Japanese players and coaching staff members celebrate their historic result

Japan’s most talented generation in decades gave the country’s men’s national team its first medal in the Volleyball Nations League on Sunday in Gdańsk, Poland.

With an outstanding performance, the Asians triumphed in a dramatic five-set (25-18, 25-23, 17-25, 17-25, 15-9) battle against reigning world champions Italy in the bronze medal match of the 2023 edition of the tournament, at the Ergo Arena.

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2023 live on VBTV

The VNL 2023 gold medal match, reuniting Poland and the United States, will bring the fifth edition of the tournament to an end on Sunday, at 20:00 local time (18:00 UTC).

The victory in the bronze medal match in Gdańsk brought Japan back to the podium in a world-level men's international volleyball event for the first time since 2009, when the Asians claimed bronze in the FIVB Grand Champions Cup.

The Japanese were a powerhouse in the 1960s and 1970s, having won three Olympic medals (one gold, one silver, one bronze) and two bronzes in the FIVB Volleyball World Championship in the period, and may have given the first step to becoming protagonists in the international scene again with their podium appearance in the VNL 2023.

The most popular face in the Japanese team, iconic outside hitter Yuki Ishikawa was phenomenal in the bronze medal match against the Italians. The team captain had a spectacular 21-point performance facing the world champions, getting all his points in kills, including the game-winner.

“We’re so happy with this victory,” an elated Ishikawa remarked. “I’m very proud of my team because we trusted each other the entire time, we’re all very good teammates and I thanked them for that after the match. We played very well in the first two sets, but Italy were serving very tough after that and we had problems. It was a very difficult match for us, but we won it.”

Kento Miyaura stepped up to the task of replacing the injured star opposite Yuji Nishida and also had a tremendous performance, firing an incredible seven aces to go with 12 kills and one block in his 20-point display. Outside hitter Ran Takahashi contributed 12 points (11 kills, one block) in the Asian triumph.

Italy were very competitive and demanded a lot from the Japanese, especially thanks to the strong match of their high-scoring trio of outside hitter Alessandro Michieletto, who got 16 points (11 kills, four aces, one block), opposite Yuri Romanò, who tallied 15 (14 kills, one block), and outside hitter Daniele Lavia, who added 14 (11 kills, three blocks).

The Italians dominated the blocking game, getting 13 stuffs to Japan’s four, but the Asians did a very good job of leading their opponents in kills (54 to 53) and aces (nine to seven) – they also benefited from more opponent errors (32 to 27) to come out on top.


Ishikawa faces the Italian blockers during the bronze medal match

Volleyball Nations League 2023: full schedule and results

After the VNL, the Japanese will fight for their tenth continental title in the 2023 Asian Championship, which will be played in Tehran, Iran, from August 18-26.

Their last and most important tournament in 2023 will be the FIVB Road to Paris Olympic volleyball qualifier. The Asians will host Pool B from September 30-October 8 and will battle USA, Slovenia, Serbia, Türkiye, Tunisia, Egypt and Finland for two spots in the Paris 2024 Games.

Italy, who will continue their quest to win their first VNL medal next season, will also turn their focus to continental competition after the conclusion of the tournament as they will try to defend the European Championship title they won in 2021 in this year’s edition of the tournament, which will be played from August 18-26 in their country, Bulgaria, Israel and North Macedonia.

With the Road to Paris Olympic volleyball qualifier, the Italians will play Brazil, Iran, Cuba, Ukraine, Germany, Czechia and Qatar in Pool A, which will be hosted by Brazil.

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