Only two teams remain unbeaten at the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Qualification Tournament in Duisburg, Germany. Kazakhstan got the better of Germany in a hard fought battle in Pool A1, Ukraine flew past USA to claim top spot in Pool B1. In the third match of the day Croatia got their first win of the tournament after beating USA 3-1.
Ukraine vs. United States 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-11)
Team USA had to sit the first day of the tournament out an got to play twice on Wednesday. First up was the battle with Ukraine, who had already won their first match against Croatia on Tuesday (3-0). Right of the bat it was USA that was strongest. First they scored two kill blocks in a row and later after two scores by captain Eric Duda they led 6-1. But the advantage wasn’t long lived. At 7-7 Ukraine had closed the gap and started putting more and more pressure on the American defence.
Hard serves and decent blocking skills proved to be the winning combination for Ukraine, they won the first set 25-17. In the second set it were faults on the side of USA that kept them from keeping up with Ukraine. They did get within three points (19-16), but a win was never imminent. Ukraine also won the second set, 25-20.
In the third everything seemed to go right at the side of coach Leonid Mishchenko’s team and not for the USA. Ukraine ran away to a 15-2 lead and extended it even further. The last set was 25-11.
Ukraine’s captain Sergii Shevchenko was very satisfied with the result. “We feel great. We have been preparing for a very long time and everything is going the way we were planning.”
Kazakhstan vs. Germany 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 25-20)
In the final clash in Pool A1 Germany and Kazakhstan were both unbeaten going in. It was clear they are both contenders for the last ticket to Tokyo, because right from the start the battle was on. Kazakhstan immediately took a 7-0 lead, but after that Germany were wide awake and started to catch up quickly.
Having trailed for about three or four points throughout the set, Germany were next to Kazakhstan at 20-20. They even managed to get the first set points on the board at 24-22. After Dominik Albrecht hit long on the second set point, Kazakhstan took over the initiative. They blocked the German attacker and on Kazakhstan’s first set point it was Heiko Wiesenthal who faulted.
The win in the first set proved to be the decider in the match. After that it was a little easier for Kazakhstan team to keep the lead they built. With a block by Nurtau Mukanbetkaliyev they took the second set 25-19.
In the third Kazakhstan made the difference from 18-18 on. Libero Kuanysh Tazhikov made a great dig on 22-20 and scored off it, setting his team up for the win. On match point it was Bauyrzhan Sartayev who hit an ace and delivered the second win to his team.
“We are glad, but this is still just the group stage”, said Kazakhstan captain Berik Izmaganbetov afterwards. We are still concentrated on the semifinals and finals and hope to play against Germany in the final.”
“I think the first set was the match point, the turning point in the match. We didn’t find ourselves back in the game in the sets that followed. So, the first set was decisive yes”, Lukas Schiwy said.
United States vs. Croatia 1-3 (16-25, 25-22, 29-31, 17-25)
The last match of the evening was going to decide who would finish second in Pool B1 and who would stay without a win after the first two days in Duisburg. United States and Croatia both had fallen to Ukraine 3-0, so lots was at stake in the German evening.
And that was clear right from the start. Croatia were ruthless and took the 1-0 lead after captain Ivan Cosic hit setpoint off the block. But in the second it was USA that hit back. They upped their serving power and the team coached by Gregory Walker fought hard. It resulted in a 25-22 win.
The third set was a real scorcher, going into overtime. Croatia prevailed 31-29 in the end and took the 2-1 lead. In the fourth all hope had faded for Team USA. Croatia took it 25-17 and got in their first win of the tournament. The finished second in Pool B1, USA ended up third.
USA-captain Eric Duda was clear about what didn’t go well for his team. “We are a new team, we have a few new players thrown in the mix. We have a couple of injuries here and there, but we’re feeling good, we’re getting better every match. We’re looking forward to our new pool with Germany and Kazakhstan and see what kind of damage we can do.”
Croatia’s captain Ivan Cosic. “USA have a good team, they have a good team behind them and they are well prepared. We still have some things to work on. We are happy, but now we have to beat Canada and then move on to the semifinals if we do that.”
After the matches of today the pools were fixed. Now the two teams who have finished last will switch and play against the teams they are now paired with, before the semifinals of Friday are played.
|Time (CEST)||Pool||Team A||Team B|
You can watch the matches of the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Qualifying Tournament live on Sportdeutschland.tv. There’s a stream with German commentary and a stream without commentary.