Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship kicks off in Iran
The eventual champions will qualify for the World Cup, set to take place in Japan from November 20 to December 20, with the top three teams from that tournament then moving on to the London 2012 Olympic Games. If Japan finish as champions, the runners-up will qualify.
Iran overcame first day jitters against Afghanistan in Pool A, sealing a straight sets (25-13, 25-19, 25-8) win in front of a packed home crowd. Afghanistan surprised an unfocused Iranian defence with a series of attacks but the hosts used their experience to power through.
“This is the first time we have seen Afghanistan play, the players were surprised but also because it is the first day of the competition and they were a bit nervous because of the supporters among other things,” Iran coach Julio Velasco said. “But later on in the game they had better concentration and tried to play their game.”
India’s blocking and attacking precision saved them in a deciding fifth set as they narrowly overcame Chinese Taipei 3-2 (25-20, 20-25, 27-25, 20-25, 15-12). India’s Gurinder Singh and Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-Chen went head-to-head in the scoring department with 24 points and 25 points, respectively.
China used their height advantage to outplay the Sri Lankans in straight sets (25-16, 25-16, 25-13) to begin their campaign. China’s blocking and good shot placement were key to their win as the Sri Lankans struggled to deal with their opponent’s height.
Uzbekistan’s stamina was the main setback for them as they went down to Indonesia in four sets (23-25, 25-14, 25-14, 25-22). The Indonesian players came back in the second set and cruised to victory without any trouble over their young and inexperienced counterparts.
Tatsuya Fukuzawa led Japan to a straight sets victory (25-20, 25-23, 25-16) over Thailand in Pool C as they began their quest for the title. Fukuzawa was helped by veteran Takahiro Yamamoto who provided a number of scoring gems from the opposite side.
Pakistan survived a strong Kazakshtan challenge in the fifth set (22-25, 25-21, 25-21, 20-25, 15-11) as they got their campaign off on the right foot. Ahmed Naseer scored excellently for Pakistan, posting a 31-point record, 28 of which came from attacks.
Australia edged Korea in a thrilling opening to Pool D sealing the tiebreaker to win 3-2 (25-20, 29-31, 25-20, 25-27, 15-7). The Australian’s dominance in attack was paired with their good net coverage, forcing the Korean hitters to exert more effort and creativity in their plays.
“I am glad that my younger players are part of the starting lineup,” Australia coach Jon Uriarte said. “They’ve trained and worked hard for four months for this.”
Qatar had little trouble seeing off Turkmenistan in their match on Thursday, sealing a straight sets win (25-23, 25-21, 25-22). Qatar took advantage of Turkmenistan’s poor reception as their attackers quickly found their pace.
“We did not have our first and second setters in the team (right now), so we only have our third setter and it was a big trouble for us but it is OK,” Qatar coach Fausto Polidori explained. “Step by step we will be better and we will arrive our normal playing condition.”