The first day of play of the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Qualification Tournament in Duisburg, Germany resulted in three 3-0 victories for hosts Germany, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. For Canada this meant they were at the receiving end of two of those matches. Croatia started well in all of their sets against Ukraine, but failed to see it through till the end.
The Paralympic Games Qualifier was officially opened this morning at 9.30 CEST. In attendance of the teams the flags were carried in in a small ceremony. And after speeches made by Friedhelm Julius Beucher, the president of the Deutscher Behindertensportverband e.V and Andrea Mils, Secretary of the state North Rhine‐Westphalia, World ParaVolley President Representative Branko Mihorko officially opened the tournament.
Germany vs. Canada 3-0 (25-7, 25-19, 25-16)
And that made room for the athletes. The first match showed that the home team were on their game early on. The opening set was a wake-up call for Canada, as the German team led by scorer Dominik Albrecht produced many points for his side. With several aces Germany held Canada to just seven points.
In the remainder of the match Canada were able to gain a little, but in the end the team of coach Jeff Smith came up short. Canada captain Doug Learoyd talked of a tough start for his side. “Credit to Germany, they served tough. Our passing wasn’t strong and passing kind of leads to everything in the game. If that doesn’t get going, it’s tough.”
Top scorer Dominik Albrecht was very pleased with this first win of the tournament. “It was a great start for us. It was the plan to win 3-0 against Canada, to find our basic rhythm. I think it was great, the first set was very strong. Canada wasn’t prepared for the first set.” He looked ahead to tomorrow’s match against Kazakhstan as well: “I think we are in a good position for Kazakhstan, but we will have to work a little bit harder I think.”
Ukraine vs. Croatia 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-15)
Croatia started of fierce and focused in the first match of Pool B. They immediately built an advantage of four points (5-1), showing Ukraine they were going to be a team that was hard to beat. But throughout the set Ukraine were able to turn the tables and with big serves they put pressure on the Croatian side. Croatia managed to save three setpoints, but in the end Ukraine prevailed.
In the following two sets almost the same script seemed to be played out. Croatia led early on, but had to concede when the pressure built. The Ukranian collective proved to be the stronger one on this day and beat Croatia 3-0.
“We have a problem every tournament”, Denys Bytchenko said afterwards. “It’s so difficult to get the feeling of the ball, play against another team after a year of Covid.” He also said that their defence and strong serves brought them the victory.
Croatian captain Ivan Cosic was disappointed after their first loss: “It’s a thing we’re battling with for a long time now. We don’t have a constant level, we have high oscillations. Once we play on a constant level, we will be very good. We tend to talk too much, maybe think too much on the court. We start giving suggestions and then we get lost. Instead of that we should just shut up and play our game.”
Canada vs. Kazakhstan 0-3 (15-25, 8-25, 17-25)
In the second match of Pool A Canada were confronted with Kazakhstan, who might be the favourites for the ticket to Tokyo. The thing that plagued Canada against Germany was not resolved yet in the evening match on Tuesday. Passing did not improve and Kazakhstan’s servers and attackers had a ball.
After two sets where Kazakhstan dominated the game, the third set was a different story. Canada led 3-0 early on and stayed within range of Kazakhstan up until 16-18. The Asian offence was spot on Tuesday night and also the servers had a strong match. Nurtau Mukanbetkaliyev finished the match off with an ace serve.
Canada’s captain was frustrated after the second loss of the day. “Obviously a disappointing result again. In the third set we showed a competitive level, but the second set with 25-8 is extremely disappointing. It seemed we got stuck in a few rotations, our passing wasn’t strong. We were having trouble with their top spin, they were putting some pace on it.”
Kazakhstan’s coach Bauyrzhan Takhauov was pleased with the level his team brought to the first match. “For us the first match is always difficult, but the team fulfilled all tasks that were given to them for 80 to 90 percent.” Looking forward to tomorrow’s match against Germany he said: “Tomorrow will be a difficult match I think, against the bronze medal winner from Paralympic Games in London 2012. I saw some players from that team back again, so I think the match will be very tough for us. We’ll see who will win.
Pool play will continue on Wednesday with the following matches:
|Time (CEST)||Team A||Team B|
You can follow all the matches from Duisburg live on Sportdeutschland.tv. For more info and pictures click here to go to the dedicated 2020 Tokyo Men’s Qualifying Tournament page.