Birthday boy Yant pushes Cuba into the Olympic qualification zone

Birthday boy Yant pushes Cuba into the Olympic qualification zone
Fecha de publicación: 
24 May 2024
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Cuba entered the Volleyball Nations League 2024 intending to qualify for the Paris Olympics and, after just two matches in Rio de Janeiro, they’re already inside the qualification zone for the event. That was possible thanks to a combination of a Cuban victory over Germany and a Serbian setback against Japan, on Thursday.

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2024 live on VBTV

Following up on a four-set victory over Brazil on Tuesday, the Caribbean had another strong performance at the Maracanãzinho stadium, topping Germany 3-1 (26-24, 25-20, 18-25, 25-23) in the first match of the day.

The result gave the Cubans 7.18 points in the FIVB World Rankings, elevating their total to 256.85. That alone wasn’t enough for them to pass the Serbians, but that happened when the Europeans fell to Japan 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-22) later, dropping 5.38 points to go down to 252.85.

Now, Cuba are the fourth-best national team not yet qualified for Paris to appear in the World Rankings, behind Italy, who are fourth with 347.58, Slovenia, who are sixth with 314.95, and Argentina, who are seventh with 308.29.

Star outside hitters Marlon Yant and Miguel Ángel López rose again for the Cubans, combining to produce 39 points against the Germans. Yant, who celebrated his 23rd birthday with a victory on the court, had a team-high 21 points, with 17 kills, three blocks and one ace, while the team captain added 18, with 17 kills and one block.

“We came into this match with a positive attitude because we knew this was going to be a critical match for us,” middle blocker Robertlandy Simón commented. “It was a great win today, but now it’s time for us to focus on the next one. I wished Yant a happy birthday this morning, but we’re not having a party for him because our goal here is to qualify for the Olympics. Japan are a very difficult matchup for us and we’ll need to be very focused.”

Germany, who secured their spot in Paris last year at the Volleyball Olympic Qualifier held at the Maracanãzinho, had the match’s top scorer in opposite Filip John, who produced 26 points, with 24 kills, one block and one ace.

Japan triumph again

In the second match of the day, Japan triumphed for the second time in Rio and secured 5.38 points, returning to third place in the World Rankings with 351.75 points.

Playing without start outside hitters Yuki Ishikawa and Ran Takahashi, the Asians again relied on opposite Yuji Nishida, who delivered a 16-point performance with 11 kills, three blocks and two aces.

“I’m glad with how we’ve been able to play here,” team captain Akihiro Yamauchi reflected. “We’re missing a few players, but we’ve still been playing well. Cuba will be a strong opponent, with really good players and it should be a tough match, but we’ll do our best.”

Serbia had outside hitter Marko Ivović and opposite Drazen Luburić as their main scorers, with eight points each.

Volleyball Nations League 2024: schedule and results

The third and last match of the day at the Maracanãzinho will reunite South American rivals Brazil and Argentina, who will try to recover from opening-match upsets at 21:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Friday).

Friday’s schedule in Rio de Janeiro will have Cuba facing Japan at 14:00 local time (17:00 GMT), Iran meeting Italy at 17:30 local time (20:30 GMT) and Brazil battling Serbia at 21:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Saturday).

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