Tehran, Iran, August 7, 2015 – In-form Iran, questing for their successive three Asian crown on home soil, captured a remarkable comeback 3-2 victory over China in the Friday’s do-or-die semi-finals to advance to the final showdown four times in a row in the 18th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship.
The magnificent come-from-behind 21-25 20-25 25-9 25-19 16-14 win has carried Iran to the climax of the top-flight competition, in which they are due to challenge Japan in a rematch of the 2009 final in Manila, the Philippines. There, Iran, in their first final ever in the biennial tournament, went down to eventual winners Japan in dramatic four sets.
Against world No.17 China, the only unbeaten team en route to the Friday’s semi-finals, the Incheon Asian Games gold medallists Iran fielded a strong line-up led by three smashing machines, Fayazi Damnabi Purya, Zarini Hamzeh and Pirout Pour Farhad. China, which finished third place at the previous edition in Dubai, the UAE two years ago, were also strong with the likes of Ji Daoshuai, Geng Xin, Zhang Zhejia, Dai Qingyao and Cui Jianjun.
China got off to a brilliant start to take the first two sets 25-21 25-20, thanks largely to exceptional attacks by Ji Daoshuai and Yuan Zi. Iran, backed by a large number of home crowds making a loud noises from blowing horns and shouting, gradually pulled their game together.
Pirout Pour Farhad and Zarini Hamzeh gave Iran a successful comeback in the third set when they took turns overpowering the Chinese blockers with their spectacular attacks. Iran took the totally one-sided set 25-9.
The fourth set was still dominated by the host side. As China came up with errors-filled performance, the Iranians went on their mighty attacks, solid defence and terrific jump serves to clinch the thrilling set 25-19.
Both sides poured everything they had to win the decider and a final berth. However, China just let their chance slip through their fingers when they led commandingly 14-13, needing only one more point to end the hosts’ challenge. Things turned sour for the Chinese. With the Chinese erratic play at the final assault, Iran went on their superb form. They allowed the strong visitors only one more point to capture the deciding set 16-14, the match and a final berth.
Pirout Pour Farhad scored a match-high 21 points for Iran including 18 kills from 32 attempts, while Ji Daoshuai led China with 17 points.
After the match, Iran’s coach Peyman Akbari expressed his satisfaction over the hosts’ comeback win. “I was so impressed by the good show of China.They showed a spectacular volleyball. Everybody considers China to be one of the strong teams to be in the final match regarding their good performance from the beginning of the tournament. They did a very good job in the first and second sets and still took control of the game. They didn’t let us even think about what we were going to do. But from the third set, we had nothing to lose. My team played with good mentality. I appreciate our fans who didn’t leave us alone though we lost the first two sets and supported us to the last moment. I also congratulate my team on this victory.”
On the final match against Japan, the Iranian coach said, “There is an Iranian coach assisting the Japan team. Certainly, he knows our players very well, but this is not enough for winning. The players themselves will do the job on the court. As coaches, we plan what to do in the match but it will be the players who will do according to the strategic plans. I think both Japan and Iran stand an equal chance of winning the championship.”
China’s head coach Xia Guochen said, “We had only two good sets. Our players are so young and some of them are experiencing their first international tournament. They lost their concentration. The Iranian fans really helped their team and did a big job. I hope our fans will learn from the Iranians and do the same and support their team.”
Japan also did likewise en route to their final showdown. After going down the close first set 22-25 to powerful Qatar, Japan stormed back with Kunihiro Shimizu’s thundering attacks and scintillating blockings by Takashi Dekita and Hideomi Fukatsu to take the remaining three set 25-23 25-17 25-23.
As expected, Kunihiro Shimizu topscored with massive 28 points for Japan including 26 kills, while Ratrnt Waddie scored 15 points for Qatar.
Japan next take on Iran in the Saturday’s final showdown. As for Japan, this will be their 11th appearance in the final. Among the overall, the Japanese won seven Asian titles including a 3-1 win over Iran in the 2009 final in Manila, the Philippines. Therefore, this will be the second final between Japan and Iran. After losing to Japan in 2009, the Iranians came back much stronger to beat China and Korea to win the 2011 and 2013 titles on home soil and in Dubai respectively. Whether their dreams to celebrate their consecutive three Asian crowns at home this time can turn in reality remains something to be seen on Saturday.
China are due to play Qatar in the third-place playoff on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Chinese Taipei added another agony to the same wound of Korea. As the Koreans, silver medallists at the previous edition in Dubai, suffered a shock loss to Japan in the knock-out quarter-finals, Chinese Taipei on Friday handed them the bitter second loss in a clash in the 5th-8th playoffs.
Chinese Taipei recovered from the first-set down 21-25 to Korea to win the next three sets 25-15 25-19 25-16 to next battle it out for the fifth place against Australia. The Aussies on Friday pulled off a scintillating 25-14 25-22 25-16 win over Thailand. Following the loss, Thailand will be pitted against Korea in the 7th-8th playoff.
In the 9th-16th playoff at the Azadi Sport Complex Hall 2, Kazakhstan outclassed Pakistan in closely-contested straight sets 25-22 25-19 25-22 to finish 9th place this time. India claimed the 11th position following their pulsating five-set 18-25 25-23 25-13 18-25 15-13 win over Bahrain. The 13th place went to Sri Lanka after thrashing Kuwait in straight sets 28-26 25-17 25-14, with Oman clinching the 15th position following their magnificent come-from-behind
22-25 24-26 25-19 30-28 15-10 victory over underdogs Turkmenistan.
At AZADI SPORT COMPLEX HALL 1
Iran b China 3-2 (21-25 20-25 25-9 25-19 16-14)
Japan b Qatar 3-1 (22-25 25-23 25-17 25-23)
Australia b Thailand 3-0 (25-14 25-22 25-16)
Chinese Taipei b Korea 3-1 (21-25 25-15 25-19 25-16)
At AZADI SPORT COMPLEX HALL 2
9th-10th: Kazakhstan b Pakistan 3-0 (25-22 25-19 25-22)
11th-12th: India b Bahrain 3-2 (18-25 25-23 25-13 18-25 15-13)
13th-14th: Sri Lanka b Kuwait 3-0 (28-26 25-17 25-14)
15th-16th: Oman b Turkmenistan 3-2 (22-25 24-26 25-19 30-28 15-10)
MATCH SCHEDULE (All local times)
SATURDAY, AUGUST 8, 2015
At AZADI SPORT COMPLEX HALL 1
3pm: Third-place playoff: China v Qatar
5.30pm: Championship match: Iran v Japan
At AZADI SPORT COMPLEX HALL 2
1pm: 7th-8th playoff: Thailand v Korea
3pm: 5th-6th playoff: Chinese Taipei v Australia