Egypt finish fifth as men’s classification places confirmed

Egypt finished the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with a 3-2 (25-23, 24-26, 25-18, 22-25, 15-8) win over Germany to secure fifth place at the men’s sitting volleyball tournament in Makuhari Messe Hall A on Thursday.

Egypt’s starting six provided a solid performance to earn the win, as Elsayed Moussa had a team-high 20 points to add to the outputs of Hesham Elshwikh, Mohamed Abouelyazeid and Metawa Abouelkhir who made 15, 14 and 12 points, respectively. Their two middles Ashraf Abdalla and Ahmed Soliman also got involved in scoring with nine points apiece.

Germany had various player combinations but put the scoring chores in the hands of the tournament’s leading scorer and server Dominik Albrecht who had a match-high 25 points, and Francis Tonleu and Heiko Wiesenthal who added 20 and 16 markers.

As both squads were keen on finishing on a high note, it was the German team that took the lead early in the first set. However, a string of errors by the Germans shifted the momentum to Egypt. The Europeans fought back and managed to gain the lead by the second technical timeout, but the African team’s consistency in the succeeding plays proved superior as they took the first set 25-23 with a block.

In the second set, Germany fought hard but not hard enough to worry Egypt as the score was tight. The Germans were ahead 16-15 at the second technical timeout and gained momentum in their 5-2 scoring run. Egypt managed to get the score close down the final stretch, but the Germans got a relief as they scored the two points 26-24 to close the set and level the match.

Egypt had a sluggish start but soon recovered to gain a 12-7 advantage in the third set. Despite Germany’s efforts to come back, the Egyptians scored consistently not allowing their rivals to reduce the gap. Egypt regained the momentum with a 2-1 set lead after their 25-18 win in the third frame.

Germany’s offence had a resurgence to take an early 8-5 lead. Germany continued to score in the set, while Egypt patiently earned their points as they trailed, then the latter’s smart plays put the set in a deadlock at 21-all. However, several mistakes by Egypt extended the set to a fifth set, as Germany prevailed 25-22.

Another tight encounter ensued in the fifth set as both sides refused to give in to pressure. But Egypt got the better end of their rivals as they gained a three-point lead 8-5. As the Egyptians played with a quicker pace, Germany could only produce three points in the succeeding plays and conceded the match at 15-8.

“I want to congratulate all my players for playing a very good match. We had some mistakes in this tournament but it will be very good for our future. We have to make some changes in the core, in our tactics and some things in our skills, and we will see in the future. I hope we can do better than our performance here,” Egypt coach Mosaad Elaiuty said.

“Every Paralympics has its own characteristics. I think here, we had a well-organised tournament, everything was perfect, it was just the spectators that were missing, but the kindness and how the volunteers supported us during these two weeks was amazing and it is a pity to have this excitement in the hall without the spectators,” Germany’s Jurgen Schrapp said.

Meanwhile, Japan did not get into the win column as they had been aiming for in their home Games, as they were defeated for seventh place by their Asian rivals China 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-19).

Outside hitter Xu Zengbing made 15 points, including the seven markers that were recorded to get China out of the tight battle in the third set, helping the team seal the match win. Three other scorers from the Chinese side breached the double-digit scoring mark with Li Lei adding 12 points, and Wang Qiang and Zhang Zhongmin contributing 10 apiece.

With the tight defence of the Chinese, the players of the home team were limited to score in single digits and their frontrunners Tetsuo Minakawa and Koji Tanaka made seven points each on a losing effort.

The match started with a balanced exchange of blows from both teams, as they showcased their agility and cleverness in their plays. China began to build their momentum after getting a 16-12 edge in the second technical timeout, but Japan got stuck on the 12th point and gave away more points to their rivals to increase the deficit at 22-12. The Japanese managed to stop scoreless run, but China had better response to close the set at 25-14.

Despite some remarkable plays by Japan at the start of the second set, China still took the lead as they continued to pound on the defence of their opponents to progress to the second technical time-out with a seven-point lead. Japan were able to reduce the deficit to two points, but China utilised Gao Hui on defence while Xu led the offence to win at 25-18.

The start of the third set had a different story as Japan upped their game to lead 8-5 at the first technical timeout. Xu’s ace helped China get back on track as they levelled the set at 10-all, and soon took the lead with their superior display of skills to clinch the set and match at 25-19.

Japan took last place as the only team in the competition that did not manage to claim a victory.

“We enjoyed our experience of competing at the Paralympic Games, even in training. Even though we do not have spectators at the venue, we still get a lot of messages of support on SNS (social networking services). Those messages encouraged us a lot,” Japan captain Takashi Yanagi said.

“We had a precious experience at the Paralympics so I would like to see these experiences to be passed on to the next generation of athletes. I have only watched these great athletes before and now I have played against them, and they have inspired me by their great skills. Now I will train harder and improve on my own skills.”