Tokyo, Japan, June 5, 2016 – Japan closed the tournament with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-23) win over France at the Men’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Sunday.
Masahiro Yanagida steered Japan to end their stint on a positive note against the formidable French squad. Yanagida scored 14 points, but had great support from team-mates Takaaki Tomimatsu, Kunihiro Shimizu and Takeshi Dekita, who finished with 13, 12 and 10 points, respectively. Japan played great defence and tallied 36 excellent digs. France banked on Rossard Thibault, who topped all scorers with 22 points.
Japan fielded in their best players, while France utilised their reserve players. Japan had a great start in the first set and led 5-2. As the set progressed, Shimizu and Yanagida provided the points they needed to increase the gap. Shimizu scored two straight aces to put Japan ahead at 16-8. France had some brilliant moments, when they managed to reduce the lead of Japan by two points 19-17. Japan rebounded and had no major setbacks to secure the first set 25-18. France led briefly in the second set 5-3 but Japan snatched the lead at the first technical timeout 8-7. France played better offence courtesy of Thibault, but Japan held on to their lead, until France deadlocked at 22-all. Japan converted on two attack attempts that gave them set point, then an exchange in scoring handed the Asian side with a 25-23 set victory.
In the third set, France led 805 at the first technical timeout, and then Tomimatsu’s spike sliced through the middle to level the score at 10-all. France were able to hold on to their lead only until the second technical timeout, as Yanagida forced his way through the French defence. Japan snatched the lead at 18-17 and built a constant two-point cushion until 22-20. France made another comeback through an ace from Franck Lafitte that tied the score at 23-all, but Yanagida and Shimizu blasted two consecutive spikes that concluded set and match 25-23.