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Thai women go down fighting against USA

Thatdao Nuekjang and Pimpichaya Kokram in action at the net during Thailand’s match against the United States on Saturday at the FIVB Women’s World Championship. (FIVB Photo)

Thailand pushed the mighty United States to five sets before falling just short in their final match at the FIVB Women’s World Championship in Lodz, Poland on Saturday.

The Americans came out flat and seemingly unprepared for the robust Thai defence, with Thailand taking the first two sets. But the defending Olympic champions gradually found their form and wore down their opponents, ultimately prevailing 23-25, 21-25, 25-19, 27-25, 15-13. Thailand was led by Chatchu-on Moksri with 19 points and Pimpichaya Kokram with 16.

The USA entered the tournament ranked first in the world and have since slipped behind Italy and Brazil.

Despite the loss, Saturday’s match was a big confidence-builder for the 14th-ranked Thai women, who have shown that they can hold their own with the sport’s elite teams.

In the first round they fashioned a pair of upsets over superior opposition from Turkey and the Dominican Republic on their way to four wins in five contests. In the second round they lost in four sets to Canada and Germany and in three sets to No.4 Serbia prior to Saturday’s showdown with the Americans.

Thailand have ended their campaign with a seventh-place finish in the eight-team Pool F with 10 points (wins and points from the first round carry over to the second). The top four teams in each pool will advance to the quarterfinals of the championship that is being held in Poland and the Netherlands until Oct 15.

The ultimate goal is the country’s first berth in the Olympics in Paris in 2024. Slots for 11 teams are still at stake, plus an automatic berth for host France. The qualifying tournaments for the Olympic Games will take place in September and October next year.

Twenty-four teams defined by the FIVB rankings will be eligible for the qualifying rounds. The rankings for the women’s teams will be announced on Oct 17 this year.

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