China ready to challenge Iran’s long Asian reign | Inquirer Sports

China ready to challenge Iran’s long Asian reign

By: - Reporter / @jwpayoINQ
/ 03:08 AM April 08, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — Boosted by a slew of national mainstays, China will challenge Iran’s reign in the 2014 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship starting Tuesday at Mall of Asia Arena.

China, represented by club team Baic Motors, beefed up its roster with national players Liu Changdeng and Bao Xisheng.

Already a contender in Chinese leagues, Baic Motors also tapped veteran international spikers Hu Song, Kang Kang, Wang Chen, Hu Xizhao, Chu Hui and He Jingzhao and Canadian reinforcement Frederic Winters. Winters, a professional volleyball player, also suited up for Canada’s national team.

Iran, represented by the Matin Varamin club, has won nine championships and heads into this edition’s games as the heavy favorites.

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But coach Daniele Bagnoli downplayed Iran status as the team to beat in the 16-nation tournament.

“This year will be more difficult,” said Bagnoli, whose Iranian squad will be skippered by Mir Saeid Marouf. “Other teams are stronger and they’ve gotten better players.”

Baic Motors, which will represent China for the first time, was established in the 1950s and built a winning tradition starting in the ’70s when it ruled the National Games and Leagues.

It has also been a strong contender in the competitive Chinese volleyball leagues the past decade.

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China bagged the tournament’s inaugural crown in 1999 with the Sichuan Fulan squad.

Other club teams that carried China’s colors were Jin Hang Wang, Shanghai Cable TV, Shanghai Oriental and 2012 runner-up Shaghai Tang Dynasty.

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Iran prevailed seven times with the Paykan Tehran Club (2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011) and once with Sanam Tehran (2004) and Kalle Mazandaran (2013).

China banners Pool D that also includes United Arab Emirates, Papua New Guinea and Chinese Taipei, while Iran is in Pool B along with Japan, Lebanon and Vietnam.

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Host Philippines, represented by the PLDT HOME TVolution team, battles Iraq and Mongolia in Pool A, while Pool C features Qatar, Kazakhstan, Oman, Hong Kong and Turkmenistan.

TAGS: China, Iran, Volleyball

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