BANGKOK, Thailand (July 1) - Thailand, replete with some standout performances in the World Grand Prix, will be out to prove their expertise against Cuba, Germany and Kazakhstan in the home battle when they will stage the third leg Group G contest at The Mall Bangkapi’s MCC Hall between July 4 and 6.
Despite the height disadvantage, the Thai girls had rocked many much stronger teams with some thundering attacks and powerful jump serves notably from Onuma Sittirak, Pleumjit Thinkaow and Amporn Hyapha in the first two weekends of Group B in Ningbo, China and Group E in Wroclaw, Poland.
In Ningbo, the Thai side had an uphill task, but still played a good match against world number one and former six-time winners Brazil, took one set from Germany and found the Athens Olympic champions China too strong to go down in disappointing three sets.
However, Thailand came much stronger with greater determination in the second weekend battle in Wroclaw, frustrating the former two-time champions USA with well-worked combinations and exceptional come-from-behind spikes to win one set from the fully-fledged Americans, the similar fashion they made at the last year’s World Cup.
The Thai girls continued their remarkable form, stunning hosts and world number 9 Beijing-bound Poland, the team they lost twice including the 1-3 sets in the Tokyo-hosted World Olympic Qualification Tournament in May.
Thailand ended the second weekend on an impressive note after forcing the Pan Am Cup champions Dominican Republic to play a hard-fought four-setter. Despite the loss, they captured all hearts of the Polish fans with their gutsy display.
On their chances on home soil, Thai head coach Nataphon Srisamutnak is very upbeat that his girls will make the most of the home crowd advantage to pack good matches against visiting rivals.
“Among the three matches against visitors, I expect my girls to win at least two matches on home soil. Cuba might be too strong for us and I think even one- or two-set win over the Cubans can be regarded as a great success,” Nataphon commented.
“Germany is also a strong team. However, we met them before in Ningbo and I’m confident we can beat them here. Kazakhstan, which have yet won a single set after two legs, is now at the bottom in the overall standing.
“I think Kazakhstan is the only team we can beat without much effort. However, I told my girls not to underestimate them. All teams participating in the World Grand Prix are strong and cannot be underestimated,” he added.
After two weekends, Thailand finished 10th overall ahead of Poland and Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, Cuba, former three consecutive Olympic gold medalists and former two-time winners, had daunting tasks in the first two Group C and Group F legs in Alassio, Italy and in Hong Kong.
The Caribbean queens finished second in Alassio after losing a hard-fought three-set thriller to hosts Italy. In Hong Kong, the Cubans, playing in Group of Death against China, Italy and Japan, slumped to the third place following the letdown in Clashes of Titans against China and Italy, both in grueling five sets.
Cuban head coach Antonio Perdomo Estrella hopes high that to enhance their chances of finishing top six to advance for the grand finals in Yogohama, Japan between July 9 and 13, his girls will have to make a clean sweep in the Bangkok leg.
Cuba is trailing in sixth place overall after the completion of the first two weekends.
On the other hand, Germany, coming back from the two-year absence in the World Grand Prix, is in critical moments as they have to beat every team in the Bangkok leg to make sure they will get enough points to make it to the last six in Yogohama.
The Germans are now trailing at the eighth position ahead of Japan in the overall standing.
A lacklustrous Kazakstan is yet to get off the mark. Head coach Viktor Zhuravlev confessed that the absence of two key players Helena Pavlova, injuring her right knee, and Tatyana Pyurova, sustaining a muscle strain, affect his team’s performance.
Kazakhstan clinched the last Olympic ticket after coming back from the first set down to beat Thailand in the recent World Olympic Qualification Tournament .
The curtain-raiser of the Group G contest against home side on July 4 will be a determined challenge for the Kazakhs, while the second encounter between Cuba and Germany is also expected to entertain Thai crowd with the superb form of both sides.