Bangkok, Thailand, November 6, 2019 – As perennial champions Thailand have already turned indomitable giants not to be toppled easily in the forthcoming 30th South East Asian (SEA) Games, the Philippines have to go to great lengths if they have eyes on a top three finish on home soil.
Only four teams confirmed their participation in the women’s volleyball competition in the Games, a biennial regional multi-sport event which will be hosted by the Philippines from November 30 to December 11, 2019. Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam will be pitted against one another in a single round-robin preliminary round.
After conclusion of the three-day preliminaries, top two teams will renew their rivalry in the final showdown, where the eventual winning team will be crowned the 30th SEA Games champions. The teams finishing third and fourth places in the preliminaries will battle it out in the third-place playoff encounter, with the winning team settling for bronze medal.
With greater experience and form than their SEA Games opponents, Thailand are once again seen as hot favourites to win the title. Thailand, current world No.14 and silver medallists at this year’s Seoul-hosted Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship in Korea and second place at the last year’s Asian Games in Indonesia, remain strong with the likes of veterans Onuma Sittirak, Wilavan Apinyappong, setter Nootsara Tomkom, Pleumjit Thinkaow and Malika Kanthong, all of them competed in the team which had won the Asian crown twice in 2009 in Vietnam and 2013 on home soil in Nakhon Ratchasima.
Furthermore, young stars such as Chatchu-on Moksri and Pimpichaya Kokram have already proved to be major forces of Thailand to be reckoned with in this year’s SEA Games.
Thailand captured their unprecedented SEA Games medal in 1977, the first time the volleyball competition took place, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where they returned with bronze medal. Nonetheless, after that Thailand suffered a sudden slump to return empty-handed for consecutive three SEA Games (1979, 1981 and 1983). They made the country proud by winning the first-ever SEA Games gold medal in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur and repeated the similar feat two years later in Manila, the Philippines.
In the Singapore edition in 1993, Thailand picked up silver, leaving the Filipinas to steal the show with gold medal. However, the Thai squad have made their mark since then to stamp their credentials with unchallenged wins in 11 SEA Games, only in the 1999 edition in Brunei, where the volleyball competition was not held.
In the recent inaugural four-a-side Asean Grand Prix, split into the first leg in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand and the second leg in the Philippines, Thailand, coached by Danai Sriwacharamaytakul, did not lose a match to their respective rivals in the single round robin to reign supreme at both legs. Therefore, their campaign of SEA Games title defence in the Philippines this time remains a mission well within their reach.
Meanwhile, the Philippines also proved to be a tough nut to crack in the biennial sports extravaganza. As Thailand reaped 13 gold medals in the SEA Games history, the Philippines came in second place overall with 6 gold medals including a sweep at the first three SEA Games including in Malaysia in 1977 and Indonesia in 1979.
The Philippines, strengthened by powerful attackers Alyssa Valdez, Jovelyn Gonzaga and Frances Xinia Molina, finished third place at both legs of the recent Asean Grand Prix, snatching one set from hosts Thailand in the first leg.
With a large number of home fans expected to flock to the competing venue on game day, the Philippines tend to create a great home field advantage and even in losing efforts, they still give their fans much to cheer. Two stunning wins against Vietnam at both legs of this year’s Asean Grand Prix has also boosted the Philippines’ morale and confidence to repeat the same thing in the coming SEA Games and that means a top three finish can be within their reach. If that ultimate mission is fulfilled, it will be the first time in 14 years for the Philippines to win a SEA Games medal since they last took bronze medal in 2005 on home soil in Manila.
Indonesia, which captured the lone SEA Games gold medal in 1983 in Singapore, also proved that they remain one of the strong teams to be recked with in this year’s SEA Games. After taking bronze medal in 1997 at home, Indonesia did not make top three in the next three editions (2001-2003-2005), but cliched bronze medal from 2007 to 2015.
At the previous edition in Kuala Lumpur two years ago, the Indonesians, powered by ace spiker April Manganang, stunned consecutive 8-time silver medallists Vietnam in the semi-finals but went down to the eventual winners Thailand in the final clash to claim silver medal.
Indonesia, though playing without April Manganang, who sustained an injury and needed a three-month rest from July, finished second place at both legs of the recent Asean Grand Prix. With or without April Manganang in their team for the 30th SEA Games in the Philippines, Indonesia are expected to mount a strong challenge against all oppositions.
Vietnam, with powerful Tran Thi Thanh Thuy at the helm, are still upbeat for a strong comeback in this year’s SEA Games after their disappointing third-place finish at the previous Games two years ago. Their dismal form at both legs of the recent Asean Grand Prix, where they returned with bottom fourth place without winning a match, put a question mark on Vietnam in the 2019 SEA Games. However, with several veterans called back to strengthen the team for the Games, Vietnam are expected to regain their form and revive their fortunes in the regional competition in Philippines.
The 30th SEA Games in the Philippines will serve as a tournament warm-up for Indonesia and Thailand ahead of their tough task at the AVC Women’s Tokyo Volleyball Qualification at Chatchai Hall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand between January 7 and 12, 2020.
According to SEA Games match schedule, the women’s competition will kick off on December 3, 2019 at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig, with title-holders Thailand taking on Indonesia and hosts Philippines playing Vietnam.
After three days of the single round robin (December 3, 5 and 7), the final day of the Games competition will take place on December 9 in the third-place playoff and the gold medal match.
MATCH SCHEDULE (All local times)
DECEMBER 3, 2019
3.30pm: Thailand vs Indonesia
6pm: Philippines vs Vietnam
DECEMBER 5, 2019
3.30pm: Vietnam vs Indonesia
6pm: Philippines vs Thailand
DECEMBER 7, 2019
3.30pm: Thailand vs Vietnam
6pm: Philippines vs Indonesia
DECEMBER 9, 2019
3.30pm: Bronze medal match
6pm: Gold medal match
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