Ludwigsburg, Germany, June 15, 2018 – With both teams just inside the top 10 of the standings, getting the maximum three points was a must. Neither will have been happy that it went to a fifth set but Japan will certainly be pleased to take the two points after their 3-2 win (25-22, 21-25, 25-15, 20-25, 15-12). Yuji Nishida is still a teenager, but he was by far the standout performer taking 24 points – including 21 spikes and 3 aces.
Japans coach Yuichi Nakagaichi is not a man of many words but he will surely have some praise for his team back in the changing room today. With this win they take their Volleyball Nations League record to W5-L5 and leapfrogg Germany into 9th place on match wins.
Yuji Nishida is the youngest of Japan's players at 18 years old and he topped the charts for both teams over the five sets. Another big contributor to the victory was Masahiro Yanagida with 16 points while all other starters scored near enough double figures. This was also the first time Japan have won back to back games in the competition.
Germany doesn’t have a good record in five setters and that proved to be the case again today. Christian Fromm top scored with 20 while another young player Tobias Krick took 14 from middle blocker. David Sossenheimer only started two of the five sets but was third in the charts for Germany with 11 points.
The last time these two sides met was four years ago at the 2014 FIVB World League, with Japan prevailing in five sets – prior to that Germany won five in a row. With this the first day of play at the MHP Arena, there is plenty still to come starting with Germany vs Argentina and Russia against Japan.
Fresh from their 3-2 win over Italy, Japan accelerated out of the blocks to an 8-4 lead. It got even better from there as they extended it to 17-9, pushed on by their captain Masahiro Yanagida. Point by point, though, Germany started finding their rhythm, but by the time they got to 17 Japan were already on 21.
Just when Germany gave themselves a fighting chance, their serving let them down with four in five serves failing to make Japan even play the ball. Even the set point was lost on a German service error.
The second set was much closer from the off, with Christian Fromm consistently scoring from all positions. At 11-11 it was definitely game on as Japan’s Yuji Nishida ensured his side stayed in it. As the twenties approached Jakob Günthör made some telling contributions but it was substitute Simon Hirsch that levelled the match from position 2.
The third started with Japan on form and with Libero Taichiro Koga providing great stability from which his team could attack. Coach of Germany is Volleyball legend Andrea Giani and you could clearly hear him calling for discipline from his team.
All those teams around the world with a shortish setter should take a look at the tactics that Japan employ. Their setter is the excellent number 18 Masahiro Sekita who is 1.75m, so whenever possible if Germany attack through their position 4 he will drop back and cover the tip shot while the two other blocking players go up – very clever.
As with the first set, serving errors from Germany continued to donate points to Japan and it was the exact opposite for Japan as Masahiro Yanagida delivered two aces to secure the third set.
It was the home side that built a small lead when the teams got into double figures but again it was that man Nishida who served two aces to bring Japan back into it.
Next it was David Sossenheimer’s turn to dominate things from the service line as he restored the slight lead the German side had. Set point was one to remember with Germany spreading the attack well and Japan showing all of their defensive qualities before a reverse set from Fromm enabled Sossenheimer to take us to a decider.
Germany have not won a five-setter (at world level) since their 3-2 victory over Argentina at the 2014 World League, but they started confidently with the ever impressive Tobias Krick influential. Japan scored back-to-back points either side of the turn around to stick their noses in front. At 11-9 Fromm was put down by Tatsuya Fukuzawa and the two point lead just rolled to the crucial 15 point mark – Nishida the star of the show and Germany left stunned.