Volleyball: Japan down China to win Macau pool before Grand Prix Finals
- Updated: August 17, 2014
August 17, 2014: Japan upset crowd favourites China 3-1 (25-20, 25-22, 18-25, 28-26) at the Macau Forum on Sunday to top Pool I of the FIVB World Grand Prix with three timely wins ahead of the six-team Finals in Tokyo, which starts on Wednesday.
Defending champions Brazil topped the preliminary round with nine straight wins and will join Japan at the Finals along with China, Turkey, Russia and Belgium, who won Group Two.
Japan were assured of a place in the Finals as hosts, but have run into form at just the right time. The victory over China completed a remarkable turnaround for Masayoshi Manabe’s side, who won only one of their first six matches in this year’s Grand Prix as they struggled in earlier pools in Turkey and Hong Kong.
A week earlier in Hong Kong, Japan lost 3-0 to China, but turned the tables in Macau, having already beaten Serbia 3-1 on Friday and Korea Republic 3-2 on Saturday.
Yuki Ishii was Japan’s top scorer against China, with 24 points, and Manabe praised his side for overcoming their much taller opponents.
“I am delighted that we won the game. When playing against the Chinese team, we are confronted with high blocks and high spikes, and we always learn a lot playing them,” Manabe said. “The up-and-coming players played very well and gained good experience. I will review the conditions of the players and will select the players who are best prepared and in the best conditions for the Finals.”
Japan captain Saori Kimura added: “We played very well and showed the essence of our team and our style. Next week is the Finals and we will continue to play our best.”
China’s loss followed Friday’s 3-1 win over Korea and a 3-2 loss to Serbia, and coach Jenny Lang Ping congratulated Japan before admitting that her team were outplayed by clever tactics.
“We faced a Japanese formation which we have not seen before. Although the players were relatively short, they were very quick, and this created problems in our blocking and defence. Although we did not get the result we hoped for, our players gave their all in the match,” Lang said.
“We learned a lot from the other team and understood more about our own game, particularly on ways to improve our reception and defence. After so many matches, the tournament has taken its toll on the strength and stamina of the players. I hope the team can continue to improve and step up their performance in the finals.”
China captain Hui Ruoqi, who top scored for her side with 15 points, said: “We did not play very well. The Japanese team played a better game with faster tempo. Although they are shorter in height, they have a distinct style of defence, which we could learn a lot from.”
Korea Republic beat Serbia 3-1 in Pool I’s other match on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to book a place in Tokyo after earlier losses to Japan and China in Macau. Korea’s towering captain Kim Yeon-koung was the runaway top scorer in Group One with 242 points from nine matches.
Teenager Zhu Ting was China’s top scorer in the preliminary round, while Miyu Nagaoka led Japan’s scoring with 123.
Thailand lost 3-0 to Brazil in Bangkok to finish third in Pool G and 11th overall in the 12-team Group One.
Source: FIVB (www.fivb.org); Editing by SportAsia