Manama, Bahrain, October 25, 2014 — Iran has pulled off a stunning straight-sets victory over China to take gold at the 17th Asian U20 Men’s Volleyball Championships in Bahrain.
A match billed as a clash of the Asian junior titans became a volleyball clinic, with Iran strolling to its fifth Asian U20 title, all achieved in the past nine championships.
With the exception of the first five points of the match, which China won, Iran was in total control. The seeds were sown in the sixth point of the opening set, when Rahman Taghizadeh rose to block a Runtao Xia spike.
That block not only stopped the Chinese momentum, it also signaled a change in direction for his teammates.
Suddenly Iran were the aggressors; at the net, block after block thwarted the previously untouchable Chinese attack.
Taghizadeh was the central brick in a wall as strong as the great Chinese Wall itself. On 15 occasions Iran scored from blocks, seven of those from the tentacle-like arms of Taghizadeh.
Captain Mohammadjavad Manavinezhad smashed two spikes so hard into the Chinese floor it was almost as if the ball was made of concrete – suddenly the score was six-all.
Manavinezhad, later named the tournament’s most valuable player, was inspiring. In a contest full of outstanding players, he stood the tallest.
It wasn’t just that he dominated the scoring, finishing with 16 points, it was when he dominated; whenever his team wavered ever so slightly, whenever China threatened to muscle its way back into the contest.
All this from a team that played almost all its pool matches with just ten players, after visa problems left two of its players cooling their heels in Tehran.
“I promised you before that at the end of the competition it must be the best volleyball that wins,” an elated Iran coach, Nafarzadeh Farhad said.
“They worked very hard for this, working, working, working, step-by-step. Today the players showed they were one team and they were the best in the competition.”
No-one seemed more surprised by the unfamiliar surroundings the Chinese side found themselves in than the Chinese.
Players who had wreaked havoc on opponents all week had no answers to the Iranian dominance.
Zhejia Zhang, the Chinese blocking machine later named the tournament’s best middle blocker, managed just one for the night.
Runtao Xia, later to be named best outside spiker, was restricted to just seven points.
It was a powerful display by Iran, and guarantees Asia will be well served at next year’s U23 World Championships in Mexico.
“In 2007 I was with the Iran youth team when we won the gold medal, and I hope next year we can repeat history and win another gold medal,” coach Farhad said.
Final result: Iran vs. China 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-19)
6. CHINESE TAIPEI
11. SRI LANKA
12. SAUDI ARABIA
14. NEW ZEALAND
17. HONG KONG
Best setter: Yu Yaochen (China)
Best outside spiker: Valaei Akbar (Iran)
Best outside spiker: Xia Runtao (China)
Best middle blocker: Alla Verdian Sahand (Iran)
Best middle blocker: Zhang Zhejia (China)
Best libero: Lee Sanguk (Korea)
Best opposite spiker: Mohamed Anan (Bahrain)
Most valuable player: Mohammadjavad Manavinezhad (Iran)