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Canada stuns world no. 3 Japan, Brazil survives Netherlands in VNL Manila opener

VNL in Manila: Canada vs Japan

Canada pulled off a major upset against higher-ranked Japan in a thriller, 25-21, 20-25, 25-15, 20-25, 15-10, to kick off the Manila leg of the 2024 Men's Volleyball Nations League (VNL) on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The world no. 12 Canada bolstered its playoff chances and improved to 5-4 to remain seated at seventh spot while the world no. 3 Japan absorbed its third loss in nine games to stay at sixth place.

The Canadians leaned on the offensive firepower of veteran outside hitter Stephen Timothy Maar, who poured in 24 attacks anchored on 22 attacks and service aces while opposite hitter Arthur Szwarc and Eric Leoppky chipped in 15 markers apiece as they gave the crowd favorite Japan a rude start in the crucial Week 3.

Canada banked on its height and might at the net, unleashing 12 huge blocks against Japan, which had a surprise bronze medal finish in the previous VNL edition.

A rejection on Ran Takahashi saw Canada zooming to a 6-3 cushion in the fifth set. But back-to-back denials by Danny Demyanenko against Japanese team captain Yuki Ishikawa proved to be the game changer as it allowed Canada to secure a 10-6 advantage.

Another block from Szwarc against Ishikawa had Canada enjoying a much-needed 12-7 lead. But it was Fynnian McCarthy's powerful quick attack that sealed the upset victory for Canada.

Ishikawa and Yuji Nishida paced Japan after they grabbed 19 points apiece while Takahashi was limited to just 13.

In the first game, Brazil overcame a first set hiccup to eke out a 24-26, 25-23, 31-29, 25-20 win against Netherlands to improve to 6-3 while the latter slipped to a 3-6 card.

Young opposite hitter Darlan Ferreira starred for Brazil, putting on a show with a 26-point outburst that saw him hammering 20 attacks, three blocks, and three aces while Lucas Saatkamp chimed in with 12.

Brazil's win spoiled the 38-point explosion from Netherlands' team captain Nimir Abdel-Aziz.

—JMB, GMA Integrated News