Week 3 has just come to a close for the World Grand Prix — and that is the Intercontinental Round played by all 3 groups of 32 teams the world over. Oh yes, as you know we are particularly monitoring Thailand and Japan..
And now after 9 games each, you could see the standings below. By the way, in case you were wondering what those highlights mean — light green means qualified for Group 1 final round, light blue means qualified as hosts and lastly, pink means relegated position.
Meanwhile, the point system goes like this — a 3-0 or 3-1 win is equivalent to 3 points; 3-2 nets you 2 points while the loser gets 1 point for taking 2 sets in the game. At any rate, both the Japanese and the Thais are already done for this tournament as they failed to qualify for the Top 6 of their group with the Japanese slotted at number 7 (since China took number 6 as hosts) while the Thais took the tenth spot.
Still, though the Japanese squad bowed out, we can not help but be amazed by the resiliency they showed in week 3. For those who have not seen their games, after losing to host China 1-3 — they won their next two games on come from behind victories against world #3 Serbia and #5 Russia, 3-2.
Down 0-2 in each of those games, the ‘rag-tag’ Japanese squad relied on grit and determination to send those matches to a fifth set and beat them both.
This is what we’re saying, if the Japanese only had their other top players like middle blocker Erika Araki and spikers Miyu Nagaoka, Yukiko Ebata, and the high-flying wing spiker Saori Sakoda nicknamed “Air Rio” — they would not only win squeakers but make it to the Top 6!
And the Thais? After winning just 1 game (yes, 3-0 against world #4 Brazil!) in the first two weeks, they topped their own pool with two 3-0 sweeps against world #8 Italy and #12 Turkey. Not to mention, they also just lost a tight game against world number #9 Dominican Republic, 3-2.
Indeed, it helps to be in your home floor. With the crowd cheering the whole time in week 3, the Thais made their world class opponents look ‘ordinary’.
Yet just like the Japanese, the Thai squad were also missing some key players especially power-spiker Onuma and middle blocker Thatdao. Okay, while they already look good with up-and-comers Pimpichaya and Chatchu-on — and of course, led by Thailand’s best spiker in Ajcharaporn, middle blocker Pleumjit and ace setter Nootsara, it would certainly help their future campaigns if they could also enhance their floor defense.
For now, let’s just enjoy the Final round!