With third straight victory Brazil cement their leadership at Men’s Grand Champions Cup
Brazil has maximum points – nine – after three rounds and though there are another two matches to play on Saturday and Sunday the South Americans may well emulate their countrywomen who last Sunday claimed the women’s competition with an immaculate record of five wins in as many matches.
After losing their opening match to Italy on Tuesday, Russia are fighting their way back and Friday the reigning Olympic and European champions edged Iran in straight sets (25-23, 25-23, and 25-19) to improve their win-loss record to 2-1 and claim second place in the standing of the competition with six points. USA are currently ranked third after they opened Friday’s programme at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium clawing back from 1-2 in sets to eventually defeat Italy at the tie-break (25-21, 20-25, 22-25, 28-26, and 15-13). Italy dropped to fourth place with five points – as many as USA – but their point ratio is slightly worse than that of the NORCECA champions.
On Saturday the competition will continue with another three matches: Iran and USA will play the first game of the day at noon local time before Brazil and Russia go for what we may be considered a kind of final and for a match where they will prolong their epic rivalry. If the South Americans take another three points from that game, they will book their gold medal even before the last round of play and also stop Russia’s impressive winning streak on the international stage (Russia followed on last year’s Olympic gold at London 2012 by winning this year’s World League as well as European Championship). Team Japan and Italy will round out Saturday’s programme as the hosts are still vying for their first victory in the tournament.
USA beat Italy 3-2 in a five-set thriller 25-21, 20-25, 22-25, 28-26, 15-13 in their round-robin match at the World Grand Champions Cup on Friday afternoon. The victory gave the U.S. a 2-1 record, while Italy fell to 1-2 with the loss. It was a tight contest all the way, with just a few points separating the teams throughout. Matthew Anderson notched a match-high 27 points for the U.S. in the triumph. Maxwell Holt and David Lee added 13 apiece. Filippo Lanza led Italy with 22 points, while Jiri Kovar contributed 15. The young Italian team put on an impressive performance against the more experienced American side. Both teams exhibited power games in an affair that saw few extended rallies.
USA coach John Speraw said after the game: “This was a close, high-level match. The margin of victory was very small. Our players had a good attitude throughout the match and never got down. That was important as we made key plays late in the sets. I'm most pleased with the way we competed in this match.”
Italy coach Mauro Berruto commented: “This kind of match leaves a bitter taste. We played almost 2 hours, 30 minutes of high-level volleyball. The U.S. was better than us in the final points of the fourth and fifth sets. I enjoyed that this young team is playing high-level volleyball.”
European champion Russia downed Iran in three sets (25-23, 25-23, and 25-19) in the second game on schedule Friday. With the victory Russia improved their record to 2-1, while Iran dropped to 1-2. The match marked the first ever meeting between the countries in the World Grand Champions Cup and only the fourth overall. Maxim Mikhaylov sparked the Russian attack with 19 points. Dmitriy Muserskiy contributed 12 in the win. Mojtaba Mirzajanpour led Iran with 13 points; opposite Shahram Mahmoudi added 11 in the defeat.
Russia coach Andrey Voronkov said: “Iran is a very good defensive team. We know that they play at a high level. We did our best to play with concentration today. That was a problem for us in our first match in the tournament. We stayed focused until the end of the match today.”
Iran coach Julio Velasco added: “We played to win against one of the best teams in the world. We did that in the first two sets. We don't have the mental endurance to play against a team like this yet. But we learned a lot from this match. Our defence was not strong in the first two sets. We had problems in blocks. Russian players are not only strong, but they have good technique as well."
Brazil overpowered Japan in straight sets (25-17, 25-23, and 25-18) to round out the program of the third day of action at the World Grand Champions Cup on Friday. Brazil, ranked No. 1 in the world, just had too much power on offense and defence for the host nation. The Brazilians pounded spikes and drilled several wicked serves on the way to a comprehensive victory. With this result Brazil moved to 3-0 with the triumph, while Japan fell to 0-3. The match marked the sixth time the countries have played in the World Grand Champions Cup and 40th in all competitions. Brazil is 6-0 against Japan in the WGCC and 30-10 all time. Luis Felipe Marques Fonteles sparked Brazil with 12 points. Wallace De Souza contributed 11 points in the win. Yu Koshikawa led Japan with 13 points, while Yusuke Ishijima added 10. Japan challenged Brazil in the second set, but could not muster enough force to overtake it. Brazil passed and received well throughout the match in a clinical performance. Japan displayed stretches of good play but they were too infrequent to make a difference.
Brazil coach Benardo Rezende said: “It was a good match. We started strong and played tactically well. They played better in the second set and they put pressure on us. We made some mistakes on attack in the second set. I like the intensity we are playing with. We may not have as much talent as in the past, but the intensity is good. We are playing the Brazilian way. Tomorrow will be a great test for us against Russia.”
Japan coach Gary Sato commented: “We had a good early practice today and the players had a meeting. They figured out what they needed to do. Things clicked for us in the second set. We usually don't face this kind of speed in this region, so we have to adjust to that. We executed some things well. The players are feeling more comfortable. This is a good tournament for us. We have to play against the best to improve.”
Top Scorer by Day
21 – Matthew Anderson of USA v Japan on 19-11-13
17 – Mohammad Mousavi of Iran v Italy, Jiri Kovar of Italy v Iran, Matthew Anderson of USA v Brazil on 20-11-13
27 – Matthew Anderson of USA v Italy on 22-11-13
Top Scoring Performances
27 – Matthew Anderson of USA v Italy on 22-11-13
22 – Filippo Lanza of Italy v USA on 22-11-13
20 – Ivan Zaytsev of Italy v Russia on 19-11-13
19 – Wallace de Souza of Brazil v Iran on 19-11-13
19 – Maxim Mikhaylov of Russia v Iran on 22-11-13
18 – Maxwell Holt of USA v Japan on 19-11-13
Top Blocking Performances
8 – Maxwell Holt of USA v Japan on 19-11-13
8 – Mohammad Mousavi of Iran v Italy on 20-11-13
5 – Sidnei Dos Santos Jr. of Brazil v Iran on 19-11-13
5 – Matteo Piano of Italy v USA on 22-11-13
4 – David Lee of USA v Japan on 19-11-13
4 – Emanuele Birarelli of Italy v Iran on 20-11-13
Top Serving Performances
5 – Farhad Ghaemi of Iran v Italy on 20-11-13
3 – Jiri Kovar of Italy v Iran on 20-11-13
3 – Thomas Beretta of Italy v USA on 22-11-13
3 – David Lee of USA v Italy on 22-11-13
Top Team-Blocking Performances
17 – USA v Japan on 19-11-13
15 – Russia v Japan on 20-11-13
14 – Iran v Italy on 20-11-13
12 – Brazil v Iran on 19-11-13
11 – Italy v Iran on 20-11-13
Top Team-Serving Performances
9 – Italy v Iran on 20-11-13
8 – Iran v Italy on 20-11-13
5 – USA v Brazil on 20-11-13
5 – Russia v Japan on 20-11-13
Highest Scoring Sets
31-29 Brazil v USA (1st set) on 20-11-13
28-26 Italy v Russia (1st set) on 19-11-13
28-26 USA v Italy (4th set) on 22-11-13
Highest Scoring Matches
220 – USA v Italy (25-21, 20-25, 22-25, 28-26, 15-13) on 22-11-13
214 – Iran v Italy (26-24, 16-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-12) on 20-11-13
195 – Italy v Russia (28-26, 25-20, 19-25, 27-25) on 19-11-13