Yali, Esfandiar lead Iran to historic first title in Men’s U21 World Championship

Manama, Bahrain, July 27, 2019 – Porya Yali and captain Amirhossein Esfandiar led Iran in their 3-2 (17-25, 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 15-12) triumph against Italy to capture their first FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship title.

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Yali and Esfandiar both hit the 20-point mark, combining for 55 of Iran’s 104 points to stage a comeback in the fifth set to win the gold medal. Yali had a prolific night in scoring as he drilled 18 attacks, three blocks and two aces, while Esfandiar contributed 17 attacks, a block and claimed four service winners. Morteza Sharifi added 18 markers.

The Italians also had double-digit performances from Daniele Lavia (19), Kristian Gamba (18), Francesco Recine (14) and Leandro Ausibio Mosca (10), but Iran’s great service game (10 aces) hurt them in crucial moments of the match.

The Italians opened with a stunning 25-17 victory, but the Iranians responded with the same set score to win the second set and level the match at 1-1. Italy recovered from the setback in the previous set and played a tactical game in the third frame. However, the Iranians had a late run that tied the game at 23-all, then shifted the momentum to their side as Esfandiar’s ace gave Iran the lead and an easy attack gave them a 2-1 set advantage at 25-23.

Italy fought back as their attackers’ swings slipped through the Iranian blocks. Their defence likewise was on point as their blocks stopped the Iranian hitters from swinging heavily from the three-metre line. The Italians led by as much as five late in the fourth set, but their rivals rallied hard to cut down the lead to within two points. They soon found a solution and managed to keep the lead and win at 25-22, forcing the tie-breaker.

A series of deadlocks and lead changes ensued as both sides utilised their power to score. Two errors from the Italians from the service and attack lines gave Iran a two-point cushion. Sharifi kept Iran in the lead but some ball handling errors by his teammates also put them in trouble and suddenly the match was again deadlocked at 10-all.

As Sharifi stepped up to the service line, the Italian defence crumbled and their poor reception gave away points that padded the Iranian advantage. Finally Sharifi missed on his serve, but the Iranian attackers took charge to conclude the match at 15-12.

After their straight-set semifinal loss to Iran on Friday, Brazil came back determined and strong to win the bronze medal with a 3-0 (25-21, 27-25, 25-12) victory over Russia.

The South American squad showed great balance in play, as demonstrated by their top scorer Guilherme Voss Messias Dos Santos, who made a total of 13 points from five attacks, an ace and seven blocks in the match.

Then Voss’ teammates Victor Aleksander Almeida Cardoso and Angellus Costa Da Silva fortified their offence, contributing 11 points apiece, while Maxim Sapozhkov who topped all scorers with 16 points was the lone bright spot on offence for the Russian side.

Brazil claimed their fifth bronze medal in the Men’s U21 World Championship since finishing third in 1999.

Meanwhile, Argentina claimed fifth place after posting a 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-19) win against China. Argentina's scoring quartet Luciano Palonsky (20), Federico Jose Seia (14), Franco Medina (12) and Nicolas Zerba (10) all had double-digit outputs to outscore the Chinese side.

In the all-Asian battle for seventh place, Korea secured the spot with a 3-1 (25-19, 25-23, 13-25, 25-23) win over hosts Bahrain. Im Donghyeok and Lim Sungjin maintained Korea's strong pace with 25 and 22 points, while Bahrain's Hasan Mohamed scored 21 points.

The teams in the bottom eight were led by the Czech Republic as they stunned Cuba 3-0 (28-26, 26-24, 25-20) to claim ninth position. Marek Sotola was the Czech team’s go-to attacker, finishing with 17 points. Cuba, on the other hand, had good scoring outputs from Julio Cesar Cardenas Morales and Jose Miguel Gutierrez Suarez who had 15 and 11 points, but their turnovers cost them the match.

Last edition’s champions Poland needed a five-setter to overcome Canada 3-2 (15-25, 25-23, 28-26, 23-25, 15-12) and claim the 11th position in the tournament. Filip Grygiel, who came off the bench to score 18 points, upstaged an offence driven Canadian side, which had five players producing double-digit outputs. In the end, Poland’s attention to the small details and edge in attacks led to their victory.

Egypt played better on all fronts against their continental rivals Tunisia to win 3-1 (25-19, 20-25, 25-14, 25-22) and finish in 15th place. Egypt had five players on the board scoring in double digits, including Ahmed Azab Abdelrahman (16), Youssef Hamdy Awad (12), Mohamed Osman Elhaddad (12), Amr Ramadan (11) and Shehab Azad Elsayed (11), while the Tunisian players were outclassed even with Yassine Abdelheldi scoring a match-high of 20 markers.

Finally, Morocco picked up their first win on the last day of the tournament and celebrated the feat with a 3-2 (25-22, 25-22, 32-34, 19-25, 15-12) triumph over Puerto Rico. Moroccan captain Oussama Elazhari poured it all out as he finished with 28 points, while Pedro Molina made 22 points in the losing effort.

Final Standings
1. Iran
2. Italy
3. Brazil
4. Russia
5. Argentina
6. China
7. Korea
8. Bahrain
9. Czech Republic

10. Cuba
11. Poland
12. Canada
13. Egypt
14. Tunisia
15. Morocco
16. Puerto Rico

Dream Team

Most Valuable Player: Amirhosseini Esfandiar (IRI)
Best Outside Spikers: Daniele Lavia (ITA), Morteza Sharifi (IRI)
Best Middle Blockers: Lorenzo Cortesia (ITA), Guilherme Voss Messias Dos Santos (BRA)
Best Opposite Spiker: Maksim Sapozhkov (RUS)
Best Setter: Lorenzo Sperotto (ITA)
Best Libero: Mohammadreza Hazratpourtalatappeh (IRI)


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