By The Nation
In what could be a warm-up match ahead of their clash at the forthcoming SEA Games in Malaysia later this month,
Thailand, to make sure that everything would go the right way as planned, fielded a strong line-up led by three veterans Wilavan Apinyapong, Pleumjit Thinkaow and highly-experienced setter Nootsara Tomkom. Also strengthening the team were young talents including Chatchu-on Moksri, Ajcharaporn Kongyot and Hattaya Bamrungsuk.
Boosted by over 3,500 cheering home fans inside the venue, the Philippines proved that they are no more underdogs compared tactically and technically with Thailand. The host side played exceptionally well, giving the strong visitors a sturdy challenge. They also had chances of overtaking the Thais. However, after coming up hot on the rivals’ heels with an incredible performance to trail narrowly 18-20, the Philippines found Thailand uncatchable. The world No.14 went on their onslaughts to seal the thrilling set 25-21.
The Philippines opened up with a strong challenge in the second set, but Thailand upped their tempo to hit back powerfully for a commanding 16-10 lead and shone through their exception skills, consistency and confidence to take the comfortable second set 25-14.
The third set was still dominated by Thailand as despite putting up a fierce fight before their boisterous home fans, the Philippines found the visitors too strong to go down 25-20, match and a semi-final berth.
Thailand, former two-time Asian champions in 2009 and 2013, are due to challenge unbeaten Korea, powered by prolific Kim Keon-Koung, in the semi-finals. Korea on Tuesday brushed off Taiwan 25-20 25-11 28-26. The other semi-final clash sees world No.6 Japan play a rematch with China, the team they had beaten in straight sets in the preliminaries Pool B encounter.
“It’s a tough match indeed. The Philippines played well before their home crowds. Their reception was good beyond our expectation. I admit that we had difficulty in scoring points from them. We next take on Korea and certainly, it will be another tougher task. We have to play our game and try to do our best. I’m glad that my team made it to the semi-finals, the initial target of the Thailand Volleyball Association. However, we have to allow our players to gain more experience from this championship. It will help build a brighter future for young players,” Thailand head coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul commented after the match.