Tokyo, Japan, December 1, 2007: Bulgaria stayed in the race for a place in Beijing by recovering from one set down to beat Japan 3-1 in front of 10,000 spectators at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday night.
The tournament wild cards, ranked seventh in the world, came home 22-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 to improve their World Cup win-loss record to 8-2, the same as USA and Russia.
Japan, ranked 10th in the world, dropped to 3-7.
On the last day, Bulgaria will play Argentina, Russia will meet USA and Brazil will close the event against Japan.
Japan made a blistering start and took Bulgaria by surprise with the intensity of their game.
Yamamoto blocked Kaziyski on two identical plays to start the match, before blazing past the Bulgarian block on a regular basis to lead Japan into the first TTO with a four-point lead, 8-4.
An Ishijima piledriver resulted in a spectacular tumble for libero Salparov, whose efforts to retrieve the ball took him out of the court and skidding off a media table on to the floor. He returned unhurt after a few seconds of concern.
Bulgaria called a TO down 11-5, but continued to struggle on the resumption, trailing 16-8 at the second TTO.
Japan's serve was on top form, putting Bulgaria under pressure to control their reception and in turn reducing the options for the counter attack.
Japan then let themselves down with some careless attacks at the net, allowing Bulgaria to reduce the gap to six points and force a Japan TO.
Kaziyski tried to spark Bulgaria into life, following up his own sizzling serve with a crashing back court attack, but when Vladimir Nikolov spiked wide across court for 20-13 Japan, Bulgaria took their second TO.
The Bulgarian block began to function, and when Japan's lead was reduced to three at 20-17, coach Ueta took his players off for their first TO.
The first set was far from over as far as Bulgaria were concerned, and Ishijima fired wide for 20-18. A Nikolov ace brought Bulgaria to within one point before Koshikawa put Japan back on course with some fluid spikes on the left.
Japan had three set points at 24-21, and Yamamoto won it on the second of those by beating the block on the right for 25-22. It was the southpaw's 11th point of the opening frame, including three blocks.
Japan continued in the second set from where they had left off in the first, playing with confidence and aggression. Yamamura spotted the attempted spike of setter Zhekov and Ishijima blazed past the Bulgarian block on the right for 7-5.
At this point, Bulgaria coach Stoev replaced Gaydarski with Ivanov and this helped Bulgaria lead 8-7 at the first TTO, as did a left-wing winner from captain Konstantinov.
When Bulgaria began to click, they moved ahead smoothly to 11-8, forcing Japan into a TO. The Bulgarian serve moved up a gear and put the Japan reception under pressure, but still Yamamoto produced a flow of elegant, powerful winners on the right.
Yamamura raised the noise level one notch higher with a block on Kaziyski, but Bulgaria held a two-point advantage, 16-14, at the second TTO. Japan's serving started to splutter, enabling Bulgaria to retain a comfortable cushion, and coach Ueta called a TO in trouble at 22-19.
Southpaw pinch server Yordanov produced an ace and four set points at 24-20, and a block on Ishijima finished it 25-20 for 1-1.
Bulgaria in general and Kaziyski in particular started the third set in determined mood. After the Japanese block had rejected a series of Bulgarian attacks, Kaziyski used all his court craft to tip one over into space, and followed up with a bullet serve that was too strong for libero Tsumagari.
Tsvetanov kept Bulgaria in front with a block on Yamamoto, and Konstantinov fired Bulgaria into the first TTO ahead 8-5.
On the restart, Kaziyski cranked out the points on the left, and Nikolov's clever winner from the right sent Japan into a TO behind by four, 11-7.
Japan managed to reduce the deficit by one but still trailed 16-13 at the second TTO. Again Kaziyski mixed up his attacks to outfox the Japanese block, and when Ivanov rejected a Yamamoto attack on the right for 20-16, Japan took their second TO.
At 21-16, Japan sent in young southpaw Shimizu to replace Yamamoto in the hope of freshening up the attack, but he found the going tough when faced with a three-man block, Nikolov getting the block point.
A Koshikawa fireball greeted Bulgaria after a TO, and Ishijima pounced on the loose reception at the net to close the gap to 22-20.
With four set points at 24-20, Shimizu spiked wide to end the third frame 25-20 for 2-1 Bulgaria.
In the fourth set, Shimizu took over again for Yamamoto with Japan behind 7-4, and Bulgaria went into the first TTO with a lead of three, 8-5.
However, Nikolov went out at 8-8 after being blocked by Shimizu and then spiking wide, replaced by southpaw Yordanov. When Shimizu spiked wide down the right for 12-9 Bulgaria, Japan needed a TO. Yamamoto came back for Shimizu on the restart, but it was Kaziyski who showed the spiking consistency as he shot Bulgaria into the second TTO with a three-point lead, 16-13.
Although Japan continued to stay close, with Ishijima impressing on attack and with his back court defence, Bulgaria could taste victory.
Ivanov climbed and smashed a mighty winner at the net for 18-15, and an attempted block on Yordanov dropped wide. A cool Konstantinov reception set up a great chance for Yordanov, who followed up with a sizzling ace for 21-17 and a Japan TO.
Koshikawa and Ishijima, climbing high on the left and hitting with venom, delayed Bulgaria's victory march, before the 2006 World Championship bronze medallists clinched it 25-20.