Boys' U19 World Championship 2023 - News.

USA (USA) vs. Bulgaria (BUL) - Quarterfinals #6357692

USA’s Sean Kelly in reception

United States upset the world’s number one youth team Bulgaria, while Korea stunned European champions Italy in the FIVB Volleyball Boys’ U19 World Championship quarterfinals in San Juan on Wednesday, all four of which were decided in straight sets. The Americans will take on France and the Koreans will challenge Iran in Thursday’s semifinals.

FIVB U19 Boys’ World Ranking leaders Bulgaria failed to recover fast enough from the five-set battle with Brazil that had finished less than 15 hours earlier and fell victim to a well-prepared American team that managed to overcome the opponents in straight sets, , mostly thanks to their blocking effort (13 stuffs against nine), but also with more precision in their actions (13 errors against 19) and a slightly more productive offence (45 successful spikes against 43). The Europeans outserved the opponents with three aces against one.

Bulgaria did put up a fight in each of the sets. In the third, they even broke away with a 7-2 lead only to lose it deep into overtime on a first-tempo swing by middle blocker Joshua Aruya for the match winner. USA’s Sean Kelly and Bulgaria’s Kristian Titriyski shared the top-scorer honours with 19 points each. Finn Kearney added another 13 for the winners, including four kill blocks, while Bulgarian middle Kostadin Kozelov impressed with five of those also to finish with 13 points.

On Thursday, at 18:00 local time (21:00 UTC), United States will lock horns with France for a spot in Friday’s gold medal match. The French have so far dropped only a couple of sets in six matches played. On Wednesday, they hammered out a shutout of Egypt, led by Thomas Pujol with 16 points and captain Mathis Henno with 13.

In the last quarterfinal in Argentina, Korea surprised Italy with a sweep. With the exception of the second set, when the Asians dominated quite convincingly, the match offered a tough battle with both other sets pushed to overtime.

The Europeans were, in fact, way more productive in attack with 43 successful swings against 33 for the opponents. Korea, however, did better on the block (11 stuffs against seven), on the serve (three aces against two) and mostly in making fewer mistakes (15 against 33). One of those abundant Italian unforced errors, a first-tempo shot that went long, ended the match in favour of Korea. Italian captain Lorenzo Magliano was the best scorer of the match with 19 points, including an ace and three blocks, while Lee Woojin led the winners with 18, also including three blocks.

In Thursday’s second semifinal, at 21:00 local time (midnight UTC), Korea will engage in an all-Asian duel with Iran. Without allowing much suspense, the Iranians dealt with Belgium swiftly. In their quarterfinal encounter, the number two U19 team in the world mastered an emphatic sweep with a 14-point match high from Seyed Matin Hosseini Tolouti, including two kill blocks and three of the team’s eight aces (against none for the Belgians).

The semifinals in the next tier of the bracket, for distributing the places from fifth to eighth, will set Bulgaria against Egypt and Belgium against Italy.

Iran (IRI) vs. Belgium (BEL) - Quarterfinals #6365301

Iranian setter Arshia Saedati in action

Further down the bracket, in the quarterfinal playoffs of the race for the ninth place, Brazil downed Puerto Rico in a straight-setter and progressed to an encounter with Mexico, who squeezed out a hard-fought victory over Colombia.

Slovenia outplayed Serbia in straight sets, , to go against Japan, who battled it out against hosts Argentina to celebrate a win.

Wednesday’s action started with Chile’s first win of the tournament. In their last match in San Juan, the South Americans delivered a narrow victory over winless Costa Rica in the race for the distribution of the places from 17th to 19th.