Iran start as clear favourites to defend title | GulfNews.com

Iran start as clear favourites to defend title | GulfNews.com...
gulfnews.com 08/09/2013 News

Keywords:#Alaric, #Alaric_Gomes, #Asia, #Azadi, #Azadi_Stadium, #Brazil, #China, #Dubai, #FIVB, #Farhad, #Farhad_Zarif, #Gulfnews.com, #Iran, #Iranian, #Japan, #Julio_Velasco, #Kazakhstan, #Kuwait, #London, #London_Olympic, #London_Olympic_Games, #Manila, #Olympic, #Olympic_Games, #Poland, #President, #Russia, #September, #Sports, #Tehran, #Tianjin, #UAE, #Velasco, #Volleyball, #World_Cup

By Alaric Gomes

Dubai: Iran will be in prime position to defend their title when the squad lands in Dubai for the 17th Asian senior men’s volleyball championships to be held here from September 28 to October 6.

Iran won their first-ever Asian title when the competition was held on home soil in Tehran in 2011, when they came from behind to defeat China 22-25, 25-18, 25-19, 25-16 before a packed Azadi Stadium.

Iran possesses a fair record coming to Dubai in defence of their Asian title. Prior to their success in Tehran, Iran had bagged the runner-up spot in 2009 in Manila, while their previous best was a bronze medal way back in 2003 in Tianjin, China. Their credentials will be further boosted as they travel to Dubai with a near-unchanged squad that fetched them their only Asian title.

“Iran is a team that has always been welcomed in Dubai during past editions of our annual Shaikh Rashid International Volleyball Tournament,” Yousuf Al Mulla, President, UAE Volleyball Association, said. “With numerous Iranians residing in the UAE, it won’t be too much of a surprise to see the stadium packed whenever they play.

“The players feel at home here and rightly so as they have a huge following from the fans. Iran will be the team to watch in this competition.”

In the 2011 edition, playing before a capacity 17,000 crowd at the Azadi indoor hall, Iran lost the opening set to China but came back strongly to win the next three sets to take their maiden continental crown so far.

Seen as the main catalyst for this change is their Argentinean coach Julio Velasco, who has been guiding the fortunes of the team since he took over in 2011.

It has been the hard work of the coach and the players that has paid huge dividends for Iranian volleyball in the past few years. At the 2011 competition, Arash Kamalvand won the Most Valuable Player award, and teammates Amir Hussain and Farhad Zarif were given the best setter and best libero prizes.

That win in Tehran allowed Iran to contest for the 12-team 2011 FIVB Men’s World Cup hosted by Japan the same year. The tournament was meant to be the first step in trying to qualify to the 2012 London Olympic Games and Iran could only end in ninth place after Russia, Poland and Brazil booked their places for London at the end of the competition.

But despite that setback, Iran still come to this competition with a strong chance of defending their title.

The 17th Asian senior men’s volleyball championships to be held simultaneously at the Hamdan Sports Complex and Al Nasr Club has attracted 24 teams so far. As defending champion and the second highest ranked team in Asia, Iran has been put in Group C along with Kazakhstan and Kuwait during the preliminary rounds of the competition.

Meanwhile, the Higher Organising Committee (HOC) is scheduled to meet at the Dubai Sports Council premises in Al Jadaf at 6pm on Sunday to discuss preparations to host the tournament. Organisers to meet today to review preparations for 17th Asian volleyball championships...

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