SEMIFINALS UNVEIL TOP CONTENDERS FOR AVC CHALLENGE CUP FOR MEN IN BAHRAIN

SEMIFINALS UNVEIL TOP CONTENDERS FOR AVC CHALLENGE CUP FOR MEN IN BAHRAIN

Isa Town, Bahrain, June 6, 2024 – The anticipation has reached fever pitch as Qatar, Kazakhstan, Korea and Pakistan emerge triumphant in respective encounters to power their ways into the semifinals of the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup for Men at Isa Town Sport City Hall C here on Thursday.

 

In the action-packed Day 5 encounters to determine the Top Four teams of this topflight tournament, Qatar demolished China 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-19), while Kazakhstan downed Australia 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-21).

Pakistan bounced back to beat Vietnam 3-2 (19-25, 27-25, 25-23, 21-25, 15-12) and Korea overcame a strong challenge from Bahrain to beat the hosts 3-2 (26-24, 32-30, 22-25, 22-25, 15-12).

With their outstanding performances on Thursday, the four winning teams made it to the highly-anticipated semifinals on Saturday. Qatar now go up against Kazakhstan and Pakistan battle it out with Korea, setting their sights on the lone berth up for grabs for the 2024 FIVB Men’s Challenger Cup in Linyi, China  from July 4 to 7, the last qualification tournament for eight qualified teams including hosts China to battle it out for a spot in the revamped 2025 Volleyball Nations League (VNL), which will expand to 18 teams.

Qatar, current world No.21 and silver medallists at the 2023 FIVB Challenger Cup on home soil in Doha, cemented their status as a dominant team to be reckoned win in the AVC Challenge Cup as they powered past world No.31 China in thrilling straight sets to secure their semifinal berth.

Playing without skipper Jiang Chuan in the first set, China found the going get tough. Despite putting up a brave fight against the fired-up Qataris, China succumbed to their 19-25 defeat to the well-organized rivals in the opener.

Still brilliantly led by Ibrahim Ibrahim Mohamed and Youssef Oughlaf, the Qataris raced to an initial 20-16 lead in the second set and extended it to 24-18, courtesy of the 206cm-tall Ibrahim Ibrahim’s lightning-fast attacks and Oughlaf’s deadly spikes. Star spiker Zhang Jingyin, who stands 207cm tall, saved the day for China as he overcame smaller blockers with his powerful attack. However, Qatar continued their superb form to take the first set 25-19, with Renan tipping over the Chinese blockers for the last point.

China, which picked up silver medal at the reschedule Hangzhou Asian Games last year and the winners at the 2022 AVC Cup in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, put their acts together in effort of making amends for the loss in the first two sets. Their more determination paid off briefly as the Chinese managed to level it at 10-10 and moved ahead 11-10, thanks to Zhang Jinygin’s great spike.

However, the Qataris proved too strong offensively and defensively. As Qatar came back with mighty attacks to catch the Chinese at 11-11, middle blocker Belal Nobel Abunabot blocked solidly, while Oughlaf and Renan combined well to penetrate the Chinese defence with their attacks and Ibrahim Ibrahim carried out two aces in a row to help the team capture the set with the similar margin 25-19 and match.

The China’s letdown was a battle remake of the last year’s Asian Senior Men’s Championship in Urmia, Iran, where the Chinese went down in straight sets to Qatar in the third-place playoff clash.

Ibrahim Ibrahim Mohamed chipped in with 15 points from 11 kills, one block and team-leading 3 aces for Qatar, while Belal Nabel Abunabot and Youssef Oughlaf kept good company to add 12 and 11 points respectively. Qatar also limited the Chinese offense to the point that no rivals’ player reached double digits in scoring against them. Peng Shikun scored 8 points on the China’s loss, with Wang Jingyi and Zhang Jingyin contributing 7 points apiece.

Qatar’s absolute dominance was also visible in the match stats as the winners dominated in kills (41 to 31), blocks (6 to 3) and aces (5 to 2), besides benefiting from more opponent errors (23-21).

Meanwhile, world No.53 Kazakhstan, which had disappointing outings last year to finish a distant 13th place at the Asian Senior Men’s Championship and 7th position at the previous edition of the AVC Challenge Cup in Chinese Taipei, defied against all odds to beat world No.34 Australia with a comeback 3-1 win.

Australia, which did not drop a set to Chinese Taipei and Vietnam to top Pool D, made a solid start in the error-filled first set against Kazakhstan. Both sides were prone with unforced mistakes and inconsistent serves, but the Aussies proved steadier to take the set. Nodirkhan Kadirkhanov served out wide to help Australia move ahead to the set point 24-20, but a spike from Nehemiah Mote which landed out of bounds also gave Kazakhstan another breath of air. However, the Kazakh challenge was short live as Thomas Heptinstall fired a good shot which went unanswered. Australia grabbed the first set 25-21.

Australia still did a better job with good offensive system in the second set. Sam Flowerday was on fire to come up with exceptional attacks, while Beau Graham and Matthew Aubrey produced solid blocks to help Australia take a three-point advantage for the commanding 18-15 lead. However, veteran Vitaliy Vorivodin gave Kazakhstan a strong comeback to hammer off-the-block swings for the Kazakhstan’s score tied at 18-18 and again 23-23. Fellow middle blocker Damir Akimov also performed well as far as he could assist in this hotly-contested set, giving Kazakhstan the remaining two points, one from his fast spike and another one from his ace serve. Kazakhstan won the close set 25-23.

Their confidence boosted after winning one set, Kazakhstan continued their onslaughts to claim the next two sets on a high note 25-18, 25-21 for a dramatic 3-1 victory.

Kazakhstan had three players who reached double digits in scoring. Vitaliy Vorivodin, who scored the Kazakhstan’s last point of the match through his powerful mid-court attack, and Petr Churzin delivered 12 points apiece, with Aibat Netalin adding 10 points. Sam Flowerday scored a match-high 16 points from 13 kills, one block and two aces on the Australia’s loss. 

The third match saw Pakistan, which captured the recent CAVA Nations League on home soil, come back to beat Vietnam, the only Southeast Asian side left for title contention, in epic tie-breaker.

The electrifying match, which showcased high levels of skill and determination from both teams, kept fans at the Isa Sport City Hall 3 on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

World No.54 Vietnam, which finished a well-earned fourth place at the previous edition last year in Chinese Taipei, dominated the opening set to win 25-19, leveraging strong attacks from Nguyen Ngoc Thuan and Truong The Khai and solid defense.

Led by Ali Usman Faryad, who landed the Best Outside Hitter and MVP at the CAVA Nations League, Pakistan made a successful comeback with a hard-fought 27-25 win in the second set, showcasing resilience and strategic plays.

Continuing their momentum, Pakistan clinched the third set 25-23 in another intense competition. Vietnam fought back fiercely to take the fourth set 25-21, pushing the match into a decisive fifth set.

In the do-or-die tie-breaker, both sides still lived up to expectations, pouring everything they had to win the decider, but Pakistan fared better at home stretch to finally edge out the Southeastern rivals 15-12.

Ali Usman Faryad tallied 20 points from 16 kills, one block and team-leading three aces for Pakistan, while veteran Aimal Khan and Afaq Khan added 19 and 12 points respectively. Nguyen Ngoc Thuan led Vietnam with 19 points, while Truong The Khai and Tran Duy Tuyen contributed respective 17 and 16 points.  

The last match of the day saw world No.27 Korea avenge the straight-set loss to world No.66 Bahrain in the semifinal clash of the previous edition in Chinese Taipei to beat the host side in hard-fought five-set thriller.

Both teams locked horns in the first two competitive sets, but Korea played better offensively as they survived a scare from the host side to win both thrilling sets 26-24, 32-30.

The first set saw Bahrain fight back from trailing 6-10 and 18-21 to catch the formidable Koreans at 22-22 and went on their fine form to reach the set point 24-23. However, they just let the set win slip through their fingers when Korea pulled their game together and hit back to take the hard-fought set 26-24.

The second set was more thrilling as Korea and Bahrain played neck and neck, with the former leading narrowly and the latter hot on the rivals’ heels. Kim Jihan and Lim Sungjin played impressively to put the Koreans in front 24-23, but the host side did not want to give up as they bounced back bravely. After trading a series of attacks, Korea stayed in control. Kim Jihan produced a powerful mid-court attack to put Korea in front again 31-30 and skipper and setter Hwang Taekeul carried out an ace serve to end the hosts’ challenge in this hotly-contested set 32-30. Korea led commandingly 2-0.

Conceding two straight sets, Bahrain regrouped to win the next two sets, thanks to their tightened defence and combination attacks from opposite Khamis Ali and middle blocker Abdulla Mohamed and efficient blocks by Abdulla Mohamed and Abdulla Mohamed Yaqoob. Bahrain took the third set 25-22 and repeated that great form with another win in the fourth set with similar margin 25-22.

The decider was also tight, with both sides giving all out to win the match. Korea led all the way until they reached the match point 14-12 and middle blocker Lee Sanghyeon did not let his team down to hammer a fast spike at the net to hand the team the set and match win 15-12.

Kim Jihan played a vital role in the Korea’s victory as he scored a match-high 28 points from 26 kills and two blocks for the team, while Shin Hojin added another 22 points including 20 kills from 32 attempts. Abdulla Mohamed Yaqoob delivered 22 points including 19 kills from 41 attempts on the Bahrain’s loss. 

On Friday, the Classification Round for playoff matches sees Indonesia fight it out with Chinese Taipei for the 11th positio, with Philippines challenging Thailand for the 9th place. In the 5th-8th playoff encounters, China face Australia and  Vietnam go up against hosts Bahrain.

POOL 1-8 RANKINGS

MATCH SCHEDULE

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