Monday,23 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1359, (7 - 13 September 2017)
Monday,23 July, 2018
Issue 1359, (7 - 13 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Fifth is history

Egypt’s fifth place finish in the Under-23 Volleyball World Championship was its best ever, reports Abeer Anwar


Fifth is history

Egypt beat Japan for the second time at the 2017 FIVB Men’s U-23 World Championship -- this time in straight sets to come in fifth place in the final ranking, the country’s highest ever spot in the tournament. The two sides acknowledged the key role Egyptian fans played in the home team’s high ranking.

Egypt powered past Japan 4-0 (15-9, 15-8, 15-11, 15-12) in the ranking match at Cairo Stadium Complex in Cairo.

It was the second best Egyptian finish in their history at a junior volleyball world championship after the fourth place finish in the U-19 men’s World Championship in 2001.

Egypt’s Hisham Ewais was top scorer against Japan, contributing 13 points for the winners, while Jin Tsuzuki and Kenta Takanashi led the losers with five points each.

Egypt started the match putting a lot of pressure on Japan through their spike serve which couldn’t be controlled by Japanese receivers. Egypt used a combination of attacks through opposite Ewais and middle blocker Abdel-Rahman Seoudi to lead 15-9 and 15-8 in the first two sets.

Japan started to improve their defence in the third set and edged nearer after the successful hits of Takanashi and Tsuzuki, but Egypt prevailed 15-11.

The fourth set saw a better performance by the Egyptians as they won 15-12.

“We had a hard competition and a tough group, but a goal to reach too among the big teams, especially as we played on home soil,” Egypt’s head coach, Marcos Miranda of Brazil said after the match. “I consider that fifth position for us is like being champions. Today Japan played a good match.

They are strong physically, so we played with force to stop their powerful attack - and my players managed to do that and win the match.”

Egypt captain Ahmed Deyaa: “We improved with every match. We started the competition to earn a medal, but we are satisfied with fifth place. We deserved it because we trained hard and we did our best. For yet another time I thank all fans for their support and the medical staff for their efforts with the team.”

Fifth is history

“We lost for the second time against Egypt and the Egyptian fans were key to Egypt’s win,” Japan coach Fumitoshi Tokuanagad said. “We prepared very well for this match, but the pressure of the fans prevented the team from doing their best. We played in this championship for the first time so I am satisfied with our performance throughout the tournament.”

At Cairo Indoor Halls which hosted the championship from 18-25 August with the participation of 12 teams, Egypt fell in Group A which included Brazil, Poland, Cuba, Japan and Mexico while Turkey, Iran, Algeria, Argentina, Russia and China comprised Group B.

Argentina were the black horse of the championship but claimed the country’s first ever world title in any volleyball competition when they knocked out defending champions Russia for the gold medal after six dramatic sets.

“I cannot believe that we have won,” Argentina coach Camillo Soto said. “It is the first time in Argentine volleyball history to win a world title. It is a historic victory as we have never done that in all previous events or age categories. We made history in Cairo. I am very happy. I congratulate my team because we were able to beat a strong opponent and one of the top-seeded teams as Russia. It was one of the most difficult championships as we had to play a match almost every day. Our reception was perfect and we had the upper hand. My players felt confident after winning the first three sets and that is why we were reckless and lost the fourth, but I quickly urged them to continue their hard work to win the title we have been dreaming of for years.”

With tournament MVP German Johansen and Dream Team setter Matias Sanchez in the lineup, Argentina completed a brilliant run over the week, topping the ‘pool of death’, crushing Cuba in the semi-finals and bringing down Russia in the final for a historic title that was a long time coming.

For Brazil it must surely be a disappointment (and it clearly showed in the bronze medal) to get knocked off the podium after being the only undefeated team across the board in pool play - though to be fair they had avoided the ‘pool of death’.

Cuba’s bronze medal proved that the Caribbean island continues to produce some exceptional talent, here for the foreseeable future, considering the average age of the Cuban squad in Cairo.

Beyond the top four, hosts Egypt made a huge impact on the competition. In pool play they beat such powerhouses as Japan and Poland (and in retrospect could have made even the semi-finals had they seized the opportunity they had against Cuba). They then disposed of China and Japan (again) in the knockout phase to finish fifth.

It’s Egypt’s best finish in a U-23 World Championship after coming ninth in both the 2013 and 2015 editions. But most importantly the country has gained a brand new generation of high-quality players under coach Miranda.

Outside hitters Miguel Gutierrez of Cuba and Denis Bogdan of Russia, middle blocker Ivan Iakovlev of Russia, Hisham Ewais of Egypt, MVP German Johansen of Argentina (also awarded best setter), teammate Matias Sanchez, middle blocker Matheus Bispo of Brazil and libero Rogerio Filho of Brazil.

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