Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, September 28, 2016 – In-form Thailand took the seventh place at the “SMM” 5th AVC Cup for Men at the Nakhon Pathom Gymnasium after the host side brushed off defending champions Korea in pulsating straight sets 28-26 25-17 25-17 in the 7th-8th place playoff on Wednesday.
Korea, which defeated India in the final showdown to reign supreme at the previous edition two years ago in Almaty, Kazakhstan, fielded a strong line-up spearheaded by hard-attacking Hwang Kyungmin, Jo Jaesung and hefty Jung Junheuk, who stands 210cm tall, in their last encounter of the one-week tournament.
Thailand hoped for their possible best performance in this match and they did not want to finish at the bottom among all participating eight teams. They decided to field most of their experienced players led by smashing machine Jirayu Raksakaew, Kittikun Sri-utthawong and Kitsada Somkane.
Thailand started strongly to lead 13-9 in the first set, with Jirayu and Kitsada attacking heavily and Kissada Nilsawai and Kittinon Nakhunthod producing scintillating blocks. Korea clawed their way back, using their quick play with hard attacks from Hwang Kyungmin to catch up with the Thais 21-21. After that, both sides traded points in a tense battle. Thailand went on their superb form to win the hard-fought set 28-26.
Holding 1-0 advantage, Thailand still put on an impressive show in the second set. Jiraya and Kitsada entertained the cheering home crowds with their terrific jump serves and fierce attacks. Thailand grabbed a crucial point to lead commandingly 24-15, needing only one more point to take the set. Howevver, Korea intensified their defence and fisted to pump up for more air. Their intention worked out well to save two set points. Still, the hosts stormed on to win the comfortable set 25-17.
Their good show continued in the third set, Thailand came up with dazzling performance in the third set, thanks to their good combination and consistency. With Jirayu puncturing the Korean defence with his sharp attacks, Thailand took a commanding 15-8 lead and held on to win the set 25-17, match and the 7th place. Korea finished a disappointing 8th place.
Jirayu Raksakaew top scored with 17 points for Thailand including 14 kills. Kissada Nilsawai and Kittinon Namkhunthod added with 3 kill blocks apiece. Huang Kyungmin led Korea with 10 points, all of them through his devastating attacks.
“Before taking part in this tournament, we learned that a tough task awaits us. However, we just want to ether beat at least one strong team or play a good match against them. We watched Korea and Japan play in the first round and I just need my players to play them once. As far as I know, my players don’t want to play the team with high blocks and sharp attacks like China and Iran. Against Korea, I think we blocked well, while the Koreans made too many mistakes. In this match, we also fielded several young players and their performance lived up to staff coaches’ expectation,” Thailand’s head coach Monchai Supajirakul commented after the match.