JAPAN, THAILAND SQUEEZE INTO NEXT ROUND WITH DRAMATIC FINISH AT ASIAD VOLLEYBALL COMPETITION
Jakarta, Indonesia, August 24, 2018 – As other strong teams cruised to 3-0 victory over their respective lower-ranked rivals at the 18th Asian Games volleyball competition, Japan and Thailand faced stiff challenges but squeezed into the top spot of their pools.
Japan struggled hard to beat Myanmar in marathon five-setter, while Thailand came from behind to beat Vietnam in dramatic four sets.
Japan, successive two-time Asian champions and silver medallists at the previous Games in Incheon, Korea four years ago, took on fast-improving Myanmar in their last Pool C match to decide the pool winners. Japan and Myanmar had already beaten Kazakhstan in their very first match, with the former winning an exhausting hard-fought five-setter on Thursday and the latter pulling off a stunning 3-1 victory.
Fielding three key players who joined their team in the Incheon Games consisting of highly-skilled setter Hideomi Fukatsu, Takashi Dekita and Takeshi Nagano, Japan combined extreme power through Shunsuke Chijiki’s powerful attacks and incredibly accurate serving and Ryota Denda’s solid blocking, while Myanmar relied on Aung Thu’s blistering run of points through his thunderous attacks.
Japan took the first set 25-21, lost the second 21-25 and came back to win the third 25-19. Myanmar maintained their poise to bag the fourth set 25-21, forcing the Japanese counterparts to battle it out in tie-breaker. It certainly lived up to its top billing with the lead fluctuating throughout and neither outfit really ever dominating. After taking turns leading, Japan proved steadier to win two points in a row for the eventual 19-17 win in the decider and match.
“Myanmar are a good team. They proved today that their win against Kazakhstan was no fluke or an accident. It was real. We played a tough match against them. We now top the Pool and the second-placed teams in each pool will get the draw. So, we can get Indonesia, India, Pakistan or Thailand in the next round. Let’s see how we can go. However, I think it will be a key match after we can make it to the quarter-finals,” Japan head coach American Gordon Mayforth commented after the match.
Hosts Indonesia were also advancing to the next round. Going down 1-3 to Saudi Arabia in Pool A on Wednesday, the Indonesians, who finished a well-earned fourth place at the last year’s Asian Senior Men’s Championship on home soil in Surabaya, were superior in every department against Kyrgyzstan, bitterly beaten 1-3 by Saudi Arabia in their first encounter earlier, to power past the visitors in convincing three sets 25-21 25-17 25-20.
In Pool E, consecutive four-time South East Asian Games winners Thailand and Asean counterparts Vietnam engaged in a fiery duel as both sides traded attacks from the first whistle until the end of the match.
Thailand, fresh from a historic fifth-place finish at the AVC Cup for Men in Chinese Taipei, fielded a strong lineup in the first set led by two senior players Jirayu Raksakaew and Kittikun Sri-uttawong, but they struggled to hit form as the Vietnamese were on fire. Going down 19-25 in the opening set, the Thai side replaced senior players with young talents led by Amorntep Konhan, Kantarat Koonmee and Mawin Maneewong and they made their mark to help the team sweep the remaining three sets 25-21 25-21 25-21.
At the GOR Bulungan Gymnasium, Mongolia fought hard against defending champions Iran, but despite putting up a good fight against the well-organised rivals, they were simply blown away by a fierce Iran’s barrage. Iran stormed past Mongolia in exciting three-setter 25-18 25-19 25-20.
Fired-up Korea, bronze medallists for two times in succession in 2010 in Guangzhou,China and 2014 on home soil in Incheon, also proved too strong for underdogs Nepal. After edging out past battling Chinese Taipei 3-2 on Monday, Korea remained on course as they made it two in a row in Pool D, brushing off the Nepalese team in three sets 25-16 25-22 25-18.
Qatar, which captured the maiden AVC Cup for Men title in Chinese Taipei, continued their remarkable unbeaten run. On Friday, they pulled off a comfortable 25-16 25-22 25-18 over Hong Kong China to end their preliminary round campaign on a high note as they did not lose a single set to their respective rivals.
A total of 16 teams finished their campaign at the pool round-robin preliminaries on Friday. Saudi Arabia captured the top spot in Pool A with 6 points from two wins in a row, followed by Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan. Iran topped Pool B with 6 points from two wins, with Pakistan and Mongolia in second and third places. Japan made a clean sweep of Pool C, with Myanmar and Kazakhstan in second and third places respectively.
Korea maintained their Pool D top spot with 5 points from two wins, while Chinese Taipei and Nepal came in second and third places respectively. Teams in Pool E and Pool F have yet completed their pool plays. The last two men’s matches in the pool plays on Saturday see China take on Sri Lanka in Pool E and India play Maldives ahead of the second-round drawing of lots at the competition venue in the afternoon.
PRELIMINARIES – MEN
Pool C: Japan b Myanmar 3-2 (25-21 17-25 25-19 21-25 19-17)
Pool A: Indonesia b Kyrgyzstan 3-0 (25-21 25-17 25-20)
Pool E: Thailand b Vietnam 3-1 (19-25 25-21 25-21 25-21)
Pool B: Iran b Mongolia 3-0 (25-18 25-19 25-20)
Pool D: Korea b Nepal 3-0 (25-16 25-13 25-14)
Pool F: Qatar b Hong Kong China 3-0 (25-16 25-22 25-18)
MATCH SCHEDULE – AUGUST 25, 2018
PRELIMINARIES –COURT 1
10.00am: Pool E: China v Sri Lanka
12.30pm: Pool B: Korea v Vietnam
16.30pm: Pool B: Kazakhstan v China
19.00pm: Pool A: Indonesia v Philippines
10.00am: Pool F: India v Maldives
16.30pm: Pool A: Thailand v Hong Kong China
19.00pm: Pool B: India v Chinese Taipei
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