TOKYO – Host Japan kicked off their men’s volleyball campaign with their first Olympic Games victory in 29 years, while Iran edged Poland in an epic five sets in their opening Group A matches at an empty Ariake Arena on Saturday.
Japan’s victory over Venezuela in straight sets was the first since the 1992 Barcelona Games and the team was led from the front by Yuki Ishikawa (15 points) and 19-year-old Ran Takahashi (11 points), who launched a barrage. of auctions.
Akihiro Yamauchi was also in net-inspired form as Japan sealed a 25-21 25-20 25-15 victory. With nothing to separate the sides at 16-16 in the first set, Yamauchi made three blocks on consecutive points to give Japan the lead.
Japan never gave up the lead in a very close second set, while it was a one-way traffic for the dominant hosts in the third.
“We didn’t panic and concentrated on what we had to do,” Ishikawa told reporters. “If we had spectators in the arena, they would surely have motivated us more. But the fact that there are no fans here never reduces our motivation for the Olympics. “
Iran battled Poland for more than 2-1 / 2 hours to beat the second-ranked team in the world 18-25 25-22 25-22 22-25 23-21 in a tense competition that had nine match points between them.
Poland, led by Wilfredo León’s 23 points, saved six match points and even had two in the deciding match, as fatigue began and both teams served poorly, until Iran finally achieved victory on their seventh match point.
Earlier, Italy defended from two sets against to seal a notable victory against Canada in Group A.
Sharone Vernon-Evans and Lucas van Berkel of Canada did most of the initial damage, but 2016 silver medalist Italy finally found their rhythm to force a tiebreaker and prevail against Canada.
The imposing Italian duo of Alessandro Michieletto and Osmany Juantorena scored 24 and 21 points respectively, while Galassi Gianluca also scored four points from blocks at the net.
“Since this is my first Olympics, I was nervous but tried to focus on the game … the saddest thing is that I can’t see any spectators here,” said 19-year-old Michieletto.
In Group B, Argentina won the first set against the Russian Olympic Committee team, but were soon overwhelmed by Maxim Mikhaylov and Dmitry Volkov, who combined for 33 points, while the team made 13 blocks.
Brazil and the United States, 2016 gold and bronze medalists, won comfortably in straight sets against Tunisia and France, respectively.
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