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Italy, Brazil, USA all start Men’s Grand Champions Cup on a high note

Jiri Kovar was one of a few young players lined up on Tuesday by coach Mauro Berruto as Italy upset reigning Olympic and European champions Russia in the opening match of the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Grand Champions Cup
Kyoto, Japan, November 19, 2013 – Italy, Brazil, and USA all started their quest for glory at the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Grand Champions Cup with a 3-1 victory as on Tuesday they edged Russia, Iran, and Japan respectively.

Italy got their revenge after losing to Russia the final match of this year’s European Championship; the young group lined up by coach Mauro Berruto showed a lot of maturity and good play to defeat the reigning Olympic champions in four sets (28-26, 25-20, 19-25, and 27-25).
Vying for their third straight title in the competition – and the fourth overall – triple world champions Brazil beat Iran 3-1. The up-and-coming Asian champions caught a very slow start as this was their first match in a couple of months but survived a couple of match balls for their opponents before Brazil eventually wrapped it up in four sets (25-16, 25-17, 25-27, 25-23).
The local heroes of Team Japan also got off to a very slow start in their game against USA but they gradually found their rhythm and showed good volleyball in the third and fourth set. Team USA was nevertheless too much to stand for the home side and could finally open the tournament with a 3-1 victory (25-17, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20).

USA top the standings at the end of day 1 with Italy and Brazil also having three points after the first round of play is complete. On Wednesday the competition will continue at Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium with Italy and Iran crossing their ways at noon local time, before Brazil play USA and Japan round out the programme as they go for a much anticipated game with 2012 Olympic champions Russia.

The 2013 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Grand Champions Cup kicked off on Tuesday, with six teams – including four continental champions – converging on the city of Kyoto. Russia and Italy kicked things off in the first match at Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium, in a battle of European powerhouses. Overall the Italians made less mistakes than the Russians in this match, taking it 3–1 (28–26, 25–20, 19–25, 27–25). Italy was led by the high-flying Ivan Zaytsev with 20 points, supported by Filippo Lanza who had 13. Russia’s Dmitriy Muserskiy had 17 hard-hitting scores for Russia in a losing effort.

Italy coach Mauro Berruto said: “Of course it is always a great challenge to play the Olympic and European champions. We had the right attitude from the beginning of the match. We played with half of our starting six new, in Lanza, Piano and Kovar. I’m very proud of these three players especially, and we challenged Russia with good volleyball. Our side out was really efficient. For some moments they pressured better than us with their service, but I’m proud that we could play good volleyball and win the match.”

Russia coach Andrey Voronkov commented: “Today we made many service mistakes, and there were many chances we couldn’t capitalize. I think the most important thing was not that we lost, but that we know where we made mistakes and what we need to improve.”

Brazil took on a spirited Iran squad on Tuesday, the first day of 2013 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Grand Champions Cup in Kyoto. With enthusiastic pockets of Iranian and Brazilian fans in attendance at Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium, Brazil handily took this match 3–1 (25–16, 25–17, 25–27, 25–23), but not without difficulty from a confident Iran team. Brazil’s offensive attack was a true team effort, with four players scoring in double digits, led by Wallace De Souza who notched 19. He was supported by a great effort by Sidnei Dos Santos Jr. (aka Sidão) who scored 15, including 5 blocks and a pair of aces. For Iran, it was Amir Ghafour leading the way with 15 points.

Iran coach Julio Velasco said: “I want to congratulate Brazil on their very good match. I show Brazil to my team many times to show them how to play good volleyball, so to go up against them was not easy in the beginning. I told them that we can’t surprise anyone anymore, and Brazil played very good tactics and defence against our attack. They caused our players to attack balls that they don’t want to attack. And I think our players suffered a lot because of this, not just technically but mentally also. But in the second part we improved in this regard, with more confidence, changing our attack more. I think in this match our players learned a lot for the future.”

Brazil coach Bernardo Rezende commented: “Iran is one of the most, if not the most improved team in the last few years. Now they are among the best, and as coach Velasco said, they are not a surprise anymore. They played in the World Cup, in the World League, and they have good chances to win wherever they go. They are well trained, they played well in the Asian Championship. We lacked match rhythm since we played very little this year. We put lot of pressure on them, had confidence at the beginning. This was a very good test in this very good tournament. It is a good win for us, the first step in a very good tournament.”

Japanese fans were pumped to support their home team at Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium, as they hosted the USA to open the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Grand Champions Cup. A strong USA squad ran into a speed-bump in the third set, but managed to take the win from the home side, winning 3–1 (25–17, 25–17, 21–25, 25–20).
Leading the victorious USA in scoring was player of the match Matthew Anderson with 21 points. He was supported by middle blocker Maxwell Holt, whose 18 points including a remarkable 8 blocks. The USA out-blocked Japan 17 to 7 in the match. For the home team, it was Tatsuya Fukuzawa leading the way with 12 points.

USA coach John Speraw said: “We’re very excited to get the win tonight. We had the opportunity to compete twice against Japan before the tournament started, and they beat us both times, playing great volleyball. Early in this match we played really well, utilized our size, we blocked at the net well, used our strengths, I think we passed better than they did. I was not surprised that the beginning of the third set went the way that it did. That was the team we played in scrimmages. They have improved dramatically since World League. Max Holt had a really nice match, and Matt Anderson played well from the service line.”

Japan coach Gary Sato added: “I was disappointed with our start, I think we’re capable of playing better than that. However, I think you saw some instances in the third and fourth set where we played the kind of volleyball we need to play to be successful. We have to give credit to the USA team, they have some members who are Olympic gold medallists, and they know how to rise to the occasion and bring their teammates along. However all our future opponents are the best teams in the world, so things will not get easier than today. We will have to play better.”

Top Scorer by Day
21 – Matthew Anderson of USA v Japan on 19-11-13

Top Scoring Performances
21 – Matthew Anderson of USA v Japan on 19-11-13
20 – Ivan Zaytsev of Italy v Russia on 19-11-13
19 – Wallace de Souza of Brazil v Iran on 19-11-13
18 – Maxwell Holt of USA v Japan on 19-11-13
17 – Dmitriy Muserskiy of Russia v Italy on 19-11-13

Top Blocking Performances
8 – Maxwell Holt of USA v Japan on 19-11-13
5 – Sidnei Dos Santos Jr. of Brazil v Iran on 19-11-13
4 – David Lee of USA v Japan on 19-11-13
3 – Emanuele Birarelli of Italy v Russia on 19-11-13
3 – Matteo Piano of Italy v Russia on 19-11-13
3 – Lucas Saatkamp of Brazil v Iran on 19-11-13
3 – Amir Ghafour of Iran v Brazil on 19-11-13

Top Serving Performances
2 – Nikolay Apalikov of Russia v Italy on 19-11-13
2 – Sidnei Dos Santos Jr. of Brazil v Iran on 19-11-13
2 – Matthew Anderson of USA v Japan on 19-11-13

Top Team-Blocking Performances
17 – USA v Japan on 19-11-13
12 – Brazil v Iran on 19-11-13
9 – Iran v Brazil on 19-11-13
9 – Italy v Russia on 19-11-13
6 – Russia v Italy on 19-11-13

Top Team-Serving Performances
4 – Italy v Russia on 19-11-13
3 – Brazil v Iran on 19-11-13
3 – Iran v Brazil on 19-11-13
3 – Japan v USA on 19-11-13
3 – Russia v Italy on 19-11-13
3 – USA v Japan on 19-11-13

Highest Scoring Sets
28-26 Italy v Russia (1st set) on 19-11-13

Highest Scoring Matches
195 – Italy v Russia (28-26, 25-20, 19-25, 27-25) on 19-11-13


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