Poland became the first team to secure one of the Rio 2016 men’s volleyball places on offer at the Olympic qualification tournament in Tokyo on Thursday, while an Iran win and a Japan loss saw the home team wave goodbye to Brazil.
Japan’s disappointing run at the tournament continued with a 25-23, 25-19, 29-27 loss to an Australian team that had also been struggling to put together a consistent performance all week.
Japan was thoroughly outplayed in losing its fourth consecutive match and its last chance to qualify for Rio. Manager Masashi Nambu’s team has a 1-4 record and only three points.
In the race for the fourth available Rio slot, China is in the driver’s seat with eight points, ahead of a match against Australia (seven points) on Saturday. Canada also is ahead of Japan with seven points.
“There’s only a paper-thin difference between success and failure, but there is only so much we can do,” said Kunihiro Shimizu who with 14 points again led Japan’s scoring.
“It’s partly because of the shortcomings of myself, and partly the shortcomings of others . . . We did have several good moments, but today Australia, especially (Thomas) Edgar and No. 17 (Paul Carroll) were attacking very aggressively, and then we allowed them to score as they wished.”
A crestfallen Nambu said he had no answers about his team’s future, or his own.
“I think my players did their best . . . I feel remorse for my players and to the fans who came to the gymnasium and the ones who watched on television, I am very sorry.
“These (next) two games should be used to leave some hope for the men’s national team in the future.”
Regarding his own future he said, “I just leave the decision to the association, so at this moment I have nothing more to say about that.”
Poland maintained its unblemished five-win record at the tournament, disposing of Venezuela 25-21, 25-17, 25-18 in three trouble-free sets.
Michal Kubiak, captain of world champion Poland, led from the front, scoring a team and game-high 13 points.
“Personally, this is a dream come true,” said Kubiak. “This is the thing that we all waited for, for over a year. We have tried to qualify from the world cup to the European qualification tournament in Berlin, and now we finally got it in here in Japan.
“My team fights until the end, and that’s the thing that I like the most . . . We were not in our best shape (here) but we could win, as we showed these five games, playing not so well.
“If we are going to play better, we are able to win (at) the Olympics in Rio, that’s for sure. This is what we are going for and this is what we hope to get.”
Iran needed five sets, but it got the job done against China to cement its position as Asia’s most likely Olympic representative with a 26-24, 22-25, 25-19, 17-25, 18-16 victory. China was powerless to combat the spiking power of Shahram Mahmoudi, who finished with 25 points, on a 24 of 40 spike success ratio, as he dragged Iran to the win.
The result leaves Iran with a four-win, one-loss record, behind unbeaten Poland and equal with France, but in third on the tournament table by sets ratio. The three teams atop the tournament table are now the only squads with winning records.
France gave Canada a reality check in the day’s first match, beating the North Americans in three sets, 25-17, 25-17, 25-16. Canada had won its previous two matches after a difficult start to the tournament, but Les Bleus ended that run abruptly.
With star spiker Gavin Schmitt not playing, Canada extended its rotation in search of answers, but could not combat France’s balanced attack that saw four players score in double figures.