China edge Iran 3-2 at Asian Boys' U19 Championship
In other matches at the SMM 11th Asian Boys’ U19 Volleyball Championship at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium, Thailand overcame hosts Myanmar 3-0, Korea beat Chinese Taipei 3-0 and Japan overwhelmed Australia, also by a 3-0 margin.
China 3, Iran 2 (21-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-17, 15-10)
Iran’s defence of their title is on shaky ground after losing to China. Both teams attacked hard from the beginning, with China using the height of 204cm Zhang Jingyin and 203cm Xiu Chengcheng to block effectively against Iran’s excellent teamwork and offensive combinations. Iran took the opening set 25-21.
China tightened their defence in the second set, making it tough for the Iranians to score, but after taking a 19-12 lead, China came under pressure from Iran. The powerful Mortiza Sharifi fired several sharp spikes to help Iran come close at 18-21 but four straight points put China back in control and they took the set 25-18.
In the third, Iran played confidently and consistently throughout the set, while the Chinese lost their rhythm. Iran clinched the hard-fought set 25-23, but China hit back hard to win the fourth set 25-17 and the decider 15-10.
Zhang Jingyin led China with 19 points, while Tian Cong added four blocking points. Morteza Sharifi scored a match-high 25 points for Iran, including three ace serves.
“It was a very difficult match for both Iran and China,” China coach Wang Haichuan said. “They showed their best in all skills, not only attacks and blocks, but also service and digs. We next play Korea. They are very strong and seemingly the best team in this championship.”
Despite Iran’s loss, coach Mohammad Vakili expressed his satisfaction over his team’s performance. “The match was very close. I was satisfied with my players’ form. We played well in the first set, but after that we made many mistakes. I think China have greater experience than us. Our Pool F is playing high-level volleyball and that’s why the games in Pool F are very close and more difficult than the Pool E encounters. I’m upbeat that Iran still have a chance of defending our title.”
Thailand 3, Myanmar 0 (27-25, 25-18, 25-23)
In-form Thailand silenced Myanmar’s vociferous drum-beating supporters with a confident performance to hand the host side their first playoff loss.
Thailand faced a tough task against unbeaten Myanmar, winners of Pool A. The Thais made a poor start early in the first set, but clawed their way back to win it 27-25.
Cheered on by their loud fans, Myanmar upped their tempo but were still no match against the Thais’ mighty attacks and solid defence led by Chaiwat Thungkham and Supakorn Jenthaisong. Thailand took the second set 25-18.
Myanmar fought back aggressively in the third set to take an initial 5-0 lead and stretched it to 10-3, but Thailand gradually pulled their game together, playing cool under pressure to win the crucial set 25-23 and the match.
Fifteen-year-old Supakorn Jenthaisong led Thailand with 12 points including 11 kills, while Ya Htike Wai top-scored for Myanmar with 18 points.
“We studied Myanmar’s game plan and learned about the key players in their team,” Thailand coach Somboon Nakpung commented. “In the first set, we hardly blocked Ya Htike Wai, but used Supakorn Jenthaisong to catch him in the second and third sets. Supakorn did a good job, allowing us more opportunities to counter-attack and block effectively. Our game improved drastically in the third set after we fell behind at the beginning.”
Korea 3, Chinese Taipei 0 (25-14, 25-23, 25-22)
Korea, who have yet to lose a set in the tournament, demolished fighting Chinese Taipei in straight sets.
The two teams were locked in a see-saw battle at the beginning of the first set at 7-7, but the Koreans proved their superiority, with powerful attacker Im Donghyeok puncturing the Taiwanese defence with his exceptional spikes. Korea took the first set comfortably 25-14.
The second set turned out to be a hotly contested affair as Chinese Taipei roared back with combination attacks and scintillating blocks to cope with the formidable Koreans’ tactics. The score was tied at 23-23, but Korea held on as captain Choi Ikje produced an ace serve to hand his team the last point.
The rhythm remained with the Koreans in the third. They led 18-14 but Chinese Taipei tried to regain their composure and reduced the gap to 20-22, but Korea held on for the win.
Im Donghyeok scored a match-high 25 points for Korea including 23 kill attacks and two block points. Lim Sungjin contributed 10 points from attack hits and Choi Ikje added four ace serves. Chang Yu-Sheng led Chinese Taipei with 10 points.
“Our service at the beginning was great and we could lead them by a wide margin in the set,” said Korea’s team manager Ha Taemin. “In the second and third sets, Im Donghyeok was in great condition and he was able to lift the game. Compared with Iran, Chinese Taipei came up with quick attacks and combination attacks in the middle, while Iran used more wing attackers. So, playing Chinese Taipei was a bit tougher in the middle of the game.”
Japan 3, Australia 0 (25-15, 25-13, 25-10)
Japan, runners-up in the previous edition in 2014, proved too strong for Australia in a lop-sided battle.
Japan attacked from the start, making use of the splendid offensive combinations of Mahiro Saeki and left-hander Kento Miyaura. Fielding several substitutes in the second and third sets, Japan continued to dominate and Australia had no answers against their much stronger opponents.
Kento Miyaura top-scored with 13 points for Japan including 12 kills, while Thomas Heptinstall scored eight points for Australia.
Japan coach Hiroshi Honda commented: “We played well. While training in Thailand, we beat Australia in all three games of our friendly matches. So, we learned how to cope well with their tactics. It’s possible we will play Chinese Taipei in the knock-out quarterfinals and it will be a tough match because Chinese Taipei also play fast with attacks and solid blocks.”
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