Varna, Bulgaria, September 13, 2018 – It took Iran three attempts but the Asian Games champions finally managed to overcome Bulgaria at an FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship. In all four sets the home team was trailing at the second technical break. In all four they tried to mount a late comeback but succeeded only in one. A 3-1 (25-22, 25-20, 22-25, 25-19) win got Iran level on points with world champions Poland at the top of Pool D.
It was the third meeting between these teams in an FIVB Men’s World Championship. But unlike in the two previous two (straight-set wins for Bulgaria in 1970 and 2006) all the expectations were for a tight affair.
And it was. The hosts started nervously and didn’t win a single point on their own serve until Seyed Eraghi's attack in the net at 8-13. Bulgaria was outdone by their own mistakes. Todor Skrimov had two aces but another two of his attempts weren’t even close to going over the net. In fact setter Seganov was the only one from the starting six without a serve error in the opening set. At 12-19 local boy Miroslav Gradinarov came on as a substitute and provided the much needed spark. Bulgaria closed the gap to just two points but at 21-23 a great block by Ali Shafiei ensured that Iran got the first blood.
The well of errors dried out in the early stages of the second set. Not for long as it turned out. After leading 8-7 at the first technical break Bulgaria went on a tail spin winning just 2 of the next 9 points. And for a second set in a row despite a late surge The Lions fell short – 20-25.
There were many long faces on the Bulgarian bench during the break. It was libero Teodor Salparov who tried to rally the troops. And he led by example. Three excellent digs in the backcourt in the longest point of the match tied the score at 18-18. Then head coach Plamen Konstantinov made a key video challenge for 21-19 and after that it was Viktor Yosifov’s time. A monster block and monster smash by the captain finally put Bulgaria on the board – 25-22.
After seven ties to start the fourth set, back-to-back aces by Nikolay Penchev broke the deadlock. Iran tied at 12-12, won five of the next seven points and although the hosts twice got within one there was no stopping the Asians.
Manavinezhad Mohammadjavad led the winners in scoring with 21. Seyed Eraghi and Amir Ghafour each added 11.
Todor Skrimov was top scorer for Bulgaria with 17 points but only one in the final set as he played through an ankle injury.