Japan beat Cuba in a thriller to remain undefeated

Japan beat Cuba in a thriller to remain undefeated
Fecha de publicación: 
25 May 2024
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After winning their first two matches in the Volleyball Nations League 2024, Japan and Cuba battled in one of the most exciting duels of the tournament so far on Friday, in Rio de Janeiro, and the Asians emerged on the winning side of it after more than two hours of action to remain undefeated.

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2024 live on VBTV

Japan, who don’t have star outside hitters Yuki Ishikawa and Ran Takahashi available this week, started some other key starters on the beach against the Cubans, such as opposite Yuji Nishida, setter Masahiro Sekita and middle blocker Akihiro Yamauchi, but showed resilience to top a red-hot Cuban team 3-2 (18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 19-25, 22-20).

It was a rollercoaster of a match, which saw the Caribbean start ahead and the Asians take the next two sets before a Cuban triumph in the fourth set forced a tie-breaker. Cuba built a 14-11 lead and got close to the win, but saw Japan come back to deny nine match points before Nishida put the last ball down to claim the victory.

The heavily rotated Japan used 12 of the 14 players available and saw five of them get to double digits in scoring – outside hitters Shoma Tomita (13) and Tatsunori Otsuka (11), middle blocker Taishi Onodera (11) and opposites Kento Miyaura (12) and Nishida (11), who also fired five aces.

“We tried to play as a team and find the solutions together,” Miyaura explained. “I’m happy that we managed to win such a big match here. We had a lot of changes in our lineup today, but it doesn’t matter who’s on the court. We’re getting ready for the Olympics, which we know are going to be very difficult, but the experience we’re getting here will certainly help us.”

Cuba were dominant at the net, outscoring Japan in kills (69 to 56) and blocks (20 to eight), but paid a steep price for their 39 errors. The Caribbean had the four players with the most points scored in the match in outside hitters Miguel Ángel López (25) and Marlon Yant (17) and middle blockers Robertlandy Simón and Javier Concepcion, with 14 each.

“Japan are one of the top teams in the World Rankings and we tried to bring our best,” Concepcion said. “They’re very disciplined and very technical and are a difficult opponent to anyone We tried to stick to our game plan no matter what and we had our chances to win the match a few times, but unfortunately, we lost our focus and didn’t take them. We’re not sad about how we played, but certainly not happy either with the result.”

The defeat made the Cubans drop just 0.08 FIVB World Rankings points and kept them in ninth place, still inside the qualification zone for the Paris Olympics, with 256.77. The Japanese, who are already qualified, continue in third place, with 351.82.

Volleyball Nations League 2024: schedule and results

The Asians are guaranteed to keep their spot until the end of the day even if Italy sweep Iran later on Friday, at 17:30 local time (20:30 GMT), while the Cubans could see Serbia pass them in case of a victory over Brazil at 21:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Saturday).

Japan and Cuba will complete their match schedules in the opening week of the VNL 2024 on Saturday, with the Asians playing Italy at 14:00 local time (17:00 GMT) and the Caribbean meeting Iran at 21:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Sunday).

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