Tehran, Iran, July 31, 2015 – Strong teams brushed off less-ranked rivals on the opening day of the 18th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship at the Azadi Sports Complex, with powerhouses Iran successfully clearing their first hurdle with a comfortable straight-set win over Kuwait on Friday.
The biennial nine-day tournament, which kicked off simultaneously at Azadi Sport Complex Hall 1 and Hall 2, has attracted a total of 16 teams across the continent to vie for the top honour and eight teams eligible for the next year’s AVC Cup in India.
The 16 participating teams were divided into four pools of four teams apiece. Pool A comprises Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, Iran and Kuwait, while India, Turkmenistan, Qatar and Australia are in Pool B. Pool C consists of Thailand, Pakistan, Korea and Oman, with China, Sri Lanka, Japan and Bahrain in Pool D.
The pool round-robin preliminaries started on Friday, which saw strong teams register their first wins in the top-flight tournament. Contesting Pool A, hot favourites Iran, chasing their dreams of making it three times in a row on home soil, kicked off their title defence with a scintillating straight-set 25-13 25-22 25-13 win over unfancied Kuwait.
World No.10 Iran, strengthened by star spikers who competed in the recent World League Intercontinental Round Group 1 including Vadi Muhamadtoher, Hamzeh Zarini, Mostafa Sharifat and Purya Favazi Damnabi, opened up aggressively, with Hamzeh Zarini producing explosive cross-court spikes to help the host side take the first set without much trouble 25-13. Kuwait fought back in the second set but still lost their touch at the final assault to go down hard-fought 22-25. Iran continued their exceptional performance to capture the third set 25-13 and the match.
Masoud R. Gholami scored a match-high 13 points for Iran including four ace serves and two effective blocks, while Almutawa led Kuwait with nine points.
Iran’s coach Peyman Akbari commented after the match, “First of all, I would like to congratulate Kuwait for their impressive form against us. I did not expect them to play such high quality. They were good at reception. This is our first step. We need more times to adapt ourselves to the tournament. We will do our best to get the best result.”
Kuwait’s coach Radovan Malevic said, “I do not want to talk about the problems, but I did have five of my players who suffer from their injuries. All I try to do is to increase the level of the team. We are not looking for a miracle in this tournament. We have to admit that Iran are technically higher than us.”
Formidable Korea, silver medallists at the previous edition in Dubai, the UAE two years ago, also made their mark to beat Oman in straight sets 25-19 25-17 29-27 in Pool C, while Thailand came from behind to beat Pakistan in hard-fought five-set thriller 23-25 20-25 25-23 25-18 15-13.
After the match, Thailand’s head coach Monchai Supajirakul said, “We started dismally to suffer losses in the first two sets. After that, we tried to change our tactics and form. It worked out pretty well as from then we started to control the game well. I just wanted my players to play more consistently with more concentration on court.”
Hassan Mazhar Hussai, head coach of Pakistan, was likely not to be delighted with his team’s result, “Some of my players are young. We did a good job only in the first two sets. We stayed on course in the third set, but lost many crucial points on some critical moments. This might be because we are not inexperienced.”
In Pool B encounters, world No.39 India fought hard against Turkmenistan to narrowly beat the fighting oppositions in hotly-contested three sets 27-25 25-21 25-21, but Qatar struggled to beat world No.13 Australia in dramatic four sets 25-22 28-30 25-22 25-20. Ibrahim Ibrahim topscored with 17 points for Qatar and Paul Carroll claimed 14 crucial points for Australia.
China and Japan also tasted their first victory in Pool D, with the former thrashing Sri Lanka 25-11 25-22 25-20 and the latter outclassing Bahrain 26-24 25-12 25-23.
Chinese Taipei b Kazakhstan 3-1 (25-22 24-26 25-21 25-21)
Iran b Kuwait 3-0 (25-13 25-22 25-13)
India b Turkmenistan 3-0 (27-25 25-21 25-21)
Qatar b Australia 3-1 (25-22 28-30 25-22 25-20)
Thailand b Pakistan 3-2 (23-25 20-25 25-23 25-18 15-13)
Korea b Oman 3-0 (25-19 25-17 29-27)
China b Sri Lanka 3-0 (25-11 25-22 25-20)
Japan b Bahrain 3-0 (26-24 25-12 25-23)
MATCH SCHEDULE (local time)
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Azadi Hall 1
1pm: Turkmenistan v Australia
3pm: Korea v Thailand
5pm: China v Japan
7pm: Kazakhstan v Iran
Azadi Hall 2
1pm: Oman v Pakistan
3pm: Chinese Taipei v Kuwait
5pm: India v Qatar
7pm: Sri Lanka v Bahrain