Attempting to break the Brazil deadlock for 12 successive times in the World Grand Prix, Thailand played well in front of a large number of home crowd at the packed venue. Still, Brazil proved a cut above the Thais, outclassing the hosts in straight sets.
Natalia Pereira tallied 23 points for Brazil, while Ajcharaporn Kongyot emerged as the Thailand’s top scorer with 14 points.
With four veterans led by Onuma Sittirak and Pleumjit Thinkaow, the host side delighted the home supporters with their exceptional form in the opening set. Brazil fielded formidable line-up, most of them played in the team which had earned them two straight Olympic Games victories, including Thaisa Menezes, Sheilla Castrol, Camilla Brait, Fernanda Rodrigues and Danielle Lins.
Thaisa’s spectacular fast attacks and Sheilla’s powerful mid-court spikes put Brazil in the pole position 19-16. Cheered on loudly with the drum-beating, applauding fans, Thailand made their mark to come up with brilliant form. They were never-say-die, penetrating the Brazilian defence with great spikes and Piyanut Pannoy was flat-footed while attempting to dig the rivals’ attacks. The score was tied at 22-22. However, despite putting up a sturdy challenge against the strong visitors, Thailand found Brazil a tough nut to crack. Brazil held their nerves and went on their aggressive attacks. Leading narrowly 25-24, Brazil took the first set 26-24 after Fernanda overcame the Thai blockers with a powerful spike.
Their confidence boosted after a close first set against the gritty Brazilians, Thailand maintained their poise with an aim of winning the second set. However, Brazil took total control of the game, with Natalia Pereira overcoming the smaller blockers with her exceptional spikes. Brazil snatched the second set without much difficulty 25-16.
The third set turned out to be a totally lop-sided battle. Brazil replaced their best players with substitutions including Gabriela Braga Guimaraes. Thailand tried to make amends for the sluggish form in the second set, but Brazil proved too strong. They controlled the match defensively and offensively well. Leading commandingly 23-11, Brazil won both points from Gabriela Braga Guimaraes as she attacked the Thai blockers with her devastating spikes. Brazil captured the comfortable set 25-11 and match.
“Brazil are very strong. They learned how to cope well with our tactics. We suffered on first-ball reception and that caused us much trouble on setting up for spikes. I think Brazil served well today. Although they could not come up with fast spikes, their serves were the other main weapon we could not match. We learned from this match and I just hope that we can do better in the next match against Russia. The Russians are tall, but their reception is not that good. We have to play fast game with combination attacks. I think we still have a chance to beat Russia. What we must do in that match is to try our best,” Thai head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai commented after the match.
Earlier, world champions and world No.1 the USA kicked off their title defence campaign in style after pulling off a scintillating 25-21 25-17 25-23 victory over the Netherlands.
On Thursday, the Netherlands take on World Cup champions China at 3pm Bkk time and Brazil challenge European winners Russia in a clash of the Titans at 6pm.
Photo Credit: FIVB