Tokyo, Japan, December 2, 2007 — Asian wild cards Korea showed real heart to beat NORCECA vice champions Puerto Rico in a rollercoaster five-set match on the final day of the men’s World Cup.
The Koreans won 21-25, 25-18, 26-24, 20-25, 15-8 for only their second win out of 11, while the Puerto Ricans dropped to 5-6 at Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo.
Man of the match Moon Sung-Min inspired Korea with some brilliant play throughout the game and was a popular choice among the pro-Korean crowd.
Jose Rivera’s long serve put the Koreans three ahead at the first technical timeout of the match and the effective spiking of Moon put the Asian team 10-8 up.
Another cracker from Moon made it 13-10 and Ha Kyoung-Min smashed down for 14-10, triggering a timeout from Puerto Rico.
The Central Americans staged a mini-rally but Moon stormed down the middle to crash home an enormous spike to send Korea into the second TTO leading by two.
Puerto Rico’s play gathered pace and they pulled level at 17-17 after setting mistake by Korea and Hector Soto then spiked to move his team ahead.
There was no stopping Puerto Rico now. A brilliantly guided clean ace from Rivera — slap bang in the corner — made it 20-17 and he aced again to make 21-17.
They soon wrapped up the set. Enrique Escalante hammered down a spike for 23-19, Soto slid a spike down the line for set point after a fantastic rally and Shin Young-Soo served into the net to gift-wrap the set.
Shin went some way to redeeming himself early in the second set with a crushing spike to finish off another brilliant rally between the two teams and things were tight up to the first TTO.
The Koreans were edging it at that point, but a big block from little-used Mannix Roman leveled things up at 9-9.
The Koreans moved back in front, though, and went 14-11 ahead on a big spike from captain Shin. Shin was at it again to make it 15-12 and they kept the three-point gap at the second TTO.
Soto stormed down the right to reduce that gap with another impressive spike but the Koreans were made of sterner stuff and Park Jun-Bum won two points in a row with a big spike and then a block.
A Moon cracker made it 20-16 to Korea before Soto spiked wide and things were now looking bad for Puerto Rico. Moon spiked well again for 22-17 before Ha blocked for 23-17.
It was too big a mountain for Puerto Rico to climb and Korea finished things off when their opponents blocked a spike out of bounds.
The Koreans were looking a different proposition now and were leading again when the first TTO of the third set came around.
Soto drew things level at 10-10 with a well-placed spike from the right, but what Soto was doing for Puerto Rico, Moon was matching. Time and again, the 21-year-old smacked in huge spikes and Korea benefited to the tune of a two-point advantage at the second TTO.
Another Jose Rivera ace reduced the gap to one at 18-17 but the Koreans kept their noses in front. A long spike from Rivera gave Korea a 23-20 lead and the Puerto Ricans called a timeout.
It worked. Rivera spiked well and then Escalante served an ace. This time Korea called a timeout and then Moon smashed an uncontrollable spike for set point. Puerto Rico saved both with big blocks at the net.
But Angel Perez gave them another chance when he served long and this time Korea made sure when Moon tipped over the blockers into space.
The comeback was gathering pace and the Koreans kept it going from early on in the fourth set to lead by three at the first TTO.
Soto was spiking well for Puerto Rico but whereas the Central Americans had one danger-man Korea had two or three. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico rallied back to lead 14-12 after some good serving from Jose Rivera along with Soto’s spikes.
It was a Soto special that brought up the second TTO with Puerto Rico leading by two points.
Korea came back, though, with Ha smacking down some quality spikes and things were all square at 17-all. Puerto Rico tried to make a breakaway once more and when Soto’s spike smashed against the Korean blockers and out of bounds his team moved into a two-point lead at 22-20.
That gap moved to three and then four with a Soto spike and then five with a poor serve reception. Korea had collapsed and all that was left to do was for Escalante to smash down to clinch the set.
The Koreans stormed into a 5-1 lead in the final set and the shell-shocked Puerto Ricans had to call a timeout to try to turn things around before it was too late.
But the Koreans went into the TTO leading by five, coach Yoo Jung-Tak willing on his players from the sidelines. Lee Sun-Kyu made it 9-3 and Moon crashed down from the left for 10-4.
They were nearly there. Soto spiked long and that made it 11-5 and at 12-5 the Puerto Ricans called a TO — their final roll of the dice.
It didn’t matter. Moon spiked for 13-6, Ha tipped over for match point and that man Moon again spiked to force a receiving error from Perez.