PAKISTAN, QATAR SET UP AVC CHALLENGE CUP FINAL TO FIGHT FOR LONE BERTH IN FIVB CHALLENGER CUP IN CHINA

PAKISTAN, QATAR SET UP AVC CHALLENGE CUP FINAL TO FIGHT FOR LONE BERTH IN FIVB CHALLENGER CUP IN CHINA

Isa Town, Bahrain, June 8, 2024 – Unbeaten Pakistan and mighty Qatar paved their paths for an electrifying final showdown of the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup for Men, with the former stunning Korea and the latter powering past Kazakhstan in the Saturday’s semifinals at Isa Town Sport City Hall C here.

With their dramatic wins on Saturday, world No. 47 Pakistan and world No.21 Qatar will now battle it out for top honor and the lone berth on offer for the 2024 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup in Linyi, China between July 4 and 7, which serves as the last qualification for the revamped VNL 2025, expanding to 18 teams.

On the penultimate day of the eight-day tournament, Pakistan, the only team which have yet lost a match to their respective rivals, pulled off an upset 3-1 (25-22, 24-26, 25-22, 25-22) win against world No.28 Korea in the highly-anticipated semifinals.

Qatar, which went down 2-3 to Korea in their pool play, demolished world No.55 Kazakhstan 3-1 (25-16, 19-25, 25-19, 25-16) in another semifinal clash.

The other two playoff matches on Saturday saw world No. 31 China finish fifth place in the tournament after 3-1 (25-19, 25-21, 26-28, 25-21) demolition of world No.54 Vietnam and world No.65 Bahrain upset world No.35 Australia in thrilling straight sets 25-17, 25-22, 25-20 to end their campaign in seventh position.

The match of the day highlights could be witnessed in the clash of the Titans between Pakistan and Korea. At the last year’s rescheduled Hangzhou Asian Games, Pakistan, coached by Brazilian Ramires Ferraz at that time, beat Korea 3-0 in the Round of final 12, and in the Bahrain-hosted AVC Challenge Cup, Korea, with the Brazilian coach at the helm, succumbed to 1-3 defeat at the hands of the formidable Pakistanis.

Against the bronze medallists at the previous edition last year in Chinese Taipei, Pakistan made a strong start in the opening set to lead with a six-point advantage at 17-11, but the Koreans clawed their way back to come close 21-23. However, Pakistan still had enough left in their tank. Muhammad Hamad and Murad Khan successfully blocked an off-speed attack from outside hitter Kim Jihan to reach the set point 24-21 and after that, allowed Korea one more point from a service error of middle blocker Musawer Khan to wrap up the thrilling set 25-22.

Pakistan, which early this month captured the CAVA Nations League title, gained the upper hand in the second set to lead 12-9, but the Koreans started to produce the goods as they managed to level it at 17-17 and again 23-23. Pakistan went on blocking spree to advance 24-23, but Shin Hojin was the Korea’s comeback. The left-hander opposite attacked devastatingly to score two points in a row to save the set point for Korea, advanced 25-24. On his three successive attempt, Shin Hojin carried out an ace serve for the team’s comeback 26-24 win in this hard-fought set.

In the third set, Pakistan started better with consistent play and resilience to pile up a 16-14 lead. The Koreans held their nerves and hit back to reduce the gap 17-21. To make short work of the formidable rivals, Pakistan maintained a margin that varied anywhere from one to three points for a while with their offensive system and blocking effort making the difference. They went on attacks to clinch the set 25-22, with opposite Afaq Khan delivering the set winner with his sharp spike.

The fourth set was the most competitive so far, with both sides trading attacks. Leveling at 21-21, Korea became prone with unforced mistakes, allowing Pakistan scoring opportunities. After a spectacular rally, Abdul Zaheer fired an aggressive shot to bring Pakistan to the match point 24-22. The Pakistani side earned another point from the Korea’s net fault to end the rivals’ challenge 25-22.

Murad Khan scored a match-high 25 points from 22 kills, 2 blocks and one ace, while Murad Jehan and Musawer Khan contributed 12 points apiece. Kim Jihan scored 20 points including 17 kills from 31 attempts on the Korea’s loss.

In another semifinal clash earlier, debutants Qatar moved a step closer to the 2024 FIVB Challenger Cup following the pulsating 3-1 win against Kazakhstan.

Both sides started with the similar standard in the opening set to play neck and neck and level it at 11-11. From then on, Qatar attacked five points in a row leading to 16-11 advantage. Qatar, silver medallists at the 2023 FIVB Challenger Cup on home soil in Doha, continued their onslaughts, with Raimi Wadidie, Youssef Oughlaf and Renan Ribeiro unleashing powerful attacks to lead the team to the set point 24-15. They allowed Kazakhstan only one more point from outside hitter and skipper Vitaliy Vorivodin’s deadly shot to take the comfortable first set 25-16.

Conceding disappointing first set, Kazakhstan bounced back mightily in the second set, which they led from start to finish. Leading by wide margin 23-18, the Kazakhs advanced 24-18, thanks to a well-placed service from Vladimir Prokofyev. His second service attempt, however, saved the day for Qatar. Still, the delight was short-lived as opposite Petr Churzin produced an aggressive attack which went without returning. Kazakhstan clinched the second set 25-19.

The Qataris remained in exception form in the third set. They raced to an initial 11-7 lead and widened the margin to 20-14, courtesy of their spectacular series of powerful attacks from Mohamed Ibrahim Ibrahim and efficient blocks by Borislav Georgiev and Ibrahim Ibrahim. Qatar sealed the set 25-19.

The fourth set started with intense battle which saw Qatar take a narrow 7-6 lead, but after that, the on-going contest turned out to be one-way traffic. The Qataris stayed in control, with outside hitter Renan Ribeiro firing a  shot that brought Qatar to the match point 24-14. Kazakhstan scored two successive points before Youssef hammered an off-the-block kill for the Qatar’s 25-16 win, match and a final berth.

Mohamed Ibrahim Ibrahim delivered 18 points from 14 kills, 3 blocks and one ace for Qatar, with Raimi Wadidie and Youssef Oughlaf adding 13 and 12 points respectively. Petr Churzin and Vitaliy Vorivodin scored 15 points apiece on the Kazakhstan’s loss.

In the playoffs earlier, China, silver medallists at the last year’s Hangzhou Asian Games on home soil and a well-earned fourth place at the Asian Senior Championship in Urmia, Iran, took the fifth place following their four-set win against Vietnam, fourth place at the previous edition last year in Chinese Taipei.

China mixed the offensive combinations from Zhang Jingyin and Wang Jingyi with their spectacular attacks and solid blocks by Wang Hebin and substituted Li Yongzhen to clinch the first two sets 25-19 and 25-21.

In the third set. Vietnam, with opposite Pham Van Hiep, outside spiker Nguyen Ngoc Thuan and middle blocker Tran Duy Tuyen strengthening the team on the quick transition, fought back hard to lead 16-13 and reached the set point 24-22. The final stretch saw both sides give it all out to win the set, but Truong The Khai solidly blocked Wang Jingyi to move Vietnam ahead 27-26 before Zhang Jingyin spiked out wide to hand Vietnam the nail-biting 28-26 win.

Winning one set from the Asian powerhouses, Vietnam boosted their confidence and still lived up to expectations in the fourth set, which they led narrowly 16-15. China heightened their defence and went on their aggression, catching the Southeast Asian rivals 17-17 and cruised on until they first reached the match point 24-20.

A powerful mid-court spike from Nguyen Ngoc Thuan earned another crucial point for Vietnam, but shortly after that, skipper Jiang Chuan hammered an off-the-block winner to end the Vietnamese challenge. China captured the set 25-21, match and the fifth place. 

Wang Jingyi and Zhang Jingyin delivered 15 points apiece for China, while Li Yongzhen added another 13 points. Pham Van Hiep scored a match-high 20 points from 17 kills and 3 aces on the Vietnam’s loss.

 

In the 7th-8th place playoff clash, hosts Bahrain showed their prowess to brush off Australia in straight sets to finish 7th position, a far cry from what they achieved at the previous edition last year when they picked up silver.

Bahrain played a near-flawless performance in the first set, with outside spikers Alabbar Sayed and Ali Sayed Hashem on fire at the frontline. Australia managed to fight back, but their attempts were in vain as the host side continued their winning way to take the comfortable set 25-17.

Bahrain raced to a 16-12 lead in the second set, but Australia narrowed the gap, with hard-hitting Ethan Garrett and left-hander Matthew Aubrey, 209cm, puncturing the hosts’ defence apart with their attacks. However, Bahrain were still riding the momentum as they reached the set point 24-21. The 205cm-tall setter Arshdeep Dosanjh saved the day for Australia as he swiftly set the ball over the net and it landed perfectly on the Vietnam’s space. Still, a service error from middle blocker Nehemiah Mote handed Bahrain the 25-22 win.

The third set was a similar script as Bahrain stormed on to take the commanding 16-12 lead, extended it with a three-point clear at 22-19 and reached the match point 24-20. Australia requested the timeout to improve on their game plan.

However, their attempts did not pay off as Aubrey fired a powerful attack, but accidentally hit the antenna. Bahrain captured the set 25-20, match and the 7th position. 

 

On Sunday, the last day of the competition, Pakistan will go up against Qatar in the final showdown for gold medal, while Kazakhstan will face off against Korea in the bronze-medal match.

RESULTS AND RANKINGS

POOL 1-4

POOL 5-8

MATCH SCHEDULE

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