Men's World Olympic Qualification Tournament
Italy remain unbeaten and top pool in Tokyo Olympic qualifier
Italian spiker Alessandro Fei attacks over Australian Luke Campbell
Tokyo, Japan, June 3, 2008 - Italy charged on in the FIVB Men's World Olympic Qualification Tournament on Tuesday at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, scoring their third straight victory to put them in the box seat for one of the last two berths left for the Olympic Games in Beijing.The winner of this event will be heading to Beijing. The round-robin tournament doubles up also as the Asian Men's Olympic Qualification Tournament, so the best Asian team (even if the winner is Asian) will also book a berth in the Volleyball Tournament of the Olympic Games.
The Italians, atop the table with 6 points, remain unbeaten and were firing on all cylinders against Australia to easily win 3-0 (25-17, 25-9, 25-16). Argentina, past bronze medallists in the World Championships and Olympics, recovered their Olympic chances with a resounding 3-0 (25-18, 26-24, 25-22) victory over Algeria.
In other action, Iran beat Thailand in four sets and Japan fought hard to down Korea 3-1 in an electrifying encounter.
In a match between two unbeaten teams from the first weekend of play, Italy used a suffocating block to mow down Asian champions Australia and improve their win-loss record to 3-0. With Italy ranked 10th in the world to Australia's 11th, a close encounter was expected in what was being billed as an early final to determine the top team here. But it did not materialize as the â€œAzzurriâ€ were too fast and too slick for the Aussies, who dropped to 2-1 with four games to play. Best scorer of the match was Italian Hristo Zlatanov with 17 points.
â€œThis win has a very big meaning, and we are very, very happy that we kept our level stable throughout the game. By watching the video of the Australian team we thought it would be more difficult to win, so I am very happy with how the game ended," said Zlatanov.
World No. 6 Argentina tamed surprise-package and world No. 60 Algeria 3-0 in the first match of the day. Argentina improved their win-loss record to 2-1 by ending the Algerians' unbeaten start. The African underdogs dropped to 2-1. The Algerians played with real fire in beating Iran and Thailand at the weekend, but the Argentines were looking a little more sophisticated and were ahead during the entire match. Mohammed Chikhi was the best scorer of the match with 15 points, while Lucas Chavez notched 14 for the winning side.
â€œWe had expected today's match to be difficult because Algeria is a great rival for us," said Argentine Rodrigo Quiroga. "We had lost our last game to Australia, so I thought it would be difficult to switch our feelings, but we were able to show our level in this game. Now I want to continue this feeling for tomorrow's game against Iran."
Iran came from behind to beat Asian rivals Thailand 3-1. Both teams had lost their opening two matches at the weekend, so Iran improved their win-loss record to 1-2 with a hard-fought victory, 19-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-14. Thailand, whose world ranking of 28th is two lower than Iran's, dropped to 0-3. Best scorer for Iran was Mohammed Kazem with 20 points and for Thailand Wanchai Tabwises with 23.
â€œIn the first set we lost because we did not know the Thai team and did not think they would be so strong," said Iranian captain Peyman Akbari. "After the first set we changed our game plan. The Thai number three (Wanchai) is a very good player and we concentrated on blocking him, so we could win this game."
In the last match of the third day, Japan held off arch-rivals Korea 3-1. The hosts improved their win-loss record to 2-1 with a 25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19 victory, dropping Korea to 0-3 in the process. Every point was contested to the full by two sides that just refused to back down, creating a wonderful spectacle for the full house of 10,000. Korean Moon Sung-Min was the best scorer of the match with 18 points while Japanese Takahiro Yamamoto bagged 16 for his team.
â€œWhen the team was suffering I wanted to be a player like Ogino who can lead the team well," said Japanese player Yusuke Ishijima. "When I was on the bench I just watched Ogino's play and learned from him. I had a feeling that I wanted to contribute to the team when I got the call to play."
Live scores, statistics, interviews and high resolution photos of the tournament are online at www.fivb.org
Third Day Results:
Argentina- Algeria 3-0 (25-18, 26-24, 25-22)
Italy- Australia 3-0 (25-17, 25-9, 25-16)
Iran - Thailand 3-1 (19-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-14)
Japan - Korea 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19)
Standings (two points for victory, one for loss):
Italy: 6 points
Japan, Algeria, Argentina, Australia: 5 points
Iran: 4 points
Thailand, Korea: 3 points
Match schedule for Tokyo (All times are local)
Wednesday, June 4
Argentina vs. Iran (11:35)
Korea vs. Australia (13:35)
Italy vs. Algeria (15:35)
Japan vs. Thailand (18:30)
Thursday, June 5 â€“ Rest Day
Friday, June 6
Thailand vs. Argentina (11:35)
Iran vs. Italy (13:35)
Algeria vs. Korea (15:35)
Australia vs. Japan (18:30)
Saturday, June 7
Korea vs. Iran (11:05)
Australia vs. Algeria (13:05)
Italy vs. Thailand (15:05)
Japan vs. Argentina (18:00)
Sunday, June 8
Thailand vs. Korea (11:05)
Iran vs. Australia (13:05)
Argentina vs. Italy (15:05)
Algeria vs. Japan (18:00)