Two games left between Korea and the semifinalsKorea will renew its women’s volleyball rivalry with Thailand when the two clash at the ongoing Asian championship in Seoul this week.
The draws for the second round of the Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship have been set, with the top two teams from the four groups in the preliminary round having been split into Pool E and Pool F.
As the Pool A winner, Korea has been paired with Thailand, Chinese Taipei and Iran in Pool E. Because Korea already played Iran in the first round, it will only face the other two countries in the second round. And the top two teams from Pool E will advance to Saturday’s semifinals, which will also feature the top two nations from Pool F.
The Pool F teams are China, Japan, Kazakhstan and Indonesia.
First up for Korea in the second round will be Chinese Taipei at 4:30 p.m. today, followed by Thailand at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Both matches will be at Jamsil Arena in southern Seoul.
Korea, world No. 9, should handle the 33rd-ranked Chinese Taipei with relative ease. The real test will come against Thailand, which is ranked 14th but defeated Korea in the semifinals of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta to deny Korea its second straight gold.
Coached by Italian Stefano Lavarini, Korea breezed through the first round with straight-set victories over Iran and Hong Kong. Captain Kim Yeon-koung, the team’s most lethal attacker, only saw a few minutes of action in the first sets of both wins and spent the rest of the time as a cheerleader on the bench.
Kim won’t have that luxury against Thailand, which will likely be the only stumbling block for Korea’s bid to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The eight teams in the second round here have also secured their spots in the Asian Olympic qualifying event for January next year. Only the winner of the qualifying tournament will compete at Tokyo 2020.
China, the top-ranked Asian team at No. 2, already qualified for the Olympics at the intercontinental competition earlier this month while Japan, world No. 6, will automatically enter the Olympics as the host nation. That should leave Korea and Thailand as the two contenders for the one Olympic spot from the continent.
“Thailand is a great team, and it will obviously be a tough challenge for us,” Kim said Tuesday after a win over Hong Kong. “But we’re confident we’ll play a good match.”
Korea is the first time host of the Asian championship, which began in 1975, and it has never won the tournament, having posted seven runner-up finishes.