Formidable Japan produced a fantastic comeback 3-2 (20-25 16-25 25-19 27-25 15-12) victory over determined Thailand in the hard-fought final showdown to underline their supremacy over the SMM 2nd Asian Women’s U23 Volleyball Championship at the packed The Mall Nakhon Ratchasima’s MCC Hall on Sunday.
Both Thailand and Japan have already clinched two slots to contest the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U23 World Championship in Slovenia from September 10 to 17 following their Saturday’s wins in the semi-finals against Vietnam and Chinese Taipei respectively.
In a semi-final rematch of the previous edition in the Philippines two years ago, Thailand, which finished runners-up to eventual winners China in the 2015 edition, came up much stronger in the final clash, with over 3,500 home fans boosting their team’s morale.
World No.8 Thailand took the first two sets 25-20 25-16, thanks to their impenetrable defence and Ajcharaporn Kongyot’s deadly spikes. However, Japan, fourth place at both the Asian meet in 2015 and the World Championship in Turkey the same year, roared back to win the following two sets 25-19 27-25.
In the thrilling decider, Japan fared much better, refraining from making hasty unforced mistakes, captured the set 15-12 and the championship. It was a sweet revenge against Thailand as the Thais beat them 3-2 in the semi-finals at the previous episode.
Earlier, Vietnam powered past Taiwan in straight sets 25-20 25-19 25-19 to claim bronze in this top-flight tournament.
Sunday’s final results
7th-8th playoff: Malaysia b Iran 3-2 (25-23 22-25 25-23 22-25 15-13)
5th-6th playoff: Kazakhstan b Hong Kong 3-0 (25-17 25-13 25-15)
Third-place playoff: Vietnam b Chinese Taipei 3-0 (25-20 25-19 25-19)
Championship match: Japan b Thailand 3-2 (20-25 16-25 25-19 27-25 15-12)
1. Japan - qualified for 2017 World Championship
2. Thailand - qualified for 2017 World Championship
6. Hong Kong
11. New Zealand
12. Sri Lanka