Poland won Pool B on Sunday as they defeated Canada 3-0 in the opening matchup, and ROC finished atop Pool B with their 3-0 triumph over Tunisia on Day 5 of the preliminary round at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 at Ariake Arena.

Bartosz Kurek and Wilfredo Leon were in superb scoring form as they netted 17 and 16 points, respectively, to guide Poland in earning their fourth win with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-21, 25-16) win over Canada.

The two Polish hitters showed their might in different skill categories, with Kurek scoring five of Poland’s 13 blocks and Leon firing five of their seven aces in the match. Kurek and Leon made their presence felt in the first set and combined for 11 points in the Polish set victory.

Canada came close in the second set but could not complete an upset, with only Nicholas Hoag performing well against the Polish defenders with seven markers in the frame. Then the Polish blockers marked Hoag on the attack who was held to a scoreless third set, giving way to their rivals for a sweep.

“Obviously it’s better if you are on a winning streak coming into the quarterfinals, but that’s all in the past now. We must focus on the quarterfinals because it will be a completely different game. We want to improve everything to move to the final four,” said Kubiak.

After their winning momentum was broken by France, ROC responded with a determined stand to complete their preliminary round stint with a victory and succeeded in their goal with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-16) victory over Tunisia.

London 2012 veteran Maxim Mikhaylov brought his A-game against the Tunisians, as he tallied 12 attacks, two blocks and an ace. Mikhaylov got support from Dmitriy Volkov who finished with 10. Wassim Ben Tara and Ismail Moalla made 14 and 11 points in the losing effort.

With a slim difference in block and service margins, ROC capitalised on their good service game and management of their turnovers.


“We tried to be persistent in this match because from now we will have strong rivals to compete with, so we have to create our own opportunities in the game and claim them,” Mikhaylov said.

“We are never completely content and happy with our game. And even though we are always playing at our maximum in this competition, we still have to think about some improvements that we need to make against tougher opponents. But we will try to work better.”

In other matches, Italy and Brazil concluded the preliminary round with victories. Italy earned full points to get an 11-point total which put them in second place in the standings in Pool A, while Brazil’s five-set win guaranteed second spot in Pool B.

Italy overcame Venezuela with a three-point margin, but the latter offered little resistance in the next two sets to concede 3-0 (25-22, 25-15, 25-17) to the European side.

Osmany Juantorena had a field day in scoring as he collected 14 kills, two blocks and an ace to lead the Italians with a well-rounded performance. Matteo Piano added 11 markers off six hits and five deflections.


The Venezuelan offence focused on the left-side and the middle, where Willner Rivas and Edson Valencia etched their point outputs of eight and seven points, respectively.

In the match that would have brought the house down if there had been spectators at Ariake Arena, Brazil endured an over 2-hour-long encounter with France to seal their 3-2 (25-22, 37-39, 25-17, 21-25, 20-18) victory.

The clash between the two powerhouse teams lasted for 2:38 and is now the longest match in Olympic history. The previous match duration record was 2:34 in the Tokyo 2020 opening day match between Iran and Poland.

Each team took turns in controlling the battle resulting in momentum shifts throughout the first four sets, the highlight being the 39-37 French win in the second set.

With a tight exchange of attacks on both sides, the set needed a long extension before France could close it. The set lasted for 51 minutes, which was the longest in Olympic history. The previous was 41 minutes in the Athens 2004 five-set match between Serbia and Montenegro and Greece.

In the fifth set, there was another set extension as both sides refused to give up on their tight exchanges in attacks. However, Yoandy Leal’s back-to-back hits closed the down-to-the-wire decider in favour of Brazil at 20-18.

“The French setter (Benjamin Toniutti) is really good. They studied our team well and changed their tactic during the game a lot,” Brazil middle blocker Lucas Saatkamp said.

“This match was heavy. We needed at least two sets to get the second or third positions in the standings. We knew they are a good defensive team and facing them would be difficult for us. But I am just glad that we got this win.”

Japan eliminated their Asian rivals Iran in a nerve-racking five-setter and progressed to the quarterfinals. The home team registered their win at 3-2 (25-21, 20-25, 29-31, 25-22, 15-13) to improve their record to 3-2 that placed them third in the Pool A standings.

Masahiro Sekita had the tough task of directing his hitters to find the right spots to overcome the strong defence of their rivals, but the Japanese setter guided Yuji Nishida well in recording his 30 points, which had a big role in the victory.

“We just wanted to get our sideout and reception going so we could get better opportunities in scoring. Part of that was having good concentration in the match. I am happy to win this game, but I think I could have done more. Also, I wish there were spectators in the venue because we wanted to play for the people,” setter Sekita said.

Yuki Ishikawa and Ran Takahashi enhanced the Japanese offence with their 20- and 19-point performances, while Meisam Salehi had a 26-point output for Iran.

“I didn’t play my 100 per cent but I had to push myself to play because this is the right place and time to push hard. I am happy for the result, but since it was such a close match, at times it was quite frustrating. However, I just had to focus to get my performance together. I actually felt quite tired after this tough match.”

Meanwhile, Canada and France will advance to the quarterfinal round as they ranked fourth in the preliminary round.