 25-16 25-13)
Iran b Iraq 3-0 (25-17 25-16 25-21)
Japan b Sri Lanka 3-0 (25-17 25-16 25-17)
Korea b Vietnam 3-0 (25-17 25-19 25-17)
Australia b Hong Kong 3-0 (25-17 25-20 25-16)
China b Thailand 3-0 (25-19 29-27 25-13)
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AVC Youtube: click: Asian Volleyball Confederation