India oust Belgium to enter semis

Hosts to take on Brazil; Cuba play Argentina


We’ve done it! Indian players celebrate their win over Belgium in Pune on Thursday.

Forced into a must-win situation after their loss to Argentina on Wednesday, the Indians  pulled off a thrilling 18-25, 25-19, 25-16, 22-25, 15-11 victory to finish in second place behind toppers Argentina in Group E.

Expressing delight after booking their last-four spot, coach MH Kumara said credit must be given to the team for pulling themselves up after the Argentina thrashing. “After the Argentina match, the entire squad was down and out. We had even lost our pre-tournament warm up to them. The squad was completely shattered. However, we realised that if we beat Belgium we would be in the semis.

“It was nearly the same squad that we beat in the World U-19 championships in Mexico. That gave us the motivation and we immediately got down analysing all their videos and re-worked our strategy. The boys stuck to gameplan and it all paid off,” added Kumara.

In the semifinal on Saturday, India will take on defending champions and Group F toppers Brazil, who thumped Cuba 25-22, 25-14, 25-22. Despite the loss, Cuba qualified for the semis and will take on Argentina after the latter posted a comfortable 25-19, 25-23, 25-18 win over former champions Russia. Facundo Conte, Sebastian Rodrigo and Pablo Crer Sole spearheaded the Argentine attack. Argentina Coach Juan Manuel Cichello said, “It was a very tough game for us. After the loss to Belgium, we have been playing very well. We are happy to be in the semi finals and both Brazil and Cuba would be very tough opponents.”

Russia coach Vladimir Kondra said,”Today’s game was the most difficult game we have faced through the tournament. Three of our players were injured and I think Argentina has a great chance to win this tournament.”

Meanwhile, Iran snatched a 3-2 (23-25, 25-21, 25-18, 20-25, 15-10) victory over United States in the other Group F contest. Iran’s Arash Kamalvand, Mojtaba Gheyasi and Alireza Jadidi played a vital role in the win.

Iran finished the second round with a 1-2 record, while USA was last in the pool having lost all their second round games. Both teams will compete in the classification 5-8 pool starting on Saturday.

Agencies

Results: Group E: India bt Belgium 3-2 (18-25, 25-19, 25-16, 22-25, 15-11); Argentina bt Russia 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-18). Group F: Iran bt USA 3-2 (23-25, 25-21, 25-18, 20-25, 15-10); Brazil bt Cuba 3-0 (25-22, 25-14, 25-22). Group G: France lt to Poland 2-3 (24-26, 25-20, 25-16, 20-25, 12-15); Belarus bt Egypt 3-1 (15-25, 25-19, 26-24, 25-17). Group H: Canada bt Greece 3-1 (26-24, 18-25, 25-22, 25-18).

Semifinal line-up: Brazil vs India; Argentina vs Cuba.

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