Argentina (ARG) vs. Canada (CAN) men - Pool C #7176023

Canada’s Danny Demyanenko in action

Just a day after starting their Pool C campaign in the men’s FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers with a win over higher-ranked Netherlands, Canada upset one more favourite in Xi’an, this time defeating Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallists and reigning South American champions Argentina in four sets on Sunday.

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In the first game of the day in China, the world’s number 13 team Canada celebrated a over Argentina, who entered the tournament ranked sixth in the world. In the first set, the North Americans recovered from a four-point deficit to win it in the overtime. They rode the momentum to stay well in control in the second. In the third, it was time for the South Americans to overturn a four-point opponent lead to stay alive in the match, but the fourth was all about Canada and claiming their second win of the tournament, with outside hitter Eric Loeppky acing the match winner for a convincing 25-15 close.

Loepkky finished with 15 points, including two aces and two kill blocks, but that made him only the third best scorer of the match. Above him, cross-court teammate Stephen Maar and opposite Arthur Szwarc shared the top scorer honours with 16 points apiece. On Argentina’s side, opposite Bruno Lima and outside Luciano Vicentin led the scorers with 14 and 13 points, respectively. It was the unforced errors (38 from Argentina against 25 from Canada) that mainly tilted the outcome Canada’s way. The northerners also outplayed the southerners in blocking (10-5 in stuffs), while the Argentineans did better in attack (51-47 in spike kills) and in serving (6-5 in aces).

"In the first set, we started slow, but we came back to the game rally by rally and won the first set, which was important as that gave us a lot of confidence," commented Canada’s Finnish head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo. "And then when we lost the third set, it did not affect our game in any way. So bravo to the guys for that! We will keep calm, focused on getting better with each game, recover and have energy for the next matches."

The Netherlands, on the other hand, bounced back from Saturday’s loss to Canada with an emphatic shutout of Mexico on Sunday, handing the North Americans their second straight-set loss of the tournament. Star opposite and captain Nimir Abdel-Aziz led the way with 20 points, including four aces and two kill blocks, while spiking at a 54% success rate.

Big favourites Poland survived a first-set scare, denying a Bulgarian set point before Bartosz Bednorz could turn things around with two consecutive kill blocks for 26-24. The FIVB World Ranking leaders then went on to control the next two sets on the way to a sweep and their second win in the pool. Bednorz led the Poles with 16 points, including three blocks, while Bulgaria’s star opposite and captain Tsvetan Sokolov was once again the top scorer with 20 points, including three aces and a block.

In the last match of the day, hosts China managed to win their first set of the tournament, but Belgium proved stronger on the way to a victory. Outside hitter and captain Sam Deroo was on fire with four aces and three kill blocks to top the scorers’ chart with 25 points. Spiking at a 63% success rate, opposite Ferre Reggers added another 24, including three blocks and an ace. Yu Yuantai, Zhang Guanhua and Dai Qingyao led China with 17, 15 and 14 points, respectively.

After a rest day on Monday, the matches in Pool C will resume on Tuesday.