Chicago, USA , June 15, 2018 - Iran capped the greatest day in their sporting history with a stunning 3-0 (26-24, 26-24, 25-22) win over table topping Poland in one of the shocks of the VNL.
Just hours after Iran’s soccer players grabbed an emotional and dramatic win over Morocco at the World Cup in Russia, their volleyball stars then stepped up to the plate and delivered in similarly stunning style.
In a thrilling clash which threatened to boil over twice and saw the Poles receive a team yellow card at the start of the third set following incessant arguing with officials, it was left to Ali Shafiei and Milad Ghara who scored 13 points each to lead Igor Kolakovic’s side to the most memorable of wins and lift a campaign which saw them arrive in Chicago having lost their last two while owning a record of just three victories from nine before this clash.
Ultimately, the difference was in the attacking play with Iran out-spiking Poland 47-39.
“We came here with some defeats and all the sets were tough,“ said setter Mir Marouflakrani, “Our young players were so good. We are here to play some of the best teams in the world. Both will be hard but will fight hard just like we did here.”
Beating Poland, who succumbed to just their second loss of the tournament, will give the whole Iranian squad a monumental lift, especially with the USA and Serbia still to come this weekend.
Poland produced an out-of-sorts performance and not the kind of display needed to keep heat on rivals Brazil who will now be eyeing top spot once again as the race to reach the finals in France begins to seriously heat up.
Damian Schulz bagged 12 points while Artur Szalpuk notched 11, yet coach Vital Heynen was left ruing an error strewn showing which needs to be improved for the remaining two matches in this US swing.
All three sets were fiendishly tight and in the first, with Poland 17-16 up and big hitting Bartosz Kwolek finding his range, Iran were fighting like mad to keep a foothold in the game.
Yet as the scores stood at 22-22, tempers began to flare up for the first time. These two sides produced some angry flashpoint at the Rio Olympics and there was more of the same here as Heynen started to lose his rag with the officials.
He was seething after Iran were given a point to send them 23-22 up which was eventually adjudged a correct decision and when a spike from Porya Yali was sent wide by the Europeans, Iran were a set up.
It was impressive stuff. Poland had been out-spiked 17-13 and out-served 5-2.
The second saw more of the same despite some brilliant defense from the Poles, most notably from Jakub Kochanowski and when Kwolek spiked to level at 19-19, it could have gone either way. There was, however, more controversy on the way.
At a crunch moment with the scores at 24-24, Poland were initially given a point when Marouflakrar hit long but Iran appealed and the video referee confirmed there had been the slightest touch off Jakub Kochanowski.
Poland and their coach were furious and despite all being cautioned, they now faced a battle to regain composure and attempt to get back into a match which was fast disappearing from their grasp.
This, however, was to be Iran’s night and even when the third was delicately poised at 23-22, they held their nerve to record the most famous of wins and delight the heathy pockets of Iranian fans inside the Sears Centre Arena.