Marouf crafts Iran’s upset of VNL champions Russia
Iran completed their sweep of their home matches in Urmia with their 3-0 (25-20, 26-24, 25-23) defeat of Russia, as captain Marouf led his team setting up brilliant plays for Amir Ghafour and distributing well-calculated sets to the rest of the starters.
The 33-year-old Iranian setter likewise got involved in scoring with three attack points and two service aces to bolster the team’s strong finish against the reigning VNL champions. He sits on top of the best setter ranking with an average per set of 9.03.
Ghafour, on the other hand, topped all scorers with 17 points that were fired solidly from the attack line. Milad Ebadipour and Seyed Mohammad Mousavi scored eight points each, then Marouf, Purya Fayazi and Ali Shafiei had five points apiece.
Ghafour is third in scoring with 151 total points and is separated only by seven markers from best scorer Sharone Vernon-Evans of Canada (158) and six points from Gabriele Nelli of Italy (157).
Viktor Poletaev and Yaroslav Podlesnykh’s respective double-digit outputs of 16 and 11 were no match for the intensity of the hosts as the latter led in the attack and block categories, committed fewer errors and employed better defence on them.
The Iranians now have a total of eight wins and one loss, while Brazil have the same win-record and trail by two points to stay on the second spot in the overall standings.
Meanwhile, Brazil earned back-to-back wins in Gondomar to recover from their tough five-set loss to Serbia in the opening match of Pool 9. The reigning Olympic gold medallists have been productive with double-digit performances from Douglas Souza, Ricardo Lucarelli, Alan Souza, Isac Santos and Yoandy Leal Hidalgo in their last two victories.
Italy won all their matches in Varna with consistent 3-1 scorelines, including their victory over hosts Bulgaria powered by Giulio Pinali’s 17 points. The 22-year-old Pinali gave Italy’s best scorer Nelli a breather in their match with Bulgaria as he went head-to-head with Tsvetan Sokolov who made 21 points on a losing effort.
The Italians have an equal win-record with Russia, while France dropped to fifth place as they suffered consecutive four-set losses to Argentina and the United States in Cannes.
USA dominated Pool 12 as they extended their winning run to four, including the three victories in the French Riviera. In their last four matches, they have managed to beat their opponents in four sets.
USA will now fly back home for Pool 13 at Hoffman Estates, where they will host Japan, China and NORCECA rivals Canada in the fourth week. Italy will take on Argentina, Serbia and Poland in Milan for the Pool 14 matches.
For the Pool 15 matches, Iran will move to another city – Ardabil – to face France, Portugal and Australia, while Brazil will fly back home to host Bulgaria, Germany and Russia in Cuiaba for Pool 16 matches.
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