VNL: Japan gets huge boost ahead of big-time clash vs USA with comeback win vs France

In front of a sold-out crowd, Japan rallied to clip France. Jade Moya
By Dugout Philippines

PASAY--Japan primed up for a massive showdown against the USA, claiming the scalp of France in a reverse sweep, 17-25, 19-25, 25-16, 25-23, 15-10, to highlight the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) Men’s Week 3 on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Ace spiker Yuki Ishikawa exploded for 33 points as the Japanese erased a 0-2 deficit behind a clinic in the clincher for a thrilling win in one hour and 46 minutes against no less than the reigning Olympic gold medalist.

Ishikawa, one of the Best Outside Hitter awardees last VNL, scored six of his output in the fifth set, including the last four points of Japan that leaned on a killer 7-2 rally to shatter a 3-all deadlock en route to the win.

He drew ample support from Kento Miyaura with 19 points while middle blockers Akihiro Yamauchi and Kentaro Takahashi chipped in with six points each.

“France played well in the first two sets but we had to be patient, trying to stay in the match. Fortunately, in the third set, we executed well and got back in the match. It was a very tough match. I’m proud of my team for staying calm,” said head coach Philippe Blain. 

Japan, the world No. 4, avenged its five-setter defeat to Canada for an 8-3 record in the battle of already qualified teams to the Final Round in Poland next week. 

Led by Jean Patry’s 21 points, world No. 7 France has clinched a finale ticket as well at 7-4 despite the defeat to join Japan and leaders Slovenia (9-1), reigning champion Poland (8-2), Italy (8-2) and Canada (8-4). 

France eyes a good momentum win approaching the VNL finals and the Paris Olympics against former VNL champion and three-time world champion Brazil at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Only two seats are left at stake for the squads below, including USA (5-6) entering a crucial duel between two fan-favorite teams here against Japan at 7 p.m. on Sunday to wrap up the VNL preliminary phase.

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