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S. Korea eliminated in Olympic men's volleyball qualifying tournament

All News 19:49 January 11, 2020

SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea crashed out of the Asian Olympic men's volleyball qualifying tournament on Saturday, following a loss to Iran in the first knockout match of the competition.

A desperate comeback effort by the 24th-ranked South Korea fell just short, as world No. 8 Iran prevailed 3-2 (22-25, 25-21, 25-18, 22-25, 15-13) in the semifinals of the qualifying event at Jiangmen Sports Center Gymnasium in Jiangmen, China.

South Korea has now lost 10 of its past 11 meetings against Iran.

Jeon Kwang-in had a match-best 16 points in the losing cause. Iran dominated South Korea in blocks with a 17-7 advantage.

In this photo provided by FIVB on Jan. 11, 2020, Jeon Kwang-in of South Korea (R) watches the ball after his spike against Iran during the teams' semifinals match at the Asian Olympic men's volleyball qualification tournament at Jiangmen Sports Center Gymnasium in Jiangmen, China. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Only the winner of this qualifying tournament will compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The other semifinals match will pit Qatar against China later Saturday.

South Korea hasn't played in the Olympic men's volleyball tournament since 2000.

The pesky South Koreans surprised Iran by taking the opening set. Park Chul-woo's ace, Jeon Kwang-in's spike and Choi Min-ho's block helped stake South Korea to a 16-10 lead. Iran cut the deficit to 23-22, before Choi and Park got the final two points for South Korea.

But that only seemed to have poked the bear, as Iran claimed the next two sets with an array of powerful spikes and timely blocks.

South Korea refused to go down so easily, taking a 13-9 lead in the fourth set. Iran kept eating into that deficit, and a block on a Jeon Kwang-in spike made it an 18-18 tie.

The teams kept trading points until it got to 22-22. South Korea then scored three straight points, the highlights being Hwang Taek-eui's ace and Park Chul-woo's kill.

But South Korea ran out of steam in the deciding fifth set. Iran scored the first two points of the frame, prompting South Korean coach Im Do-hun to call a quick timeout.

Iran never trailed in the fifth set, though South Korea tried to conjure up one last fight. Down 13-9, South Korea got three consecutive points, only to see Jeon Kwang-in's serve fault set up a match point.

Iran committed a serve fault of its own to give South Korea life, but Milad Ebadipour's spike finished off the set and the match.

In this photo provided by FIVB on Jan. 11, 2020, Jung Ji-seok of South Korea (R) hits a spike against Milad Ebadipour (L) and Ali Shafiei of Iran during the teams' semifinals match at the Asian Olympic men's volleyball qualification tournament at Jiangmen Sports Center Gymnasium in Jiangmen, China. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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