Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, October 9, 2016 – Hosts Thailand secured a berth to contest the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship Asian Zone Final Round following a fantastic comeback 3-1 (24-26 25-18 25-23 25-20) victory over Vietnam in their second round-robin encounter at the Nakhon Pathom Municipality Gymnasium in Nakhon Pathom on Sunday.
Thailand brushed off Myanmar in straight sets in their Friday’s opening match of the 2018 FIVB Men’s World Championship Southeast Asian Zonal Qualification Tournament. Myanmar suffered another straight-set defeat on Saturday at the hands of Vietnam in the single round-robin competition, resulting in their shattered dreams at the 2018 World Championship campaign.
In a rematch of the last year’s Singapore South East Asian (SEA) Games final, world No.42 Thailand, which finished seventh at the last week’s AVC Cup for Men at the same competition venue, remained strong in their starting line-up with the likes of ace spiker Jirayu Raksakaew, Kittikun Sri-utthawong, Kitsada Somkane and Kissada Nilsawai, most of them have been playing together for several years. Vietnam also sent in a formidable squad which thrashed Myanmar in comfortable straight sets the previous day including Nguyen Huu Ha, Tu Thanh Thuan and Giang Van Duc.
A large number of home enthusiasts cheered on their team from the very beginning of the battle, but Vietnam put the drum-beating fans under their feet as the visitors took an early 15-12 lead in the first set. Thailand clawed their way back to catch up with them at 19-19 and again 23-23. A thundering attack from Jirayu handed Thailand a crucial set point 24-23, but they just let the first-set win slip through their fingers. Kissada produced an erratic serve, while an attack from Jirayu went wide. As Vietnam were leading narrowly 25-24, Tu Thanh Thuan carried out a powerful jump serve which went unanswered. Vietnam took the hard-fought first set 26-24.
Young Mawin Maneewong replaced setter Boonyarid Wongtorn in the second set and the 193cm-tall setter performed brilliantly. With Mawin and Kissada in excellent combination, Thailand had a good run to lead from the start to finish for the scintillating 25-18 win in this set.
With an aim of turning the table on Thailand, Vietnam came back much stronger in the third set to lead initially 3-1. However, their awesome form was short-lived as Thailand bounced back aggressively, with Jirayu and Kissada penetrating the Vietnamese defence with their attacks. Kissada moved Thailand ahead 24-21, but Vietnam saved two set points before the host side snatched the closely-contested set 25-23.
Holding a 2-1 advantage, Thailand continued their remarkable form in the fourth set with aggressive attacks and solid blocks. Leading 24-19 for good, Thailand allowed the crack visitors only one more point to capture the set 25-20 and match.
Jirayu Raksakaew scored a team-high 24 points for Thailand including 23 kills from 34 attempts. Kissada Nilsawai assisted with 16 kills and 6 solid blocks. Tu Thanh Thuan top scored with 19 points for Vietnam including 16 kills. Nguyen Hoang Thuong contributed with 5 kill blocks.
With two straight wins, Thailand top the leader charge with six points and emerged as the Southeast Asian winners to clinch a berth for the next year’s Asian Zone Final Round, which will see the Asia’s top five teams in the world ranking as of January 1, 2017 and five winners from each Asian Zones split into two pools of five for a single round-robin competition. Only top two teams from each pool (four Asian teams in total) will make the cut for the 24-team 2018 FIVB Men’s World Championship Finals in Italy and Bulgaria.
Vietnam finished second with three points, while winless Myanmar came in third place.
“It’s a good rematch of the last year’s SEA Games final. There, in Singapore, we beat them in straight sets, but here, they came much stronger. In the first set, we played nervously as we just tried to perform our best in front of home crowds. In the second set, we changed the setter and things were getting better and better after that. Kissada did a good job with his fast attacks. After this, we will allow our team players to compete for their own clubs at the Thailand League before calling them for an intensive training in preparation for the next year’s SEA Games, the Asian Championship in Indonesia and the World Championship Qualification Asian Zone Finals. Our team is a mixture between six young bloods and six veterans, but we excelled through teamwork. I believed that young players in our team will have a bright future,” Thailand’s head coach Monchai Supajirakul commented after the match.
Friday, October 7: Thailand b Myanmar 3-0 (27-25 25-17 25-22)
Saturday, October 8: Vietnam b Myanmar 3-0 (25-20 25-13 25-18)
Sunday, October 9: Thailand b Vietnam 3-1 (24-26 25-18 25-23 25-20)
1. Thailand 6 points …….qualified for 2018 World Championship Qualification Tournament Asian Zone Final Round
2. Vietnam 3 points
3. Myanmar 0 point.