Japan men miss chance to climb to top of volleyball standings

Kyodo, Fivb.Com

Japan wasted an opportunity on Tuesday to take the lead among Asian teams at the 2012 FIVB Olympic men’s volleyball tournament at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

Japan defeated South Korea 25-22, 24-26, 25-20, 19-25, 15-6, securing just two points for the victory. The Koreans collected one point for the five-set defeat.

Following losses earlier in the day by China and Iran, a win in fewer than five sets would have put Japan at the top of the pack chasing Asia’s guaranteed berth to London on offer at the eight-team tournament. Instead, the hosts are equal on five points with Iran, who they trail on points ratio.

Japan was led by Tatsuya Fukuzawa, who scored 21, and Kunihiro Shimizu, who chipped in 13.

“I wish we could have won 3-1,” Japan captain Daisuke Usami said. “We were passive after the first set. Our mental approach must be reviewed. We will have to sustain our strong will in the coming matches.”

Although he was far from jubilant, Japan coach Tatsuya Ueta praised his players.

“This was a team win,” he said. “We’ve become a team where everyone battles. Every player on the floor did his utmost.”

South Korea coach Park Ki-Won said, “The individual level of the players was unstable. They could not perform well. This was the key element. I’m sorry we lost.”

Earlier, tournament leader Serbia remained perfect by defeating China 25-15, 25-13, 25-21 behind 13 points from Milos Nikic. China fell to 1-2 with four points from three games.

Australia, which trails Serbia on points ratio, dropped the first against Iran before winning 17-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-23. Thomas Edgar scored 24 for Australia, while Adam White accounted for 22.

In the day’s other match, Venezuela routed Puerto Rico 25-20, 25-20, 25-21 with captain Kervin Pinerua top-scoring for the South Americans with 14 points.

The top two teams will each win a spot at the London Olympics, as will the next-best Asian team.

Japan’s next match is against China on Wednesday.