2017 WORLD GRAND CHAMPIONS CUP
- Women – September 5-9
- Men – September 12-17
- Nagoya and Osaka, Japan
- Women – Schedule/Results
- Men – Schedule
- Power Rankings
Gold medal favorites United States and Brazil put on a volleyball clinic on the first day of the WGCC. Brazil avenged its 2017 World League defeat at the hands of the French squad, while Team USA beat hosts Japan. Below, you’ll find updated pools, videos, and FIVB recaps from all of the day’s action.
Team USA x Japan
Matthew Anderson ushered USA’s opening day straight-set (25-21, 25-18, 25-13) win over hosts Japan. Anderson topped all scorers with 13 points, including 11 attacks and two blocks. Two other USA scorers – Thomas Jaeschke and Aaron Russell – had double-digit outputs of 11 and 10 points, respectively. Yuki Ishikawa led all Japanese scorers with nine points. USA performed well in all scoring categories with 40 attacks, eight blocks and seven aces.
Japan’s combination plays gave USA trouble, but a few adjustments on defense and Anderson’s performance from the attack and service lines enabled them to seize the opening set at 25-21. USA had a better finish in the next set, as Micah Christenson got his other hitters involved on offence. USA played with consistency on both offence and defense, while Japan had difficulty to convert on their attack attempts.
Here are the post match reactions:
USA coach John Speraw: I was interested to see how we would start the match tonight. We did talk about that in the locker room as being an important aspect of this match. It feels like we didn’t play much volleyball this summer. We rested Matt Anderson and Max Holt during the World League and Aaron Russell was pretty significantly injured at the end of the season. So we didn’t have three key players for much of the summer and Taylor Sander was hurt so we have not had enough time to train to make me feel comfortable.
I felt better after this match not because we won, but because of the way we played the game. What we did in the previous four years was to invest in young players and even though we haven’t had enough time to make me feel comfortable, what I saw tonight was a team comfortable playing with each other and competing the way I wanted them to compete and that was because we have some returning players that have some experience but are still young in the game.
In the last couple of weeks, we spent some time working on our block and defence and serve and I think those elements were strong for us tonight. We still have room for improvement but I saw really good fundamentals and I thought that we served the ball really well, which allowed us to put pressure on Japan and was the difference in the match.
USA captain David Smith: It’s always nice to be here in Japan. I think in the locker room before we came out we were talking about how it’s always difficult after a long layoff, but I think we did well today. We wanted to focus on our side, especially the serves to put pressure on them and I think we did a very good job.
Japan coach Yuichi Nakagaichi: Before the game I said tonight was about showing what we have been working on this summer. As John Speraw said, their service took all the momentum away from us and we couldn’t find a way back. They didn’t allow us to focus and I think they have the best defense in the world. We just couldn’t do what we wanted. I was frustrated and disappointed and I’m sure the spectators felt the same way. You can’t get much out of a match like this, but still the most important thing is to be able to learn from it. This tournament has strong teams in it and so we have to show our spirit as challengers, and I hope we start doing that tomorrow. We prepared to receive strong serves. Their service was good but we were deficient in other aspects. Still, I feel we could have done more in response to their serving.
Japan captain Hideomi Fukatsu: Before the start of the World Grand Champions Cup, we had good preparation, so there was a good atmosphere in our build-up. I feel very disappointed by the way we lost rather than the result. We were a bit nervous and couldn’t get going, but we shouldn’t let our mistakes affect our mentality too much. The fans tried to push us forward, so we have to reflect on our poor performance. We have to show more fighting spirit.
Japan player Issei Otake: Today was our first match so we were a bit nervous and each play wasn’t as efficient as it should have been, so we made mistakes. USA’s blocking was very good and even when they had only one blocker, he was always imposing. We have four matches left and the question now is how much of our volleyball can we show.
Japan player Yuki Ishikawa: We couldn’t play the volleyball we wanted to play. We will try to do this from tomorrow. To be able to play in my hometown was a big thing for me, so I can’t be happy with the result. I want to show how we can play tomorrow.
Brazil x France
Ricardo Lucarelli charted 15 points to lead Brazil in their 3-0 (27-25, 27-25, 25-22) win over France. Lucarelli made 12 attacks and scored three of the team’s 11 blocks. Lucas Saatkamp added 12 points. Stephen Boyer top scored for France with 11 points. The defending champions made a big difference in the match against the World League champions with lesser turnovers in the three-set clash.
The World Grand Champions Cup encounter is a repeat of the 2017 FIVB Volleyball World League final in Curitiba, Brazil, where the European side prevailed in five sets. The last time Brazil recorded a victory over France was at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
France and Brazil started on a high level and had few disparities in their game, which resulted to a deadlock at 24-all. After an exchange of points, Brazil scored on two attacks that sealed the set victory. Both squads went through another tight clash, but Brazil prevailed with the same 27-25 score from Lucas’ service winner. Brazil played with great momentum and did not allow any run by France to close the match in straight sets.
Here are the post match reactions:
Brazil coach Renan Dal Zotto: I’m very happy to win the first game of the competition but in terms of our performance I can’t be satisfied. I think we could have done better. Some aspects of our play were good, such as our passing system, but there were other aspects that could be improved. However, these aren’t major factors, they are just things that happen during the match. So we can fix these things. We won our first match but I think from the next match, we can play even better.
For Brazil, volleyball is an important sport so in any international competition we must field the best players available. In this team, we have seven members from the winning Olympic team, which is 50 per cent. Now, it’s a new cycle so we must gradually introduce new players. Brazil supporters expect us to perform well, produce results and make it on the podium.
Brazil captain Bruno Rezende: Before the game, we thought it wouldn’t be easy, so we were a bit nervous. But we resolved to be positive and that showed in our play. France are very strong, both physically and mentally, and that makes them tough to play. So, we want to get better in this competition and focus next on tomorrow’s game with Italy.
Brazil player Ricardo Lucarelli: Even without their top players, France are tough to play, so we knew it would be difficult. Bearing that in mind, we are happy to win, but we still have room for improvement.
France coach Laurent Tillie: We lost 3-0 and that was disappointing but there were some positives. Bearing in mind that we carried injuries when we arrived in Japan, our blocking and defense was good, so we hope to carry these good aspects forward with us in the coming matches.
France captain Benjamin Toniutti: Congratulations to Brazil for the win. It’s disappointing to lose. I think we are still in a state of shock after disappointing results in the European Championship, and I think we are lacking in conviction at the moment and that leads to mistakes. However, there were positives in our play. We did well in the first and second set and hope to capitalize on this in the coming matches.
Iran x Italy
Amir Ghafour and Milad Ebadipour’s fiery performance sparked Iran’s 3-2 (25-19, 23-25, 28-26, 29-31, 15-11) win over Italy. Ebadipour and Ghafour registered 21 and 20 points to lead the Iranian offence, while Filippo Lanza and Oleg Antonov made 23 and 18 points to command the Italian side. Iran benefited from Italy’s 42 turnovers.
Iran prevailed once more in their second tie-break encounter with Italy. Four of Iran’s five wins at the World Grand Champions Cup have come in five sets. Iran last beat Italy at world level was at the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Poland, where they claimed a 3-1 win.
Italy gave away many points to Iran on their turnovers, which helped the latter take the opening set win at 25-19. Italy bounced back to win 25-23, but Iran came up with good digs to counter-attack and secure the third set at 28-26. In the fourth set, Giulio Sabbi heroics in crucial moments led to an Italian win at 31-29. Iran’s scoring spurts at the start of the tie-breaker, helped their side pull away and complete the victory.
Here are the post match reactions:
Iran coach Igor Kolakovic: Tonight, we played against a great opponent, one of the best teams in Europe. At the start of the season, we lost 3-0 to them. Today, we had the opportunity to win 3-1 but missed out on that, but I’m happy with the victory. We arrived here with some hopes and dreams and would like to make some surprises against stronger teams than us in the world. Tonight, we made the first surprise. We have opportunities to make surprises in the coming days as we play USA, Brazil, France and Japan.
USA won the Olympic bronze medal, Brazil won gold, Japan are very strong when they play on home court, and France are World League champions, so every day we have an opportunity to make a surprise. Today, the difference between our team and Italy was that they made a lot of errors – they took a lot of risks – but they also made a lot of blocks. But we have good defence and a good counter-attack. We didn’t reach that level when we played in the World League. Every set was close. I’m so happy we finished with the victory, but we played a tough five sets and we need to be fresh for tomorrow.
Iran captain Saeid Marouflakrani: We’re so happy to start with a victory; it’s very important to us. We played with a lot of pressure and had opportunities to close it out in the fourth set, but couldn’t do it. In the fifth set, we played with fewer mistakes but I can’t say I’m satisfied with the team; we can play better volleyball.
We had a bad World League, so we had a lot of pressure. I’ve played a long time for the national team and had good days and bad days, but our youth and junior teams have been playing really well in their World Championships. The youth team won the gold medal and we’ve been playing in the World League for the last few years so now we are playing with the strong teams of the world and we learn a lot from them.
Italy coach Gianlorenzo Blengini: Obviously I’m very disappointed with the result. We’re very disappointed we couldn’t win in the tie-break. The start of the match wasn’t so good, we were too tense and couldn’t play good volleyball. But after that, we kept our hopes up and were able to take the second and fourth sets. We couldn’t win today but Iran deserved the victory. The fact that Iran did so well is not something new. They’ve been playing at a high level for many years now. Today they defended more than us and better than us, which made it an even and tough match. They also counter-attacked very well and generally played better than us.
Italy captain Simone Buti: We’re very disappointed because we wanted to start in a good way but we were unable to win today. It was a very even match but in the most important parts, especially defence and service, Iran did better than us. I think we could have done something on the tie-break but Iran played very well and I want to congratulate them.