Canada surprises Japan

Canada surprises Japan
Canada took down world No. 3 Japan in a thrilling back-and-forth duel, 25-21, 20-25, 25-15, 20-25, 15-10, to open its campaign in the pivotal Week 3 of the 2024 Volleyball Nations League men’s tournament with a bang on June 19, 2024 at the Mall of Asia Arena.CONTRIBUTED

Canada took down world No. 3 Japan in a thrilling back-and-forth duel, 25-21, 20-25, 25-15, 20-25, 15-10, to open its campaign in the pivotal Week 3 of the 2024 Volleyball Nations League men’s tournament with a bang on June 19, 2024 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Canadians traded haymakers with the fan-favorite Japanese squad in the first four sets before slamming the door in the clincher behind a searing 6-3 start en route to the gritty win.

Earlier, former champion Brazil repelled the 38-point eruption of Nimir Abdel-Aziz for a gutsy 24-26, 25-23, 31-29, 25-20 win over the Netherlands to kick off the twin bill opener of the VNL’s stop in Manila for the third straight year.,

Stephen Timothy Maar showed the way with 24 points on 22 hits as Canada, the world No. 12, continued on its serious redemption tour after missing out on a ticket in the Final Round last year at 12th place.

Canada, which also qualified for the Paris Olympics, improved to 5-4 to stay at seventh place of the 16-team preliminary phase and maintain sole control of its own destiny for a slot in the 8-team finale in Poland later this month.

Helping Maar make it happen were Arthur Szwarc and Eric Loeppky with 15 points each.

“We’re working hard. We’re not letting up. We’re hungry. We knew it’s going to be a very tough game against Japan and yes, we came to play. We’re growing and it’s good to see,” said Szwarc.

It was Szwarc who put on the finishing touches with back-to-back hits to punctuate a telling 5-1 rally for a 12-7 Canada lead in the fifth set that proved to be enough in the win as Japan’s comeback fell short.

Team captain Yuki Ishikawa, one of the two Best Outside Hitters in the last VNL finals, propelled Japan to within 6-7 but to no avail, with Szwarc and the Canadians unleashing one last ace up their sleeves for a strong closeout.

Ishikawa and Yuji Nishida fired 19 points apiece, while Ran Takahashi had 13 in the tough defeat for Japan, which stayed at sixth place with a 6-3 slate.

Meanwhile, Darlan Ferreria Souza scored 28 points on 20 hits for Brazil, which leaped from sixth place to third place at 6-3 with a big win against the Dutchmen.

“It’s a very tough game. All games will be very tough, especially this week with everybody trying to reach the finals. It’s an important win for us,” said Darlan, who also added three blocks and three aces.

Lucas Saatkamp had 12 points, Flavio Resende Gualberto chipped in 11, while captain Ricardo Lucarelli and Yoandy Leal Hidalgo added nine and eight points, respectively, for the balanced Brazilian attack to neutralize Abdel-Aziz’s explosion.

The struggling Netherlands slipped to 3-6 at 13th place.

Canada takes on Germany next on June 20, 2024 as Japan heads into a two-day break before returning to action against the Netherlands at 11 a.m. on June 21.

Brazil will have world No. 5 USA next at 7 p.m. on Thursday while the Netherlands eyes revenge on Iran at 3 p.m. on the same day. / PR

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