Title-holders Brazil prepare rematch with USA in Thailand
Brazil, who are the reigning Olympic champions and are top of the world ranking, are yet to lose a match in this year's World Grand Prix. As such, they are favourites to qualify for the six-team Group 1 Finals in Tokyo, Japan from August 20-24.
USA (WR 2) - successive Olympic silver medalists and World Grand Prix champions in 2010, 2011 and 2012 - are currently sixth with only nine points. They will be under pressure to win their matches this weekend in Bangkok to qualify for the Finals.
Pan American Cup winners the Dominican Republic (WR 8) and Thailand (WR 12) are both in a difficult situation, currently lying in 11th and 12th position with only three and two points respectively. Both teams, however, will aim to perform well in Bangkok, where they will take on two of the world's strongest teams.
Out of six matches contested so far, Asian champions Thailand were only victorious against last year's bronze medalists Serbia (WR 7) in their first weekend meet in Suwon, South Korea. Even if Thailand score three wins this weekend, they will not progress to the Finals.
Thailand have qualified for the Finals twice, in 2011 and 2012, finishing sixth and fourth respectively. Last year, however, they failed to progress beyong 13th place.
On Wednesday, a press conference was held at the Golden Tulip Sovereign Hotel in Bangkok, with more than 100 local reporters attending.
Thailand’s head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai commented that despite the impossibility of qualifying for the top-flight Finals tournament, his team are determined to do their best and will try to thank their fans for their support with a spirited and gutsy display volleyball. He said: "Our hopes of qualifying for the Finals are now impossible. Our team will aim to perform as well as possible in every match for the excitement and entertainment of our home spectators. However, we still keep our expectations in mind – to beat at least one team in each weekend. We missed that target last weekend in Hong Kong, but hope that my players will fare much better on home soil before a large crowd of spectators. Our key player Pleumjit Thinkaow, who injured her right ankle during training in Hong Kong, is recovering fast. I think she can join the team for the three matches here. It will be a tough task in the last weekend, but we will do our best.”
USA head coach Karch Kiraly said: “We are so excited to play here in the country where the sport of volleyball has increasingly gained great popularity from their people. We hope to do well here.”
Brazil head coach Jose Roberto Lages Guimaraes said: “I’m delighted that my team has come to Thailand to play here again. We had a long-haul flight from Brazil and still suffer from the jetlag. However, I hope we can perform well in the last weekend matches here.”
Marcos Kwiek, head coach of Dominican Republic, added: “We are very happy to be here. I admit that we will have a difficult time in Thailand, because we have to take on strong sides. We hope that we can improve our performance and come out with great results here.”
The matches on Friday see Thailand play the Dominican Republic at 16.00 local time, followed by the clash of the titans between Brazil and USA at 18.30. Local Channel 7 will televise the Thai match live, while SMM TV will broadcast both matches live.