Japan (JPN) vs. Slovenia (SLO) men - Pool 3 - Preliminary Phase #16503631

Japan’s setter Masahiro Sekita in action

No team remained unbeaten in the men’s Volleyball Nations League 2024 after Saturday’s Pool 3 matches in Fukuoka, where Brazil and hosts Japan handed Poland and Slovenia, respectively, their first defeats in the competition. Newcomers Türkiye, on the other hand, achieved a historic first win in the VNL by outclassing Iran earlier in the day.

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In Saturday’s last match in Fukuoka, Japan delighted the home fans with a 3-1 (25-23, 19-25, 26-24, 25-21) victory over Slovenia, invincible in the competition until now. The Asian team climbed to third place in the current standings on a 6-2 win-loss record and 16 points, pushing their European opponents down to fourth on 6-1 and 15, but with a game in hand. This result also cost the Slovenians 7.45 points from their FIVB World Ranking score, but at this point it seems unlikely to set them back on their way to a historic first Olympic appearance at Paris 2024, as they are as many as 91.5 points above the cut-off line for qualification.

The two opposites engaged in an exciting scoring race during the match and in the end it was Slovenia’s Toncek Stern that emerged as the best pointmaker of the game with as many as 27 putaways, including four kill blocks. Japan’s Yuji Nishida finished with 26 points, scoring directly from the serving line four times, in addition to twice in blocking. Both showed impressive success rates in attack. Nishida shined with 71% and Stern with 59%. The four main outside hitters also reached the double digits. On Japan’s side, Ran Takahashi scored 16 times, while captain Yuki Ishikawa added 12 points. His Slovenian counterpart Tine Urnaut produced 13 points, while Klemen Cebulj finished with 12.

Japan’s big victory came just a day after they lost to Poland in straight sets, 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-20). As many as five players shared the top scorer honours of that game with 10 points apiece – Poland’s Jakub Kochanowski (five kill blocks), Kamil Semeniuk and Bartosz Kurek, and Japan’s Kento Miyaura and Tatsunori Otsuka.

Earlier on Saturday, Brazil handed Poland their first defeat of the season. With star outside hitter Yoandy Leal leading the way with 22 points (17 attacks, 2 blocks, 3 aces), the South Americans delivered a 3-1 (25-21, 25-17, 21-25, 25-23) victory over the defending champions. Leal registered a 65% success rate in offence. Opposite Alan Souza added another 19 points, while middle blocker Flavio Gualberto finished with 11, including six stuffs. For Poland, captain Bartosz Kurek and outside Tomasz Fornal put away 12 points each. Brazil improved to 5-3 and 16 and stand fifth in the table, while Poland dropped to second place on 6-2 and 18, behind Italy on set ratio.

Young opposite leads Türkiye to historic victory

In the first match of the day on Saturday, VNL rookie Türkiye managed a tight 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-23, 27-25) victory over Iran to celebrate a historic first win in the competition. 22-year-old opposite Kaan Gurbuz was the big hero for the winners, leading the team with an impressive match high of 34 points, including four aces and two kill blocks. He registered a 61% success rate in attack. Outside Ramazan Efe Mandiraci added another 16 points for Türkiye, while Iran’s opposite Amin Esmaeilnezhad, captain Milad Ebadipour and middle Alireza Moslehabadi led their team with 18, 14 and 13 points, respectively. The latter impressed with five kill blocks. This way Türkiye surpassed Iran at the bottom of the table into 15th place on 1-6 and 4 leaving the opponents at the bottom winless on 0-8 and 2.

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