Tehran, Iran, August 6, 2015 – Defending successive two-time champions Iran annihilated Australia in pulsating four sets to set up a clash of the Titans against invincible China, as Japan stunned formidable Korea to go up against Qatar in the do-or-die semi-finals of the 18th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship at the Azadi Sport Complex on Friday.
World No.10 Iran, which suffered their first loss in this top-notch competition at the hands of Korea in their Pool E playoff earlier, faced a crunch time in their quarter-final encounter against world No.13 Australia on Thursday.
Fielding an offensively-strong lineup led by Fayazi Damnabi Purya, Pirout Pour Farhad and Zarini Hamzeh, Iran, cheered on lustily by a nerve-wracking, horns-blowing home crowd at the Azadi Hall 1 Gymnasium, took the opening set 25-20.
Thomas Edgar gave Australia a strong comeback in the second set when he unleashed a barrage of devastating cross-court spikes and carried out terrific jump serves which went without returning. Australia clinched the effortless second set 25-14 for a 1-1 draw.
Australia became more prone with unforced attacking and serving mistakes which caused them dear in the third and fourth sets. The host side grabbed the golden opportunity to counter-attack well, with spectacular attacks from Pirout Pour Farhad and Zarini Hamzeh, while their impenetrable defence also worked out pretty well. Iran captured both sets 25-18 and 25-20, the thrilling 3-1 match and a semi-final berth.
Zarini Hamzeh led Iran with 15 points including 13 kills from 33 attempts, while Thomas Edgar scored a match-high 22 points for Australia.
After the match, Iran’s coach Peyman Akbari praised Australia’s performance, saying that they did their best although the strong visitors viewed it as a letdown.
“It was a very tough match. Although the Australians say they are disappointed, it was actually a difficult game for us. The Australians experienced playing in the World League, World Cup, World Championship and even the Olympic Games. As I said after the match against Korea that we surrendered to our own errors, but we played more consistently in this match. In terms of the errors, I don’t really mean it’s the players’ errors only. I myself may produce some decision-making errors.
“However, the fact is when we win, we win together and when we lose, we lose together. As far as I’m concerned, Australia was better than us in terms of blocking tactics, but we frustrated their defence and tried to seek opportunities in counter-attacking. We tried to reduce our individual errors and they have gradually been decreasing. I think, we played well and our attacks were on the right track.”
Australia’s coach Roberto Santilli said: “Congratulations to Iran on their success in this match. It was very obvious that they played better than us, tactically and technically. We are a bit disappointed. Actually, we have already focussed on the final and tried to win this match. It’s a pity our challenge ended just in the quarter-finals. Of course, we cannot be happy with our performance and outcome in this match. Now, we have to fight for the fifth place. I think we should have accomplished something else in this tournament.”
In the Friday’s semi-finals, Iran will take on China, the only unbeaten team in the championship. China, the bronze medallists at the previous edition in Dubai, the UAE two years ago, sent Thailand packing in straight closely-contested three sets 25-20 27-25 30-28.
Ji Daoshuai led China with 15 points including 13 attack hits, while Geng Xin led in the blocking skill with four points from 13 attempts. Jirayu Raksakaew topscored with 19 points for Thailand, 18 of them through lightning-fast spikes.
Earlier, Japan caused a major sensation when they stunned world No.16 Korea, the current AVC Cup holders which captured silver medallists at the previous Asian meet in Dubai. Japan came up in full strength with ace spikes by Masahiro Yanagida and Kunihiro Shimizu, while Korea fared well with powerful attacks from Kwak Seungsuk and Moon Sungmin. Japan pulled off a hard-fought 25-23 25-16 20-25 15-25 15-13 victory.
Masahiro Yanagida emerged as the best scorer of Japan after collecting 23 points, with Kwak Seungsuk leading Korea with 19 points.
With the surprise win, Japan next battle it out against Qatar for a place in the final showdown.
Qatar on Thursday proved a tough nut to crack, cruising past Chinese Taipei in exciting four sets 25-20 25-19 17-25 25-22.
The top-flight competition resumes on Friday, with Japan taking on Qatar and Iran setting up a mighty clash against undefeated China in the semi-finals.
The 5th-8th playoffs see Thailand play Australia and Korea face Chinese Taipei.
Elsewhere, the battle among the lower-ranked teams sees Turkmenistan meet Oman in the 15th-16th place playoff and Kuwait take on Sri Lanka in the 13th-14th playoff. Bahrain and India will battle it out for the 11th position, while Pakistan will be pitted against Kazakhstan in the 9th-10th playoff.
Japan b Korea 3-2 (25-23 25-16 20-25 15-25 15-13)
China b Thailand 3-0 (25-20 27-25 30-28)
Iran b Australia 3-1 (25-20 14-25 25-18 25-20)
Qatar b Chinese Taipei 3-1 (25-20 25-19 17-25 25-22)
9th-16th CLASSIFICATION ROUND
Kuwait b Turkmenistan 3-1 (23-25 25-20 25-19 27-25)
Sri Lanka b Oman 3-1 (25-22 25-19 21-25 25-14)
Kazakhstan b India 3-1 (25-15 26-24 30-32 25-21)
Pakistan b Bahrain 3-2 (21-25 25-20 27-25 15-25 15-9)
MATCH SCHEDULE (All local times)
AUGUST 7, 2015
Azadi Sport Complex Hall 1
5pm: Japan b Qatar
7pm: Iran v China
1pm: Thailand v Australia
3pm: Korea v Chinese Taipei
Azadi Sport Complex Hall 2
1pm: 15th-16th: Turkmenistan v Oman
3pm: 13th-14th: Kuwait v Sri Lanka
5pm: 11th-12th: India v Bahrain
7pm: 9th-10th: Kazakhstan v Pakistan