Japan (JPN) vs. Egypt (EGY) men - Pool B #7180760

Egypt’s Ahmed Afifi against a two-man Japanese block

Egypt shocked Pool B hosts Japan on the second day of the men’s FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier in Tokyo, coming back from two sets down to battle their way to a five-set victory, handing the number five team in the FIVB World Ranking their first loss of the tournament.

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Nothing seemed to forebode such an outcome, when the home side dominated on the court during the first sets on the way to landslide results, but things changed from the third set on as the world’s number 19 team Egypt fought on to an amazing 3-2 (14-25, 10-25, 25-23, 25-23, 15-13) turnaround. Opposite Reda Haikal was on fire as the Africans took the upper hand in sets three and four. Then 22-year-old outside Abdelrahman took charge in the tie-breaker to lead the team to a sensational victory. It was the second day in a row that Japan allowed their opponents a comeback from two sets down, but while they managed to stop Finland in the fifth set on Saturday, there was no stopping Egypt on Sunday.

Haikal finished with 20 points for the winners, including two kill blocks. Middle blocker Mohamed Masoud excelled with four kill blocks towards an 11-point total, while Eissa added another 10 points, all in attack, including the match winner. Japanese stars Yuki Ishikawa and Yuji Nishida shared the match top scorer honours with exactly the same record of 24 points each, including two aces and a block. Ran Takahashi finished with 16 points to his name.

“Today was very different, the ‘most different’ match in my whole life! It was great! A night for history!” Haikal told Volleyball World. “It wasn’t that easy. It was hard emotionally and physically. You are playing against a very big team, Japan, in Japan, in front of ten thousand people watching. So I’m really happy and very proud of this good job done by the team and the staff. It was a very big step tonight towards the Olympics in Paris, which is great, and I hope we can continue this way. When you have big dreams and big goals, you never give up.”

There were no surprises in the first three games of the day in Tokyo.

First, Slovenia produced a hard-fought 3-0 (28-26, 30-28, 25-22) win over Türkiye, their second in two matches played. Opposite Rok Mozic led the way with 20 points, including one ace and one block. Outside hitters Klemen Cebulj and Tine Urnaut added 13 points apiece. Led by the Lagumdzija brothers, Türkiye put up quite a fight, pushing the first two sets to overtime, but stopped short of creating another surprise after Saturday’s win over Serbia. Opposite Adis Lagumdzija put away 16 points. His younger brother Mirza added 14, including three kill blocks and an ace.

Serbia bounced back from Saturday’s loss to Türkiye with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-21) shutout of Tunisia. Opposite Drazen Luburic came up with a match-high 18 points, including two aces, followed by outsides Pavle Peric with 15 and Marko Ivovic with 12 points. 20-year-old outside Oussama Ben Romdhane was Tunisia’s most productive player with 16 points, including two aces and two blocks.

United States hammered out a merciless 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-17) victory over Finland to top the current standings in the pool on better point ratio than second-placed Slovenia. Outside Torey Defalco impressed with five aces and two kill blocks towards the match high of 14 points. Another two American players reached the double digits in the match. Star opposite Matthew Anderson finished with 12 points, while middle blocker Jeffrey Jendryk added another 10.

After a day without matches, Pool C action continues on Tuesday.