Men's Club World Champs 2023 - News.

Halkbank Spor Kulübü (TUR) (HBK) vs. Suntory Sunbirds (JPN) (SUN) men - Pool B #8478098

The Suntory Sunbirds had an excellent start to their first Club World Championship campaign

The first Japanese team to ever appear at the FIVB Men’s Volleyball Club World Championship, the Suntory Sunbirds were the sensations of the opening day of the 2023 edition of the tournament, securing an unlikely victory in Bengaluru, India, on Wednesday.

The Asians had a brilliant performance to top Türkiye’s Halkbank Spor Kulübü in the opening match of Pool B and start ahead in the race for the semifinal spots. Pool A also had one match on Wednesday, with Brazil’s Itambé Minas beating the home team Ahmedabad Defenders.

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The reigning Asian champions, the Sunbirds entered the duel against Halkbank, who have French superstar Earvin Ngapeth and Dutch opposite Nimir Abdel-Aziz in their squad, as the underdogs, but they defied the odds to stun their European opponents with an emphatic 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-16) victory.

Cuban outside hitter Alain Junior ‘AJ’ De Armas was a key player in the Sunbirds’ triumph, leading all scorers with 15 points (nine kills, three aces, three blocks), one more than Olympic champion opposite Dmitriy Muserskiy.

“It was a great day,” De Armas said. “We knew the opponents were really strong, so we were just trying to have fun on the court. I didn’t really have much of a strategy when I was hitting, I just kept scoring points and I’m happy that we managed to win. We’re going to give our best again tomorrow against Sada.”

The 23-year-old De Armas is currently in his fourth season with the Sunbirds after arriving in the 2020-2021 season from Cuba's La Habana. He was selected for the Asian Club Championship Dream Team when the Japanese side took the title earlier this year.

Halkbank got ten points from Ngapeth and another eight from Nimir, but it was Canadian outside hitter Gordon Perrin who emerged as their top scorer with 11 points, all in kills.

The Sunbirds can book their spot in the semifinals on Thursday, when they face four-time world champions Sada Cruzeiro Vôlei of Brazil at 17:00 local time (11:30 GMT). Halkbank, on the other hand, will have to top the Brazilians when the teams meet on Friday to keep their hopes of advancing to the medal rounds alive.

FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship - Match Schedule and Results

Minas sweep Defenders

The Defenders, who also became the first team in their country to compete at the Men’s Club World Championship, didn’t have the same success, starting their campaign in Bengaluru with a defeat. The Indians were dominated by last year’s semifinalists Minas, who walked away with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-19) victory in the second and last match of the day.

Minas also had a Cuban playing a major role in their opening-match triumph as veteran opposite Michael Sanchez led the team against the Defenders with 20 points (17 kills, two blocks, one ace). Outside hitter Paulo Vinicios Ferreira was the other player in the Brazilian team to get to double digits in scoring with ten points.

"Opening matches are never easy and we're happy that we got the win," middle blocker Isac Santos reflected. "We made a few mistakes, which was expected for an opening match, but were able to keep a good rhythm throughout the match. This result gives us the confidence to keep working for a spot on the podium."

The Defenders got 13 points (12 kills, one ace) from outside hitter Amit Singh.

Ahmedabad Defenders (IND) (AHM) vs. Itambé Minas (BRA) (MIN) men - Pool A #8480336

Minas' Marcos Vinícius Coelho celebrates a point

The Brazilian team will have a bigger challenge on Thursday, at 20:30 local time (15:00 GMT), when they play defending champions and Italian giants Sir Sicoma Perugia – Italians and Indians will complete pool play on Friday, at the same time.

The top two teams in each pool will advance to the semifinals, which will be played on Saturday in Bengaluru. The medal matches will end the event on Sunday.

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