Lodz, Poland, September 13, 2014 - In an incredible battle in front of a packed Atlas Arena, host team Poland survived a serious scare from Iran and earned a hard-fought win 3-2 (25-17, 25-16, 24-26, 19-25, 16-14). The result qualified France for the next round, while both Poland and Iran keep their chances.
Local idol Mariusz Wlazly smashed a personal best of 28 points to stand above all scorers, while teammate Michal Kubiak earned exactly half of those points - 14. Iran had in their blocking star Seyed Mousavi and in Mojtaba Mirzajanpour the two most prolific contributors, with 15 tallies each.
The match began with a high-pitch game as both teams unleashed tremendous spikes. After the first break, Wlazly made massive damage from the service line and opened a 10-8 gap, enhanced by some equally powerful serves from Michal Winiarski (14-9). Iran was speechless against the mighty play from the hosts and the distance grew to 21-14. Kubiak and Dawid Konarski added the final points for the 25-17.
Poland continued their crushing walk over Iran with an ace from Karol Klos that created a 6-3 difference. Wlazly remained as a true nightmare as he combined spikes and a block to extend to 11-6, but the entire local side performed amazingly, giving a huge treat to the fans. Piotr Nowakowski scored the 20-12 and Iran couldn't do anything as Wlazly gave shape to a 25-16 on the board.
After the long break, Winiarski and Wlazly attacked towards a 9-5 score and the wing spiker fired an ace at 11-6, but the Asian side started playing with a couple of Ghafour's serves (13-11). Pumped up, Iran kept going as Mirzajanpour achieved a 17-point tie. A wide local ball gave Iran their first lead of the game at 20-19 and, in a nerve-racking finale which included captain Winiarski leaving the court, Armin Tashakori brought down the local passing as Iran grabbed the set by 26-24.
The temperature got higher in a crucial set for both of them. Iran improved from the service line and put Poland under pressure, in a completely different match than before. The Iranian advantage moved from 13-10 to 17-14 and the tie-breaker started to become true in Lodz. Ghafour scored the 20-17, Tashakori aced at 23-18 and a net fault sealed the 25-19, as Iran kept their third round hopes alive.
The final set was mind-blowing. Mousavi blocked home main weapon Wlazly and Iran advanced to 4-2, keeping the lead with Ghafour in great shape (9-7). Poland remained at reach and a stuff block by Klos scored the 11-11. Iran had a match ball in 14-13 with Gholami, but Kubiak spiked and an Iranian mistake changed the tide (15-14). Marcin Mozdzonek seized the chance with another block for an agonic 16-14.
After a completely breathtaking match, Iran coach Slobodan Kovac and captain Mir Saied Marouflakrani expressed how much Poland damaged them with their services, which Poland coach Stephane Antiga agreed in his analysis.
Iran captain Mir Saeid Marouflakrani: "Poland played some really good volleyball today. They killed us with their service, we had nothing to do about it, but we came back to the game when they thought it was over. We played our maximum in the fourth set and in the final one we were good until 14-14, but there we struggled in counter attack and Poland won. We tried our best, but here's the result."
Poland player Michal Kubiak: "It was definitely an important victory, but we have forget about it right away. We get to each game with a complete will to fight, and now we need a victory against France which is crucial for our qualification to the next round. As for tonight, congratulations to Iran, especially to their setter who showed he's a great player."
Iran coach Slobodan Kovac: "A match like this is not good for the heart. Poland played very hard in the first two sets, with very strong services. Your confidence goes down when Wlazly serves at 126 km/h and plays like that, but it's hard to keep up with that service all match. We started to fight back and we've had this match in our hands, but we lost it, because you can't make mistakes like that if you have a team like Poland against you. What's important is that we didn't give up - it's another step in our growth."
Poland coach Stephane Antiga: "My feelings are mixed. I'm disappointed because we could have won 3-0, but this victory still is good. We dominated in service and passing line in the beginning; from the third set these elements worked for Iran as well. I hope that the fact we managed to come out from such troubles will help us tomorrow against France. (About Michal Winiarski's injury) He had problems with his back. We will test him but we don't know how serious this is. That situation might have affected the team as he's our leader and a loss like that in such moments brings a lot of emotions."
Related website: FIVB Men's World Championship in Poland
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