THAILAND STUN REIGNING CHAMPS KOREA TO TEST METTLE AGAINST CHINA IN FINAL SHOWDOWN OF ASIAD VOLLEYBALL COMPETITION
Jakarta, Indonesia, August 31, 2018 – Determined Thailand pulled off a stunning victory over title-holders Korea on Friday to set up a final clash with Rio Games champions China at the 18th Asian Games volleyball competition at the GBK Tennis Indoor Stadium.
Contesting the do-or-die semi-finals, Thailand saw off the Koreans, to whom they bitterly went down 1-3 in this year’s VNL on home soil in Nakhon Ratchasima, in pulsating four-setter 25-15 25-20 20-25 25-22, while world No.1 and World Grand Champions Cup winners China proved their superiority over Japan to thrash the Asian champions in comfortable straight sets 25-22 25-10 25-20.
For Thailand, the crucial win was a history. Securing a place in the final has guaranteed the Asean side at least a silver medal they have never won for 56 years since the Asiad women’s volleyball competition debut in 1962 in Jakarta. At the previous edition in Incheon, Korea four years ago, Thailand took a maiden bronze medal after beating Japan in the third-place playoff.
Thailand have yet lost to any rival heading to the Friday’s semi-final clash against the Koreans, powered by star spiker Kim Yeonkoung. Against the formidable rivals, the Thai players were on red-hot form from the first whistle in the opening set, which turned out to be one-way traffic. Thailand captured the comfortable set 25-15.
With the win still in their sails in the second set, Thailand proved once again a well-oiled machine as three veterans Pleumjit Thinkaow, Wilavan Apinyapong and Onuma Sittirak yielded some vital points for the team’s 25-20 victory.
Going down two sets, the Koreans made a promising start in the third set, with Kim unleashing a barrage of fierce blows to thrash the errors-strewn Thais 25-20 for the reduced 1-2 margin.
In the fourth set, Thailand, with powerful hitter Chatchu-on Moksri sidelined with her left ankle sprain and Ajcharaporn Kongyot unable to move easily with a minor right knee injury, tried to claw back into the game. Nonetheless, the Koreans held nerves to stay in front with a 5-point clear at 11-6. With Wilavan and Pleumjit orchestrating their defence, Thailand improved their fortunes to trail the tough rivals with just two points behind at 18-20. Despite a strong challenge from Korea, the Thais chipped in with thunderous spikes to seal the deal 25-22, match and a final berth.
Onuma Sittirak scored a team-high 15 points including 11 kills from 31 attempts, while Pleumjit Thinkaow, Pimpichaya Kokram and Wilavan Apinyapong scored double digits with 13, 12, 11 points respectively. Kim Yeonkoung spearheaded her majority of the Korean attacks with 18 points.
After the maiden victory, Thailand head coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul expressed satisfaction over his team’s performance. “I praised all my players and staff coaches who helped each other to win this match. It’s not easy to play the Koreans, but my girls were devoted, determined and have a strong will to win the match. That’s what counts for our victory today. Also, I would like to thank all Thai fans supporting us here at the competition venue and those from our homeland. To make it to the final, I think it’s a big challenge for my team. My players played with all they have in the Asian Games in Jakarta since this is likely to be the last Games for many senior players in our team. Against the formidable Chinese in the final showdown, we have nowhere to go but up. We will do our best,” Danai said.
In the second semi-final clash, the invincible China, the only team which have yet lost a single set to their respective rivals, were troubled in the first set by speedy and well-organised Japanese, who led from the beginning to halfway. China gradually pulled their game together, hit back to level at 22-22 and stormed on to win the close set 25-22.
With Yan Ni and Zhu Ting defending superbly at the net, blocking almost everything the shorter rivals could throw at them, allowing Japan difficult scoring opportunities. China sealed the one-sided 25-10 win in the second set, with powerful left-hander Li Yingying hitting the last winner point for the team.
The third set was again closely-contested, but China used their incredible reach and leap to punish the rivals with some powerful spikes. Japan tried to turn things around to come up with a good fight, but their attempts were still in vain. China were well in control offensively to see off the Japanese 25-20 for match and a final berth.
Star of the night was Zhu Ting, who chipped in with 18 points for China including 14 kills from 28 attempts, while Yuki Ishii led Japan with 14 points.
In the 5th-8th playoffs earlier, ace spiker Tran Thi Thanh Thuy steered Vietnam to a dramatic 3-1 (29-27 18-25 25-22 25-22) victory over the host side in the all-Aseans clash. Cheered on by nerve-wracking drum-beating home fans, Indonesia led the visitors all the way. Vietnam caught up with Indonesia at 21-21 and started to break away to win the hard-fought set 29-27.
Hard-attacking Aprilia Santini Manganang, strongly-built like a man, gave the host team a strong comeback as she unleashed several huge spikes to help the team establish a comfortable 4-point lead at the second technical timeout 16-12. Indonesia maintained the lead to take the set 25-18. Nonetheless, Vietnam counter-attacked effectively to capture the remaining two sets 25-22 25-22 and match.
Tran Thi Thanh Thuy chipped in with 27 points for Vietnam, while Aprilia Santini Manganang scored a match-high 30 points including 25 kills from 55 attempts, but her determined efforts could not help Indonesia win the match.
On Saturday, Vietnam will challenge Kazakhstan, which performed impressively, surviving the Philippines’ scare to win a hard-fought five-set thriller 25-11 22-25 25-15 19-25 16-14, in the 5th-6th place playoff.
At the GOR Bulungan Gymnasium, Chinese Taipei finished 9th place in this year’s Asian Games, a far cry from the 5th position they achieved in Incheon, Korea four years ago, following the impressive 25-21 25-16 25-15 win over India in the women’s 9th-10th playoff match.
In the men’s event, China regained their lost pride to breeze past Saudi Arabia in comfortable straight sets 25-15 25-10 25-17 to return with the 9th place, a sudden drop from the well-earned 4th place they had won in Incheon. The Saudi Arabians came in 10th position.
Sri Lanka, coached by Serbian Dejan Vulicevic, proved a class above Vietnam to trounce the Asean counterparts in straight sets 25-21 25-21 25-20 to finish 13th place in Jakarta, with the Vietnamese in a distant 14th place.
The 15th-16th playoff match between Kyrgyzstan and Nepal saw the former unable to be present at the competition venue at the scheduled time and the match ended 25-0 25-0 25-0 in favour of the Nepalese. Reports had it later that Kyrgyzstan had already left Jakarta. Nepal finished 15th place in Jakarta and Kyrgyzstan in 16th position.
5th-8th: Vietnam b Indonesia 3-1 (29-27 18-25 25-22 25-22)
5th-8th: Kazakhstan b Philippines 3-2 (25-11 22-25 25-15 19-25 16-14)
Thailand b Korea 3-1 (25-15 25-20 20-25 25-22)
China b Japan 3-0 (25-22 25-10 25-20)
Women’s 9th-10th: Chinese Taipei b India 3-0 (25-21 25-16 25-15)
Men’s 9th-10th: China b Saudi Arabia 3-0 (25-15 25-10 25-17)
Men’s 15th-16th: Nepal b Kyrgyzstan 3-0 (25-0 25-0 25-0)
Men’s 13th-14th: Sri Lanka b Vietnam 3-0 (25-21 25-21 25-20)
SEPTEMBER 1, 2018
10.00am: Men’s Bronze-Medal Match: Qatar v Chinese Taipei
12.30pm: Women’s Bronze-Medal Match: Korea v Japan
16.30pm: Women’s Gold-Medal Match: Thailand v China
19.00pm: Men’s Gold Medal Match: Iran v Korea
10.00am: Women’s 7th-8th Playoff: Indonesia v Philippines
12.30pm: Women’s 5th-6th Playoff: Vietnam v Kazakhstan
16.30pm: Men’s 7th-8th Playoff: Thailand v Pakistan
19.00pm: Men’s 5th-6th Playoff: Japan v Indonesia
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