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Jiang Chuan the man as China dent Japan's fading hopes

 

Jiangmen, China, June 22, 2018 - China staged a form reversal with star opposite spiker Jiang Chuan's 26 points leading the way to a 3-1 (25-16, 25-21, 18-25, 25-22) victory over Japan that was a huge blow to their rivals' hopes of sneaking through to the finals of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. 

Put the change in luck down to home comforts as China shrugged off the form that had seen them on a 0-6 streak in the VNL - their worse run at world level since they lost nine on end at the 2006 World League. They've certainly had some star performers throughout the tournament, none more so that Jiang, who was given a rest in the last round by coach Raul Lozano but looked to have lost none of his form on Friday.

The 23-year-old's haul included two blocks and five aces.

Other stars on the night for the home side were middle blocker Rao Shuhan, with 11 points, and wing spiker Zhang Jingyin, with nine points. China's defence really came through on the night, with the block count finishing 15-6 to the locals. 

While China are finishing the tournament off at home and playing for pride, Japan brought a record of 6-6 into the fifth round, and a mathematical chance of sneaking into the VNL finals - pending the results coming in from other venues across the world.

They had their young gun Yuji Nishida in fine form at opposite spiker with 17 points, and a steady contribution from wing spiker Masahiro Yanagida with 10 points. But they'll have left the court hugely disappointed, given other earlier results - including sixth-placed Serbia's 3-0 dismantling of Canada. 

It'll take a huge run of luck - and rivals' losses - for them to now sneak into the final six teams heading to at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille for the finals from July 4-8.

In terms of the overall rivalry between these two Asian sporting powerhouses, China's victory pegged the all-time world level tally back to 27-18 in favour of Japan.
 

Next up for China on Saturday will be Canada, while Japan will look to regain form (and hope) against the in-form Serbia.

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