0334 GMT August 15, 2022
New Iran head coach Behrouz Ataei announced the 15-man squad for the upcoming Asian Men's Volleyball Championship.
Following a frustrating Olympics campaign, the Asian powerhouse will be back in Japan to begin its defense against Hong Kong on September 12 in Pool B, which also features Thailand and Pakistan.
Ataei, who replaces Russian Vladimir Alekno, has picked a new-look team for the event, as only five players – Milad Ebadipour, Meisam Salehi, Ali-Asghar Mojarrad, Saber Kazemi, and Javad Karimi – were in the squad at the recently-finished Tokyo Games, which saw Iran being knock out at the group stage.
They will be joined by Amir-Hossein Esfandiar, Esmaeil Mosafer, Ali Ramezani, Reza Abedini, Amir-Hossein Toukhteh, Mehdi Jelveh, Bardia Sa’adat, Mohammadreza Hazratpour, Abolfaz Qolipour, and Amin Esmaeilnejad at the competition.
World-class setter Saeed Maroof, who announced his retirement from the international duty after the Olympics, as well as middle blocker Seyyed Mohammad Mousavi and opposite spiker Amir Ghafour will be the key absentees for Iran in Japan.
“The Olympic players are surely tired, both mentally and physically, not to mention many of them have been regular members of the [Iranian] squad in major tournaments over the past 9-10 years,” Ataei said of his team selection, while he added there will be a rotation within the team throughout the tournament so that all players will find the chance to show their qualities.
Ataei, who led Iran to a memorable world under-21 title in 2019, said he is planning to use a mix of young and experienced players, if he remains in charge, adding, “Ghafour and Mousavi will definitely get a call-up in the future, and I’ll also try to convince Maroof to get back to the national team.”
The Asian championship could be considered as the beginning of a new chapter for Iran, which now sees Japan reemerge as a tough opponent in the continent.
Iran was beaten in five sets by Japan on the final day of the group phase in Tokyo, having suffered a straight-sets defeat against the Asian side at the Volleyball Nations League in May.
Iran was also overtaken by Japan in the latest FIVB Men’s World Ranking – released Monday – as the top Asian side.
Japan stood in the 11th spot with 252 points – one place above Iran, which collected 239 points.
Also in the Asian Volleyball Championship, the host is pitted in Pool A against India, Qatar, and Bahrain, with Australia – runner-up in 2019 – facing China, Sri Lanka, and Kuwait in Pool C.
Pool D will see South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia squaring off for knockout spots.