Bangkok, Thailand, August 10, 2010 – Crunch time awaits hosts Thailand as they prepare to face Italy, the USA and Puerto Rico in the 2010 FIVB World Grand Prix Pool D at home this weekend.
The Asian champions , current No.12 in the FIVB world rankings, are yet to win a set over their respective rivals in last week’s Pool C in Chengdu, China. The Thai squad left the Sichuan Gymnasium with their heads low after claiming no points from three straight losses including a shock three-set letdown to Puerto Rico.
To everyone’s surprise, the Thai players performed well beyond expectation in home matches last year. In front of a large crowd of more than 4,000 cheering fans the team beat Puerto Rico 3-0, stunned the Beijing Games silver medallists USA in a hard-fought five-set thriller before going down to world champions Russia 3-1.
However, Thailand will face a daunting task this time when they take on Italy, winners at last year’s FIVB World Grand Champions’ Cup, former two-time World Grand Prix champs USA and in-form Puerto Rico.
Last week, Italy, the USA and Puerto Rico finished third in their pools. In Pool A in Sao Carlos, Italy, hosts Brazil and Japan both claimed six points from two wins and one loss, but due to points ratios, the Italians had to be content with the third place.
The USA also enjoyed a similar fate when they finished third in Pool B in Gdynia, Poland after picking up only three points from the dramatic 3-1 win over Dominican Republic. They went down to hosts Poland and Germany, both with the same margin of 3-1.
In Pool C in Chengdu, Puerto Rico lost in straight sets to hosts China and the Netherlands, but fared much better in their last match against Thailand to beat the off-form opposition in straight sets. The South Americans finished third to China and the Netherlands respectively, with Thailand in fourth place.
After the completion of the first weekend, Italy sit sixth overall, a well-placed position for a berth in the Finals in Ningbo, China also remain within reach. The USA are chasing eighth place, with Puerto Rico hot on their heels in the ninth position. Thailand finished a distant 11th.
Italy, who pulled off a stunning 3-1 victory over hosts Brazil last week, are expected to continue their dominant form in the second-week campaign in Bangkok. Their closest rivals in Pool D will be the USA, who are spearheaded by hard-hitting Logan Tom.
However, Puerto Rico and hosts Thailand are ready to mount a strong challenge against the two giants. Only the strongest team will prove they have a class above the rest.
Meanwhile, the Control Committee, chaired by Katsumi Wakao, and the local organising committee on Tuesday inspected the competition and training gyms. The equipment installation, including the high-speed wireless internet as well as decoration task for working rooms are well under way. Confirmation for completion of work can be made one day ahead of the official kick-off of the Pool D matches on August 13.
The Team’s Briefing is due to take place on August 11, followed shortly by the Press Interview.