Saudis spike top seeds Japan
Monday, 11 December, 2006
Saudi Arabia caused the biggest shock of the men’s volleyball competition by ousting top seeds and favourites Japan 25-20, 27-25, 25-21 in the quarterfinals at Al-Rayyan Indoor Hall on Monday 11 December.
Japan were one of six nations – the five who contested the recent World Championships and hosts Qatar – given a bye direct into the quarterfinals but they made too many mistakes and were made to pay by the spirited Saudis.
Both teams began with fast play and opted for hard attacks down the lines, before a crucial error by Kenji Onoue caused problems for an already exposed Japanese defence to allow Khalel H Al Bhrani to tip over to take the first set.
A wayward Japanese spike gave Saudi Arabia a tight second set and some solid attacking play ensure they would not be denied a 3-0 victory over the team who had finished eighth in the World Championships – some nine places higher than the next best Asian team China.
“It’s a small secret, team spirit. It was one for all, all for one. We play for everyone, players work for me, I work for my players. That is our teamwork,” Saudi Arabia coach Svircev Radoslav said afterwards.
Saudi Arabia now face China in the first semifinal on Wednesday 13 December, the Chinese having battled past Kazakshtan 25-11, 25-20, 24-26, 25-20 in one hour and 31 minutes.
The last quarterfinal of the day pitted Qatar against Bahrain, the other team besides Saudi Arabia to have to qualify for this stage. However Bahrain’s impressive run would finally come to end with a 25-23, 25-16, 25-18 defeat.
A close first set which saw the lead change hands several times ended in Qatar’s favour with three Bahraini errors and then a spike down the line by Mohamed Jumah clinched the second set for the hosts.
Qatar led from the start of the third set with Jumah and Saed Al Hitmi causing Bahrain all sorts of problems and it got worse when players disputed a referee’s call and a yellow card was handed out.
This merely fired up the Bahraini players and they channelled their aggression into the match, but it was too late for a comeback and Qatar ran out 3-0 winners to set up a last four clash with defending champions Korea.