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Iran, Japan, China, Chinese Taipei reach AVC Cup semifinals

Japan overcame Kazakhstan 3-1
Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, September 26, 2016 – Favourites Iran had to work hard to pull off a dramatic four-set victory over hosts Thailand in the SMM 5th AVC Cup for Men on Monday and set up a semifinal against Asian champions Japan. 

China and Chinese Taipei will clash in the other semifinal. China defeated Chinese Taipei in the Preliminary Round.

Seven of the teams in Thailand will be playing in the FIVB World League next year. Qatar was the only Asian World League team who failed to make it to Thailand. Hosts Thailand are the only team who won’t feature in next year’s World League.

Against Thailand, world No. 7 Iran, the only team from Asia to compete in the Rio Olympic Games, fielded a strong line-up led by Alireza Mobasheri, Rahman Davoodi and Reza Ghara. Powerful attacker Jirayu Raksakaew, Kittikun Sri-utthawong and Kitsada Somkane spearheaded the hosts.

Iran, who captured the 2008 and 2010 AVC Cup titles, overcame their hosts 25-22, 28-30, 25-20, 25-16 and will now face Japan, who they beat in straight sets in the Preliminary Round. Thailand will contest the 5th-8th classification round.

Rahman Davoodi tallied 18 points for Iran including 14 kills from 22 attempts. Reza Ghara added 12 kills. Masoud Gholami Renani contributed seven kill blocks and Reza Ghara five. Jirayu Raksakaew top-scored with 19 points for Thailand, including 18 kills from 45 attempts.

“Truly, we played a very difficult match today against Thailand,” Iran’s head coach Shahnazi Naser commented after the match. “I think the Thai players are very experienced as they have been playing together for a long time, so they can coordinate well during the match. In my opinion, Thailand played well against Chinese Taipei as they lost narrowly in five sets, and in the match against Kazakhstan the Thais also performed superbly.” 

“My players had psychological and mental pressure but they played tough in this crucial match. It’s very difficult for us to play in this atmosphere when a large crowd are cheering their team. However, when my players could control their emotions, they could also control the match well. I would like to congratulate Thailand and their coach on their great performance against us.”

Yuki Ishikawa, who won the Best Outside Hitter award at the last year’s FIVB World Cup, steered Japan to a fantastic comeback victory over Kazakhstan, winning 3-1 (23-25, 25-19, 25-22, 27-25). 

Ishikawa scored a match-high 30 points for Japan, including 25 kills from 40 attempts and four kill blocks. Taishi Onodera added 11 kills. For Kazakhstan, Maxim Michshenko had 20 points, including 18 kills, while Vitality Vorivodin contributed 14 kills.

“I think this is one of our best performances in this tournament,” Japan coach Shingo Sakai commented. “Kazakhstan played well, especially their attacks and high blocks.” 

Chinese Taipei stunned Korea in straight sets (25-16, 25-17, 28-26) to relegate the defending champions to the 5th-8th classification round.

Wu Tsung-Hsuan led Chinese Taipei with 12 points, including nine kills from 13 attempts. Liu Hong-Jie and Chen Chien-Chen added nine kills apiece. Kim Inhyeok top-scored for Korea with 11 points.

China, who captured the AVC Cup in 2012 had to fight hard on Monday to overcome Australia 3-0 (25-22, 32-30, 25-23). China will also face Australia in Group 2 of the World League next year.

China fielded a strong line-up in the quarterfinals, including Rao Shuhan, Ji Daoshuai and libero Ke Junhuang, three of whom competed in this year’s FIVB World League. Australia’s line-up including Lewis Kehl and Mitchell Tulley, both of whom stand 205cm tall.

Liu Libin scored a team-high 20 points for China consisting of 13 kills, four kill blocks and three aces, while Ji Daoshuai added 13 kills and Tang Chuanhang 10. Mitchell Tulley led Australia with 14 points.

Iran b Thailand 3-1 (25-22, 28-30, 25-20, 25-16)
China b Australia 3-0 (25-22, 32-30, 25-23)
Chinese Taipei b Korea 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 28-26)
Japan b Kazakhstan 3-1(23-25, 25-19, 25-22, 27-25)

Schedule, September 27
5th-8th Playoffs
11.30am: Thailand v Kazakhstan
2pm: Australia v Korea

4.30pm: Iran v Japan
7pm: China v Chinese Taipei

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