Quang Ninh, Vietnam, May 20, 2022 – In-form Vietnam defied against all odds to stun former eight-time champions Thailand with fantastic comeback to reach the men’s final showdown for the third time in history in the 31st Southeast Asian Games Volleyball Tournament at Quang Ninh Gymnasium here on Friday.

Against formidable Thailand in the Friday’s do-or-die semifinals, Vietnam, cheered on lustily by partisan crowd of over 2,000 at the competition venue, suffered the first set loss 17-25, take the next two sets 25-23, 25-17, go down in the closely-contested fourth set 23-25 and capture the decider 15-13 for the eventual 3-2 win and a place in the Sunday’s showdown.

Talented Quan Trong Nghia and Duong Van Tien chipped in with 19 points apiece to steer the host side to the dramatic win, while Napadet Bhinijdee scored a match-high 24 points including 20 attacks and 2 aces on Thailand’s losing effort. Kissada Nilsawai produced team-leading 7 solid blocks and left-hander Amorntep Konhan carried out 3 aces to assist the team, but their intentions were to no avail.

Thailand made a strong start in the opening set as devastating Amorntep’s powerful serving and attacking proved a thorn in the Vietnamese defence, while Kissada’s effective fast spikes and blocking ability helped the Thai outfit wrap up the comfortable set 25-17.

The second set was still dominated briefly by Thailand, which led with a three-point advantage at 19-16 before the home side gradually pulled their game together and hit back aggressively to catch the tough opponents at 21-21 and 23-23 and went on to surge ahead the Thais to win the second set 25-23.

Thailand’s standard of play failed to reach great heights in the third set as they were errors-strewn. Though packed with talents, too often they suffered from unforced serving and attacking errors and a lack of communication when the going gets tough. Those hasty mistakes caused them dear when Thailand went down 17-25 to the gallant Vietnamese.

The fourth set turned out to be a see-saw battle, with leads changing hands for several times. At 21-21, Thailand maintained their poise and bounced back in style to take the crucial set 25-23 for a 2-2 tie, forcing a tie-break to decide the eventual winners in this match.

Both sides poured everything in the decider with high hopes of winning the set, match and a final berth. Levelling 13-13, Vietnam still played cool under pressure, delighting the cheering home fans  with two straight points to capture the dramatic 3-2 win and completely dash out Thai dreams of making the cut for the final.

Vietnam will go up against defending and 10-time SEA Games champions Indonesia, which have yet lost a match to their respective rivals en route to the Sunday’s showdown.

Despite a 1-3 loss at the hands of Indonesia in the round-robin Pool A preliminaries, Vietnam look to take revenge on the mighty Indonesians to seek their unprecedented SEA Games title. Vietnam advanced to the SEA Games final twice in 2007 against Indonesia and in 2015 against Thailand but they lost them all. So far, Vietnam claimed two silver and four bronze medals in the previous SEA Games.

Thailand faced the similar fate as they did in the previous edition in Philippines in 2019. There, Thailand went down 2-3 to the host side in the semifinals despite winning the first set. At the on-going Vietnam SEA Games, the Thai team also confronted the similar situation, resulting in two times in a row that Thailand had to contest the consolation third-place playoff. This time, Thailand will take on Cambodia to vie for bronze medal.

The first semifinal clash earlier saw title-holders Indonesia, offensively strong with the likes of ace spiker Rivan Nurmulki, continue their unbeaten run in the 31st SEA Games following their dramatic four-set 25-18, 25-15, 22-25, 25-16 win against Cambodia.

Rivan Nurmulki, who played professionally in the Japan’s V.League in the previous season, weighed in with 18 points including 17 attacks for Indonesia, while Yuda Mardiansyah Putra assisted the team after scoring a match-high 8 blocks and Farhan Halim claimed a team-leading 4 aces. Veasna Voeurn led Cambodia with 14 points including 12 attacks.

In the 5th-6th playoff match, Philippines and Myanmar played with almost the similar standard which resulted in a hotly-contested clash ending 3-2 (26-24, 22-25, 25-22, 27-29, 16-14) in exhausting 124 minutes in favour of Philippines. Philippines returned with the 5th place, while Myanmar claimed the sixth position.

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