China set up rematch with old foes Japan while Thailand meet Chinese Taipei in semifinals
Korea, who finished runners-up to China in the previous edition of the tournament two years ago, left disappointed from the Nakhon Pathom Gymnasium on Sunday following a bitter 1-3 (18-25, 25-17, 19-25, 23-25) loss to Japan in the quarter-finals.
Both Japan, the FIVB world No.7, and Korea, the world No.19, played exceptionally well from the beginning.
The gifted Lee Jae-yeong became a scoring machine for Korea, unleashing a series of devastating spikes, but Japan could call on the combination of aggressive offensive attacks from Momoka Oda and Sakura Doi, and scintillating blocking by Misaki Yamauchi and Makiko Homma, in blunting the Korean challenge. Japan took the opening set 25-18.
Korea came back much stronger in the second set. They regrouped well to attack the well-established Japanese, who came up short in some crucial moments, giving up attacking opportunities to the Koreans. Korea clinched the second set 25-17.
Korea continued their aggression in the third set, but Japan held their nerves and produced a strong defence. Lee Jae-yeong remained a dominant force for Korea, attacking spectacularly from all corners. Nonetheless, Japan boosted, spiked and blocked with superb skills and sealed the third set 25-19.
With their backs against the wall, Korea poured everything they had into the fourth set. They fought hard, with the explosive Lee Jae-yeong overcoming the Japanese blockers with her thundering cross-court spikes and Lee Da-yeong and Jeong Da-woun setting up solid blocking.
The on-going battle became more thrilling as the leads changed hands several times. Japan played cool under pressure and remained in awesome form in the home stretch to capture the closely-contested set 25-23 and win the exciting clash.
Lee Jae-yeong finished with a match-high 30 points, including 27 kills, while Momoka Oda bagged 14 points for Japan.
Korea, who previously went down to the home side 1-3 in the Pool E playoffs, left the court in great despair following the let-down. Some players were in tears. Japan were on cloud nine, jumping in the air with great joy and happily hugging one another.
With the victory, Japan booked a semi-final berth in the prestigious championship and a ticket to contest next year’s FIVB Women's U20 World Championship in the Czech Republic.
In Monday’s do-or-die semi-finals, Japan go up against old foes China, the team they suffered the humiliating straight-set loss to in the Pool F playoffs.
Earlier, the FIVB world No.1 China, defending and nine-time champions who finished third at the previous FIVB World Junior Women’s Championship in Peru last year, pulled off a sensational straight-set (25-12, 25-4, 25-16) victory over Kazakhstan.
China fielded a strong line-up with the likes of 193cm-tall Xu Ruayo, Zhu Ting, Tang Ningya and Chen Xintong. After crushing the Kazakhs to win the first two sets without much difficulty 25-12 and 25-4, China replaced their best players with all substitutions including Zheng Yixin, Chen Jiao, Li Weiwei, Wang Fengjiao and Yang Fangxu in the third set. Still, the game was dominated by the Chinese.
Despite a gallant fight, Kazakhstan proved no match for the much stronger Chinese, who captured the set 25-16. China, the only team yet losing a set to their respective rivals, advanced to the semi-finals and a rematch with Japan. Sunday’s victory has also guaranteed China a berth in next year’s world meet.
Xu Ruayo claimed nine points for China, while Anastassiya Rostovchshidova emerged as the top scorer of Kazakhstan with eight points.
“I replaced my best players with substitutions in the third set and it’s not a big deal that they made some mistakes. Fortunately, we are stronger than Kazakhstan and that’s why we won this match easily. Our next match against Japan will be much tougher, but we beat them already in this tournament. So, I’m still convinced that my team will repeat the feat,” commented China coach Xu Jiande. “In preparation for this championship, we spent around 15 days in Europe, where we played friendly matches with national junior teams of Germany, Belgium and Italy and we beat them all. That achievement has boosted our confidence of retaining our title here.”
Hosts Thailand and Chinese Taipei also joined China and Japan in the semi-finals following their straight-set wins over India and Iran, respectively.
Thailand played a below-par performance to brush off India 25-13, 25-21, 25-15, while Chinese Taipei fared well in outclassing Iran 25-17, 25-16, 25-17.
“I’m glad that my team won this match against India, but not satisfied with their performance. It was far from impressive. The first-ball reception was below standard, while our attacking still lacked power and strength. If you play with this form, you can’t beat Chinese Taipei in the next round,” said Thailand coach Nataphon Srisamutnak.
“I think we still have many things to learn ahead of that crucial match. If possible, I would like my team to play in the final. History will repeat itself if we happen to beat China in the showdown as our senior women’s team did last month at the AVC Cup in Kazakhstan,” he added.
Meanwhile, the 9th-12th playoffs at the Ratchaburi Gymnasium saw Vietnam struggle to beat New Zealand 3-2 (25-22, 25-14, 22-25, 20-25, 15-4) and Australia downed Hong Kong 25-14, 25-9, 25-17.
In the 13th-16th playoffs, Sri Lanka beat Turkmenistan in straight sets (25-15, 25-17, 25-22) and Mongolia thrashed winless Kuwait (25-6, 25-2, 25-7).
In Nakhon Pathom
Thailand v India 3-0 (25-13, 25-21, 25-15); China v Kazakhstan 3-0 (25-12, 25-4, 25-16); Japan v Korea 3-1 (25-18, 17-25, 25-19, 25-23); Chinese Taipei v Iran 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-17)
Vietnam v New Zealand 3-2 (25-22, 25-14, 22-25, 20-25, 15-4); Australia v Hong Kong 3-0 (25-14, 25-9, 25-17)
Sri Lanka v Turkmenistan 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-22); Mongolia v Kuwait 3-0 (25-6, 25-2, 25-7)
In Nakhon Pathom
10am: 5th-8th playoff - Korea v Kazakhstan
12pm: 5th-8th playoff – Iran v India
3pm: semifinals – Thailand v Chinese Taipei
5pm: semifinals – China v Japan
10am: 15th-16th playoff - Turkmenistan v Kuwait
12pm: 13th-14th playoff - Sri Lanka v Mongolia
3pm: 11th-12th playoff - New Zealand v Hong Kong
5pm: 9th-10th playoff - Australia v Vietnam