Thailand's mission of beating at least two teams in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals was accomplished yesterday when they stunned three-time Olympic champions Cuba for the fourth time in a row yesterday.
After producing a magnificent come-from-behind 3-2 victory over hosts and Asian Games winners China on Friday, the Thai women’s volleyball team thrashed Cuba 25-22 30-28 25-23 yesterday.
Thailand’s victory came at the expense of attacker Malika Kanthong, who collapsed on the court in the second set clutching her right ankle. She tried to hit a shot and ended up clashing with the foot of a Cuban blocker. She was carried away from the court for immediate treatment. Though Thailand lost a dominant force, it was not immediately felt as Tapaphaipun Chaisri filled in the role admirably. She proved her talent with some superb hitting past taller blockers to help Thailand take the second and third sets.
The victory was the world No 12 team’s fourth over the Caribbean side in the last one year.
Cuba, world No 10, tried to comeback after losing their first four matches in the Finals here. They did not win a single set in the six-team, single round-robin competition. However, the off-form Cubans’ struggled against Thailand to remain bottom of the table.
Thailand’s win has guaranteed them at least the fifth place in the overall standings. However, if China lose to the defending champions and world No 1 US in a late night match yesterday, Thailand will get fourth-place. It will be the first time that the Thais emerge as the best Asian team in any FIVB-sanctioned tournaments.
“It’s our second time in the World Grand Prix Finals. My team played very well. They learned a lot of things from playing against world-class rivals.
It was good that our young players were able to obtain valuable experience here,” said Thailand head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai.
“My players put in their best efforts in the match against Cuba. They were very determined to win the match. I’m glad that we finally accomplished our target of winning at least two matches,” he added.
Earlier, the Beijing Olympic champions and eight-time champions Brazil powered past world No 11 Turkey 25-21 23-25 25-20 25-15.