Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, May 19, 2017 – Japan and Thailand moved a step closer to securing their berths at this year's FIVB Women's U23 World Championship in Slovenia after storming into the semifinals of the SMM 2nd Asian Women's U23 Volleyball Championship at The Mall Nakhon Ratchasima's MCC Hall on Friday with their remarkable unbeaten records.
Thailand, silver medallists at the previous edition in the Philippines two years ago, and Japan, fourth place, but holding the best world ranking, joined the previous world meet in Turkey in 2015. As Thailand and Japan have yet to lose a match to their respective rivals en route to Saturday's semifinals, both teams are hot favourites to battle it out in Sunday's showdown for the title.
Meanwhile, the Vietnamese, who did not take part in the inaugural Asian Women’s U23 Championship in the Philippines, made history on Friday when they powered past Kazakhstan in straight sets 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-14) to advance to the semifinals of the top-flight competition.
Earlier, Japan, yet to lose a single set to their opponents, had become the first team to secure a semifinal berth following a straight-set 3-0 (25-14, 25-14, 25-11) win over Hong Kong in Friday's quarterfinals.
Hosts Thailand, fielding a second-string lineup without captain Ajcharaporn Kongyot, also followed suit by producing a convincing straight-set 3-0 (25-16, 25-14, 25-16) victory over unfancied Malaysia to clinch a spot in the semifinals.
After the match, Thailand head coach Nataphon Srisamutnak commented: "This match against Malaysia was not that difficult. I think the next match against Vietnam will be much tougher. We rested many key players including Ajcharaporn (Kongyot) and Chatchu-on (Moksri) in the match against Malaysia in order that they can be fresh in our tougher task in the semifinals. If every player in my team is in the pink physically and mentally, we are ready to fight any team," he said.
In the other match, Chinese Taipei breezed past Iran in straight sets 3-0 (25-14, 25-14, 25-18) to make the cut for the semi-finals.
"Iran did not play well, while my players did a good job. However, we will have a tough match in the semifinals against Japan," said Chinese Taipei coach Lin Ming-Hui after the match. "I hope my players can cope well with the Japanese tactics, especially their fast game. Actually, both Japan and Chinese Taipei have almost a similar standard, but on court the Japanese players always come up with better form. I know that our chance of beating the Japanese is possible, but we have to improve on our attacks to match their solid defence."
The first encounter of the day had seen New Zealand finish in 11th place following a fantastic comeback 3-1 (16-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16) victory over Sri Lanka in the 11th-12th playoff.Quick links - Volleyball:FIVB.com - VolleyballFIVB.com
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On Saturday, Australia and Uzbekistan will battle it out for the 9th place, while the 5th-8th classification round sees Hong Kong take on Iran and Malaysia play Kazakhstan. In the semifinals, Thailand will be pitted against Vietnam, with Chinese Taipei going up against Japan. The two winning teams in the semi-finals will secure their places at the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Women's U23 World Championship in Slovenia between September 10 and 17.