Florence, Italy, September 16, 2018 – Even though he played for three sets only, Bram Van den Dries top scored with 18 points for Belgium as the Red Dragons beat Japan 3-1 (14-25, 25-23, 25-14, 25-19) on Sunday at Mandela Forum in Florence. This means that Van den Dries has become the tournament’s top scorer for Belgium with 60 points this far. Tomas Rousseaux made up for a shaky start as he scored 15 times to help Belgium virtually secure their spot in the next round of the competition.
On the Japanese side, Yuji Nishida delivered a remarkable performance with a total of 20 points, including nine from the first set. Belgium had never defeated Japan before this game in any world-level major tournaments, however this time the Red Dragons were the favourites and Japan the underdogs.
The Japanese setter Naonobu Fujii and opposite Nishida paved the way towards a massive 15-8 lead in the first set. Quite surprisingly, Japan’s blocking game was effective as well to help further extend the advantage and two straight aces from Nishida sealed a massive 25-14 win for Japan.
Middle blocker Pieter Verhees replaced Pieter Coolman in the second set, which meant Japan started making more mistakes to find a way through the Belgian block. Slowly but surely, Belgium played more relaxed, with good actions by Rousseaux. Japan had to play faster even with the wing spikers, but Belgium edged ahead at 21-18 as Van den Dries scored from every corner of the court to record nine points towards a 25-23 win for the Red Dragons.
At last, Belgium’s main asset, their blocking game, began to work, and despite some block-outs, the Red Dragons claimed 8-4 and 16-9 leads at the technical timeouts of the third set. The contribution of Van den Dries was fundamental with zero mistakes and some winning attacks. A three-point run by Deroo from the service line allowed the Red Dragons to further break away and claim a comprehensive 25-14 win. Belgium recorded six blocks, 16 attacks and a terrific 88% of perfect receptions in this set.
At the beginning of the fourth set, Japan improved their reception and thanks to a mix of fast plays, attacking combinations, excellent defenses and dangerous serves, they claimed a 12-10 lead. Belgium got back on track with Deroo’s diagonal spikes and an ace for 17-15. Rousseaux was on fire with four points of his own to contribute to a 23-17 Belgian advantage. A Japanese service error sealed the match for the Belgians at 25-19 and their 3-1 victory as well.