Milan, Italy, September 27, 2010 – Japan gave themselves every chance of staying on in the 2010 Men’s World Championship with an exceptional 3-2 (32-34, 23-25, 25-19, 25-17, 15-13) win over Egypt in the opening match of Pool A on Monday.
After two defeats to Italy and Iran on the two first days, Japan was looking at their worst finish in a FIVB men’s World Championship. However, a miraculous come-from-behind victory has given their campaign life as they sit in third place in the group, waiting on the Iran v Italy match later in the evening. A win to Iran with sufficient points ratio will see them overtake Japan but Japan is favoured to advance after their win in the afternoon which saw Kunihiro Shimizu and Ahmed Abdelhay top score with 26 points.
Everyone knew they were in for a spectacle after a riveting opening set which provided the highest scoring set of the tournament to date with Egypt claiming the honours 34-32. The entire first set was close all the way with the scores tied at 9-9 and 12-12. A Tatsuya Fukuzawa spike and Kota Yamamura block gave Japan the lead at 16-13 at the second TTO however Egypt responded and managed to tie the score at 20-20 with Abdelhay already on 14 points in the set. Both teams went on at level pegging 22-22 and 25-25 before a one-hand block from Egypt’s Abdalla Ahmed closed the set.
Japan lost momentum at the beginning of the second set with coach Ueta Tatsuya calling a timeout with Egypt leading 5-2. This spurred Japan to life as they tied the set 6-6 before Egypt took control again leading at the TTO 8-6. Mohamed Badawy’s deciding role extended the lead for Egypt to 16-8 and despite a small fight back by Japan to 17-13, they couldn’t cope with Abdelhay’s serving which produced two aces. Japan’s Kunihiro Shimizu also proved his talented at the service line and allowed Japan to stay within touching distance, closing to 22-21 but Egypt more Abdelhay magic closed the set.
With their backs against the wall, Japan scored the first point of the third set and had a 5-1 lead when Egypt called for the first timeout. Japan still led 8-4 at the first TTO with Tatsuya Fukuzawa machining life difficult for Egypt at the net. Japan led 16-7 at the second TTO forcing Egypt coach Antonio Giacobbe to make substitutions, among them captain Ashraf Abouelhassan who replaced Abdalla, but Japan seemed an impossible nut to crack as they closed out the set 25-19.
Yuta Yoneyama gave Japan the perfect start but Egypt did not wait long in responding and tied the score 4-4. Yoneyama again was the main character with an ace that helped create another for Japan at 8-5 at the first TTO. Giacobbe called for another timeout with Egypt 11-5 down as his team seized the initiative, regaining three valuable points before closing to 16-14 at the second TTO. A Takaaki Tomimatsu ace forced Egypt to request another timeout with Japan leading 19-15 before a Fukuzawa ace gave Japan set-ball and Yonemaya closed the fourth set with a delicate tip.
Japan immediately seized the opportunity to take advantage of the last deciding set. An ace from Japan’s super scorer Shimizu gave Japan the early initiative at 3-1 ahead when Egypt requested the first timeout. Egypt tied the score 4-4 and Abdalla surprised all his attack giving Egypt the lead for the first time since the second set. Both teams exchanged the lead and Egypt was in the driver’s seat at 8-6 ahead before Japan started their big move. At 8-8, Japan took control of the set to lead 11-9 before Tomimatsu gave Japan set-ball and Yamamura blocked to spark scenes of wild celebration.