Ludwigsburg, Germany, June 17, 2018 – What is there to say about Dmitriy Muserskiy that has not already been said. Not only is he operating from levels that most others cannot even reach, he is consistent and was easily the difference today as Russia won in straight sets 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-23) to move up to 2nd leapfrogging Brazil, USA and Poland – with the latter two still to play.
Muserskiy ended the match with 18 points, meaning he now has 162 in the competition. Romanas Shkulyavichus put in another silent but effective peroformance taking 11 points (8 attacks and 3 blocks) while their three outside hitters (Anton Karpukhov, Egor Kliuka and Dmitry Volkov) scored 22 between them.
After the match Igor Kobzar spoke about facing Germany tomorrow: “If we want to go to the Final 6 we should win that game. We both have different teams from the European Championship Final last year so we will have to see what happens.”
Issei Otake top scored for Japan with 13 points from the opposite position, the only player to reach double figures for his side. Yuichi Nakagaichi and his Assistant Coach Philippe Blain will be proud of how their team led for the majority of the second set, a set where everything was relatively equal except the block count, but their sights will already be fixed on tomorrows match against Argentina where they will expect even more from their team.
While Russia are currently in one of the hot seats, their place at the Final 6 in Lille is still to be confirmed. With four matches to go after tonight they will need to keep winning in order to guarantee it. With this defeat, Japan are very unlikely to make it although it is still mathematically possible for now. To round off the weekend Russia will play hosts Germany while Japan take on Argentina.
Dmitry Volkov was one of the stars of the show yesterday against Argentina, but the new Russian captain had to settle for a place on the bench as in came Anton Karpukhov to start. While Japan's main man from yesterday, and their top scorer in the competition so far (sitting 2nd in the competitions scoring charts with 162 points) Yuji Nishida, was not even in the squad.
It was through the middle that the first part of this match was won with Dmitriy Muserskiy taking five of the first 12 Russian points. That trend continued right through the first set with the competitions best spiker (positioned number 1 due to his 67.26% success rate in attack) taking the set point - but in reality Russia had too much for Japan all over the net.
With a significantly changed line up for Japan compared to yesterdays 3-2 win over Germany, there didn’t seem to be the flow and cohesion that was on show the day before in the first set.
With things tight, Egor Kliuka served his second ace of the match only to be followed by one from Takuya Takamatsu for Japan and they led at the first technical 8-7. Japan managed to get ahead by a point or so but as Kliuka came round to serve again he put down his third ace, this one recorded at 114.7 kph.
Naonobu Fujii was in and setting today for Japan and he pulled out a moment of magic to reverse set the ball directly to the floor. Pushing hard right to the death, Japan were first to reach 20 points but from here Russia’s block started to function as we have come to expect and a roof block brought them a 2-0 lead.
Russia started strongly in the third building a considerable lead, but they saved the best for just before the technical as some scramble defence forced Anton Karpukhov to do a standing spike from near to the baseline, amazingly hitting a clean winner!
Muserskiy by this point was on 16 points, doubling the total of the next nearest player behind him. He even had a couple of rotations hitting back court from position 1, just as when he cemented his name in volleyball folk law by his performance in the London 2012 Olympic final.
Japan rallied again, and levelled the match at 16-16 in the third set and got to the twenties still in with a shot and a successful challenge insisted by Issei Otake gave them further hope. Captain Volkov had a swing for the match but got blocked, but Takuya Takamatsu serving out of a time out couldn’t get the ball in and Russia took another win.