Tokorozawa, Japan, June 13, 2009 –
Russian coach Daniele Bagnoli said he was hoping to learn from his
team's first World League match against Japan. The first thing he
learned was that it's good to be lucky.
"I think we had some lucky breaks in
the first part of the match that helped us win the first and second
sets," he said. "That was very, very important."
In short, Russian got the breaks and Japan
didn't. Japan pulled to within a point at 22-23 in both the first two
sets but couldn't break the powerful Russians. In the third set,
Japan folded and, looking ahead to tomorrow's rematch, they will attempt to discover why they collapsed in the final set.
"The start of the match was OK," Japan captain Daisuke Usami said. "Everyone was playing with
spirit, but the match went up and down and we made many mistakes,
especially on receiving. And these mistakes affected us a lot during
"In the third set, we lost heart and
didn't fight. We'll have to study today's result and tomorrow bring
our fighting spirit to beat Russia. We should keep trying to the end
of the game."
The bright spot for Japan was the
spiking of youngsters Kunihiro Shimizu and Tatsuya Fukuzawa. Fukuzawa
pulverized the Russian defense throughout the match. Shimizu started
out brightly but had a rough third set when he was blocked by the
Russian defense. He ended up with 17 successful spikes from 36
attempts, whereas Fukuzawa completed 13 spikes from 22 attempts.
Japan could manage only two blocks in the entire match against 14 for
Russia, who were led on offense by the 15 spikes of Semen Poltavskiy.
Russia coach Daniele Bagnoli said he
was mainly pleased with the performance of his players who came off
"They immediately produced good
situations for the team," he pointed out. "That is one point of
strength for this team."
Russia is expected to change its lineup
in the second game against Japan on Sunday, so the team's strength in
depth could give them an advantage.
"When you try to win with more
players, it's good for the team," the Italian coach said.
Japan are also expected to make
changes, although coach Tatsuya Ueta wasn't happy with the big change
he made on Saturday.
"For four years, Kitajima was our
main receiver, but he's injured, so we used Yoneyama. But he wasn't
good today, so it was my mistake to use him."
Setter Daisuke Usami will also be
looking for redemption after being criticized by his coach for his
performance on Saturday.
"We had three new spikers and our
setter was meant to provide them with roughly 30 percent of their chances
each," Ueta said. "But it didn't go well because the setter
didn't pass to the players equally."
"Tomorrow I'll have to learn from
those mistakes," Usami added. "They had a negative influence
on the team today." If the captain can find Shimizu, Fukuzawa and
Yoshihiko Matsumoto, Japan could find that extra element that tips
the balance in their favour.
But Russia will always have reserves of
players, height and power. If Bagnoli gets the best out of his men,
it will be tough for Japan, but Russia also made many errors on
Saturday and if Japan can exploit that, they will be in with the
chance of a historic victory.