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Defending champions Italy made their intentions known on the opening day, Tuesday, of the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Boys' U19 World Championship hosted by Iran in Tehran, as they beat six-time gold medallists Brazil to start the competition on a high note.

It was a sweep, 3-0 (27-25, 25-21, 25-21) in under an hour and a half, though hardly a walk in the park for the reigning world and European champions, as Brazil put up strong resistance throughout the game.

Spectacularly, Italy rallied from 21-24 down in the first, successfully fending off a total of four set points before Mattia Boninfante (son of Dante, bronze medallist with Italy at the London 2012 Olympic Games) served an ace on Bernardo Tozzo and Filippo Bartolucci followed up with a block on Arthur Buczmiejuk to turn it around and give Italy a head start.

And in the second, Italy made a 6-2 run after 19-19 to bring the set home.

Brazil had maybe relied a bit too much on Arthur - although he did emerge the match's top scorer on 20 points (the only Brazilian to score in double digits) and provided the most efficient attacking across both sides (20/36 for 56%).

Italy dominated all skills, with Luca Porro on 16 and Alessandro Bovolenta (the son of the late legendary Igor who amongst a score of other successes won a silver medal with Italy at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games) on 13 leading the scoring.

"We still have a very difficult way to go," said Italy coach Vincenzo Fanizza after the game. "We must work hard to repeat the title we won last time."

Earlier in the day the competition had opened with some thrilling action as Colombia challenged the Czech Republic before the European 2020 silver medallists just about got away with with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-18, 32-30, 25-17) win.

This left the South Americans, in just their second ever appearance at a Boys' U19 World Championship, still in search of their first win historically (after finishing winless in their debut season two years ago in Tunis).

Colombia came from behind in the third, but failed to convert four set points (and they certainly had chances on counter attack), before a block by David Kollator on Miguel Angel Rodriguez and an attack that went wide by Miguel Angel Martinez saw the Czechs turn it around.

It was easy work from there on for the Czech Republic, as Lukas Toth blocked Martinez for the last point of the match.

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Kollator led the Czech Republic in scoring at 22 points, with Jan Jirasek just behind on 21, though it was Martinez who registered the match high with 23. But with as many as 35 points conceded on unforced errors, Colombia had little chance of bagging a historic win.

"We started the first set of the game hard and bad," said Czech head coach Jan Svoboda after the game. "We were shocked and stressed, but as the match progressed we gradually improved our performance in terms of service and defence."

In other opening day action, Bulgaria also got off to a great start with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-22) sweep of Thailand after putting up some blocking that their opponents couldn't get through and that yielded 14 points. Aleksandar Nikolov and Georgi Tatarov shared the match high of 14 points each - their Bulgarian teammate Lazar Bouchkov the only other player across both sides to score in double digits with 13.

"It was very important for us to start the tournament with a victory," said Bulgaria head coach Martin Stoev. "I think we are the best team in our group and Russia and Belgium are next."

Mitov Georgi

Libero Georgi Mitov shows the passion of Bulgaria as they downed Thailand on the opening day of the 2021 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship.

If Stoev's predicitions come true, Russia may already have placed a foot in the quarterfinals, after a dramatic win over Belgium 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 34-32) to close the day in Tehran.

Russia, back-to-back silver medallists in the last two editions of the competition, cancelled six set points in the fourth, as Belgium desperately tried to force a tie-break, before turning the tables and finishing the game for full points on their own fourth attempt with a block by Vasilii Tarasenko on Basil Dermaux.

Mikhail Labinskii provided the day's highest scoring with 26 points even though Russia struggled to find their way past the Belgium block.

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"This game was a demonstration of 50% of Russia's power," said Russia coach Maxim Maximov. "If we want to show the real power of Russia, we will be very dangerous. This match was psychologically similar to a final game, but technically it is very different from the game you will see from us in a final."

Elsewhere, India, the 2003 Boys' U19 World Championship silver medallists, returned to the competition after a 12-year hiatus with a hard-earned win 3-1 (25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 26-24) over Nigeria.

But the Africans certainly gave the Asians a run for their money before Aman Kumar hit the ball off the block and away to get the job done on India's second match point.

India were led by 16-year-old Tanish Choudhary (eligible to play again in this age group at the next edition in 2023) who scored 21 points, including four blocks, but also capitalised on 32 unforced errors of Nigeria while keeping their own faults to just 15.

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Argentina also made a dynamic opening to their campaign thundering past Egypt with a very solid 3-0 (25-16, 25-10, 25-22), on the back of match highs of 10 points each by Nahuel Rojas and Nahuel Garcia (also shared with Egypt's Aly Khalifa 'Wael').

And Germany shut out Cuba 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-18) after a brilliant performance by 16-year-old Felix Baumann, who emerged top scorer of the game on 17 points.


Felix Baumann jousts with Cuba's Brayan Valle as he leads Germany to a solid win on the opening day of the 2021 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship.

Action continues on Wednesday at the two venues of the Azadi Sports Complex with round 2 of pool play. All matches are televised live on the Volleyball World YouTube Channel, where they're also available to watch on demand.