Thailand struggled to clear their first hurdle in the FIVB Girls Under-18 World Volleyball Championship, scraping past Egypt in four dramatic sets 25-23 25-21 22-25 25-19 in their Pool A clash at Chatchai Hall herer late on Friday.
Thailand, who finished a disappointing fifth in last year’s Asian meet, fielded an impressive line-up that included Jiraporn Chaymon, Patcharaporn Sittisad and Watchareeya Nuanjam, while Egypt were led by Sarah Hanfy and Malak Badawy.
With the home supporters, most of them young students, cheering them all the way, the Thai team showed plenty of grit and determination. They put up an effective defence and their attackers punched holes in the Egyptian wall.
Jiraporn led Thailand with 29 points, including 25 deadly attacks, while Egypt's Hanfy scored 17 points.
Thai head coach Apchat Kongsawat said he was not happy with the performance of his girls, “I think we did not play as well as we could have because we had a problem with our defence. Also, this team does not have much experience at the world level. They haven’t participated in world-class competitions. I will analyse these mistakes and try to solve all problems before the team plays the next matches.”
Team captain Patcharaporn Sittisad added, “I think we played well. It was our first match in such a big tournament and we were quite nervous. Fortunately, my team-mates concentrated hard at crunch time and that was the key to our success.”
Elsewhere, Slovenia thrashed Algeria 3-0 (25-6 25-19 25-20), powerhouses Brazil beat Dominican Republic 3-1 (15-25 33-31 25-8 32-30) and Serbia crushed Tunisia 3-0 (25-15 25-21 25-7).
At the adjacent Liptapanlop Hall, Peru thrashed Mexico 3-0 (25-18 25-18 25-13), reigning champions Turkey beat Italy 3-1 (19-25 25-19 25-17 25-23), Poland edged Greece 3-2 (20-25 26-28 25-20 28-26 15-10) and Asian champions Japan stunned world No 1 China 3-2 (27-25 18-25 24-26 25-20 17-15) in the clash of titans.
This is the first time that 20 teams are testing their mettle in a World Championship in Thailand.
The participating teams have been divided into four pools of five teams each. The group round-robin preliminaries take place from Friday until Tuesday. At the end of the preliminaries, the teams finishing fifth in each pool will be relegated to the 17th-20th classification round, while the remaining teams will compete in the play-offs, with the winners advancing to the quarter-finals and the losers relegated to the 9th-16th play-offs.
It is the fifth time that Thailand are getting a chance to play against the world’s top teams. Their best result in the Under-18 Worlds was a fifth place in 1997 when Thailand hosted the edition in Chiang Mai. At the previous episode two years ago in Turkey, Thailand finished a lowly 13th, while the hosts were crowned world champions for the first time. China and Serbia claimed silver and bronze medals respectively.