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Monday, July 2, 2007

Japan shocks France in FIVB World League

Special to The Japan Times

Japan ended a run of 10 straight defeats to France by beating the European power 3-1 at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Sunday.

News photo
Japan's Yu Koshikawa spikes against the block by France during men's World League match on Sunday at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Japan won 3-1. KYODO PHOTO

Japan had lost 3-2 on Saturday but recovered to win the second match of the weekend men's volleyball doubleheader 19-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-20.

It was Japan's second win in Pool B against eight losses, and its first over the French since the FIVB 2003 World League.

Although France dropped to 7-5, it will still finish second in the group behind the United States and hope to receive the wild card from the FIVB for the July 11-15 final round in Poland.

In the first set, Japan held a one-point lead, 8-7, at the first technical timeout (TTO) after a clever set from Shunichi Shimano cleared the way for Yu Koshikawa to spike perfectly from the left.

The match had opened with a familiar pattern, with key players from Saturday's game in the thick of the action.

For Japan, middle blocker Hiroaki Kawaura impressed on block, attack and in his ground defense, while France's Gerald Hardy Dessources was quickly into his smooth groove.

For the second day running, French setter Pierre Pujol displayed his eye-catching football skills, this time on the very first point of the match with a sliding save to set up a winner for Antonin Rouzier.

An ace from Takaaki Tomimatsu and a crashing block from Koshikawa kept the home fans happy, but another smart piece of work from Pujol, striking swiftly at the net, moved France ahead 14-12 and prompted the first Japan TO of the afternoon.

The visitors closed out the first set on a Rouzier spike.

Japan needed to keep France close in the second set and trailed 8-7 at the first TTO following another right-wing spike from Rouzier.

Shimizu and Koshikawa carried the fight to France, which called a timeout after falling behind 12-10 on some fast and accurate Tomimatsu serves. With Japan's block, notably the Tomimatsu-Ishijima combination, starting to tame the French attack, the home team enjoyed a three-point cushion, 16-13, at the second TTO.

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