Volleyball News


Osaka, Japan, June 8, 2018 – Nikolay Uchikov’s 15 points helped Bulgaria work their way past Japan 3-0 (25-14, 25-21, 29-27) and renew some confidence in the Europeans’ camp in their first third-round match at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League on Friday.

It had been so far rough going for Bulgaria in the VNL but the victory will have lifted their spirits as they only really gave the Japanese a look in right at the death.

A record of 3-4 shows how much work Bulgaria still have to go but with Uchikov on fire at wing spiker, and with fellow hitter Valentin Bratoev (10 points) also finding form, they at least looked to have turned the corner, given Friday’s evidence. Their defence was a delight to watch as they out-blocked their opponents 8-3 and they had their deep serves also working a treat.

What gave Japan the most to be positive about was the fact that they had led for the early stages of both the second and third sets, before being overhauled, that they fought to the very end, and that they had 18-year-old opposite Yuji Nishida shining with 10 points. Middle blocker Akihiro Yamauchi (eight many points) also put in a solid shift.

Both nations have arrived at the Osaka Municipal Central Gym looking to pick up some momentum after VNL campaigns that have so far been disappointing.

The bright spark so far for the Japanese – along with now being able to play in front of the their home crowd – was a surprise 3-2 win over South Korea in their last round-two match in Brazil last weekend. Bulgaria, however, probably couldn’t wait to get away from home after losing all three of their second-round matches in Sofia. A sprained ankle that has ruled setter Georgi Bratoev out of action for the rest of the tournament would not have helped the mood back home.

But the Europeans certainly started like the shackles had been freed, across a first set that lasted 25 minutes and had the local fans blinking in disbelief.

Things didn’t really ever improve for those fans as the Bulgarians stretched their winning streak against Japan in world level events now to five straight matches.

Next up for Bulgaria is Italy (4-3) on Saturday afternoon, while Japan (3-4) will look to find winning form again against Poland (6-1).

Bulgaria coach Plamen Konstantinov: “The team had played great with their side-out and reception. We also played good under pressure. I think these things led us to victory against Japan.”

Bulgaria captain Viktor Yosifov: “For us it was important to win today. After losing our matches last week in Bulgaria, we really needed victory. I’m very happy for this and I believe that this will give us more confidence in the next two matches.”

Japan coach Yuichi Nakagaichi: “I think we could have played better in this match. We didn’t play good from the beginning. We wanted to play with our rhythm and with the support of the home crowd, but we just couldn’t play our game. We suffered from blocking our opponents.”

Japan captain Masahiro Yanagida: “Dominating the game is not what we have been trying to do. We have to keep our spirit in the next two matches.”

Japan player Akihiro Yamauchi: “We only started playing competitive in the third set and we should have started out the game like this. We will try to be aggressive from the start in tomorrow’s match.”

Japan player Yuji Nishida: “We couldn’t make a good start. We will try to adjust our game tomorrow against Poland. We will show them our strong spirit.”

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