2 Victories for National Team

The team celebrates a point against Bulgaria.
The team celebrates a point against Bulgaria.
On Wednesday, Iran won its opening match convincingly. 77 minutes was all it took for a 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico

Iranian volleyball giants started their campaign in the FIVB Volleyball World Championship co-hosted by Italy and Bulgaria with two consecutive victories to share Pool D top spot with title-holder Poland.

In its second group game, Iran beat host nation Bulgaria 3-1 in front of home fans in Varna on Thursday. The national team had defeated Puerto Rico 3-0 one day earlier.

According to the official website of the games, in all four sets Bulgaria was trailing in the second technical break and tried to mount a late comeback but succeeded only in one. A 3-1 win (25-22, 25-20, 22-25, 25-19) got Iran level on points with world champions Poland at the top of Pool D.

It was the third meeting between the teams in a world championship. But unlike the previous two (straight set wins for Bulgaria in 1970 and 2006) all the expectations were on a tight affair.

Bulgaria was outdone by its own mistakes. Todor Skrimov had two aces but another two of his attempts were not even close to go over the net.

In fact setter Seganov was the only one from the starting six without a serve error in the opening set. At 12:19 local boy Miroslav Gradinarov came on as a substitute and provided the much needed spark.

Bulgaria closed the gap to just two points but at 21:23 a great block by Ali Shafiei ensured that Iran got the first blood.

“We enjoyed the game and Bulgaria played well,” Igor Kolakovic, head coach of Iran, said. “I thank my players for the patience they showed and of course for the win against a very well prepared and experienced team like Bulgaria. We tried to control the game in all sets, but the crowd reflected on us and probably that was the reason for losing the third set.” Mohammad-Javad Manavinezhad led the winners in scoring with 21. Seyyed Mohammad Mousavi and Amir Ghafour each added 11.

 Half Century Later

In 1970 Iran made its debut in the FIVB Men’s World Championships in Bulgaria. Back then the team won just two sets in five matches and finished last in Pool A.

A little less than half a century later, the Iranians are among the world class teams. They came to Varna as winners of the Asian Games and displayed clout right from the start.

On Wednesday, Iran won its opening match convincingly. 77 minutes was all it took for a 3-0 (25-19, 25-14, 25-18) victory over Puerto Rico.

Iran quickly went ahead and kept the advantage during the opening minutes of the match. A series of blocks by Amir Ghafour and Farhad Ghaemi put the Iranians 14-7 ahead and forced Puerto Rico coach Oswald Antonetti Cameron to take an early time-out.

But his players failed to gain momentum. Four consecutive serve errors extinguished the hopes of a turnaround. Although Iran missed three set points a spike by Saber Kazemi closed the first set 25-19.

It was another explosive start for the Asian Games champion in Set 2, and another early time-out for Puerto Rico. Iran setter Saeid Marouf was magical in every component as he recorded an ace, a block and many times he left his attackers without a block. Iran won the set easily 25-14 despite playing with mostly back-ups after the second technical break.

Pedrito Sierra came on at the start of the third set and Puerto Rico finally showed signs of life at the net.

However there was no stopping the Iranians. Trailing 6-8 they won seven of the next eight points to turn the set around. The end was emphatic -- three aces in a row by Kazemi. The last one greeted with standing ovations from 250 proud Iranian fans.

On Saturday Iran will face Cuba in its third match of the group and then has to do the tough task facing world champion Poland on September 17. The last match of the stage will be against Finland on September 19.

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