AMIN ESMAEILNEZHAD (IRI) SPIKES

Esmaeilnezhad's 14 points were pivotal to the Iranian triumph

Iran didn’t stay outside the qualification zone for the Volleyball Nations League 2022 Finals for too long. One day after seeing Slovenia take the eighth place in the standings from them, the reigning Asian champions had the chance to return to their previous spot in a match against their European rivals in Gdansk, Poland, and took it back without hesitation.

With opposite Amin Esmaeilnezhad leading the way with 14 points, the Iranians swept (26-24, 25-14, 25-21) Slovenia to retake the eighth place in the standings and get closer to making the trip to Bologna, Italy, between July 20-24 to compete in the VNL Finals.

· Watch all VNL 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

With the victory, Iran now have six wins and 17 points. They are still threatened by Slovenia (five wins, 15 points) and Serbia (four wins, 11 points) and will have the chance to book their tickets to Bologna when they play the Serbians on Saturday, at 17.00 local time (15.00 GMT), in their final match in the Preliminary Phase.

“I’d like to congratulate our entire team,” Iranian captain and outside hitter Milad Ebadipour said after the match. “It was a really important match for us, we knew it would be a key game if we wanted to qualify for the Finals because both teams were so close in the standings. We expected a really tough match and there was a little emotion at the end, but we managed it well. Our younger players grew a lot between the start of the VNL and now and they’re becoming amazing players. But it’s not over yet and we need to keep that same level in our last match.”

Esmaeilnezhad’s production of 14 points was built with 11 kills and three aces. He also scored one of the most pivotal points in the match to end the first set 26-24 by making use of the Slovenian block in a play that influenced the outcome of the match.

Amin Esmaeilnezhad Points Made Leader in Slovenia vs. Iran

Ebadipour and fellow outside hitter Amirhossein Esfandiar also had double-digit performances for the winners, with the captain tallying 12 points (ten kills, one block, one ace) and his 23-year-old teammate adding another ten (eight kills, one block, one ace).

The most productive Slovenian player on the court was outside hitter Klemen Cebulj, who had 11 points (ten kills, one block) and was the only player on his team to score ten points or more.

In order to qualify for the Finals, Slovenia will need to defeat reigning world champions Poland on Sunday in their last Preliminary Phase match and hope either the Netherlands lose both of their remaining matches or that Iran don’t defeat Serbia.