Tianjin, China, September 11, 2003 - China and defending champions South Korea will vie for the title of the 12th Asian Men's Volleyball Championship after respective victories in the round-robin final round competitions here on Thursday.
The two traditional volleyball powerhouses in Asia also clinched their berths at the World Cup in Japan in November by securing the top two places in the standings after the Chinese beat Iran 3-1 for their fifth straight win in seven days. With two wins from the four-team final round in hand and a last match against South Korea set for Friday, the hosts are only one step away from their fourth Asian Championship title.
South Korea also hold a 2-0 record going into Friday's action after rallying from one set down to defeat Australia 16-25, 25-19, 25-19 and 25-22.
Chinese head coach Di An'he was happy with his team's form. "I am satisfied with our boys' performance, we played to 90 percent of our abilities," Di said. "We had good preparation for this match."
Iran, who came from 2-1 down to beat India 3-2 on Wednesday to enter the four-team final round, were off form in the first two sets, won by China 25-18 and 25-16 respectively. In the third set, Iran found their offense when trailing 8-5, they surged ahead with a 10-1 run and held on to pull one set back at 25-19.
"Iran served very well in the third set, which damaged our receiving," Di added. "We also had problems in physical strength after the two sets."
Roared on by more than 2,000 home fans, China started strongly in the fourth to build a 7-2 lead. Iran, runners-up at the Busan Asian Games in 2002, could never close the gap, only to see China enlarge their lead and clinch the final set 25-16.
Shi Hairong, who converted 17 of his 30 attacking opportunities, led China with 22 points and eight digs. Zheng Liang contributed 10 kills while libero Chu Hui added 15 digs for China. "We were not in good condition," said Iran's South Korean head coach Park Ki-won. "Our players were very tired after Wednesday's match." China reaped 30 points through Iran's errors.
The Australians won the opener against South Korea on back of tenacious defense. However, they could not catch up with their speedy opponents in the following sets. "We were a little bit surprised by Australia in the opening set," said South Korea's head coach Cha Joo-hyun. "But we got used to their play as the match went on."
"Tomorrow's match between China and South Korea will be an exciting one and I think we can defend our title," Cha added. "The Chinese players have better personal skills than we do, but we will use our experience." Iran and Australia, who were both 0-2 in the final round, will fight for the third place on Friday, the final day of the tournament.