Korea stun defending champs Iran as Asian Boys' U19 Championship heats up


Korea's front guard lined up for the block in the match against Iran at the Boys' U19 Asian Championship.

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, March 29, 2017 - Korea made a clean sweep in Pool B following their stunning victory over perennial champions Iran, as Japan and Australia tasted their first win at the SMM 11th Asian Boys’ U19 Volleyball Championship at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium on Wednesday.

The top four teams at the end of the competition get tickets to the 2017 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship, 18-27 August in Bahrain.

Fired-up Korea pull off surprise win over error-prone Iran
Korea, led by powerful attacker Im Donghyeok, who scored a match-high 19 points in the previous match against Bangladesh, stunned title-holders and hot favourites Iran in straight sets 3-0 (25-19 25-21 25-21).

Im Donghyeok scored a match-high 18 points including 17 attack hits for Korea, while Morteza Sharifi contributed similar scores for Iran, all of them through ace spikes.

Korea completed their pool round-robin preliminaries with two straight wins and are assured of topping Pool B with six points. Iran will play Bangladesh in their last preliminary match on Thursday.

After the match, Korea’s team manager Ha Taemin said, “We thought that Iran will play much better than today. However, this is their first match and it’s possible that they played nervously. We played what we have to do and that’s why we won. We gathered for a team training for one month before this tournament. Ahead of this championship, we played other Korean teams to gain more experience including Army and University teams. Our initial target is to finish top four which will guarantee us a berth to compete at the World Championship. However, with the victory over Iran, my team have good condition and will perform better and better. I think China are very strong, but not skilful. If we do our best, anything can happen.”

Iran’s head coach Mohammad Vakili expressed his dissatisfaction over his team’s performance, citing that they made too many mistakes in this tough match against Korea.

“Korea played a good match. We, as defending champions, started with a 3-0 win in the previous edition a few years ago, but now this Iran team lost in straight sets in our first match. It was very disappointing. Iran had no motivation and their mentality condition is not good. My players made too many mistakes. Korea played this match much better than the day before. However, this is just our first loss in the tournament, but for Korea, one win over our team cannot guarantee them that they can be champions.”

Japan brush off Sri Lanka in thrilling three sets
Japan backed their first win in the tournament after outclassing Sri Lanka in straight sets 3-0 (25-14, 25-21, 25-17), relegating the rivals to the 9th-11th classification round.

Japan got off to a flying start with an easy 25-14 win in the opening set, but Sri Lanka clawed their way back to challenge the Japanese seriously in the second set. With Yuji Nishida and the 203cm-tall Shunichiro Sato puncturing the rivals’ defence, Japan took the hard-fought set 25-21. Sri Lanka, which went down in straight sets to Thailand the previous match, tried hard to come back, but failed miserably. Japan captured the set 25-17 and match.

Shunichiro Sato scored a team-high 15 points for Japan, 8 of them through devastating attacks. He also led in serving with 5 ace serves, while Peris Hewa led Sri Lanka with 16 points.

“This is our first match and I think we did a lot of mistakes. We didn’t play well as we did while training. We next take on Thailand. We watched them play against Sri Lanka and after this we will plan how to play them. We finished second in the previous edition and hope to win the title this time,” Japan’s head coach Hiroshi Honda commented.

Australia send Hong Kong packing in straight sets
Hong Kong have been relegated to 9th-11th classification following straight two losses at the pool round-robin preliminaries including a bitter 3-0 (25-15, 25-7, 25-21) loss to Australia on Wednesday.

Hong Kong, going down in straight sets to hosts Myanmar in their curtain-raisers the previous day, played a must-win match against Aussies to keep their hopes of advancing to the next round alive. However, Australia completely smashed their dreams.

James Takken led Australia with 10 points including 6 ace spikes. Thomas Heptinstall and Jayden Fathers contributed 9 and 8 points respectively through their deadly attacks, while Lam Yin Chun scored 8 points including 7 attack hits for Hong Kong.

Australia on Thursday will challenge hosts Myanmar to decide the winners of Pool A. However, both sides have already qualified for the round of last eight teams in the nine-day championship.

“It’s good to win our first match. Hong Kong are a good team with young players. Our team also have many young players and they were very nervous coming up in the first set against Hong Kong which saw them make several unforced service and spiking mistakes. I think after this match, my players will get more confidence for the next match against Myanmar. It should be much better if there are more spectators at the venue to make some noises which will help boost the competition atmosphere,” Australia’s head coach Andrew McCaskill commented after the match.

On Thursday, the final day of the pool round-robin preliminaries, hosts Myanmar will play Australia, Japan go up against Thailand and Bangladesh challenge Iran.

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