Myanmar, Korea, Japan, China unbeaten after pool play at Asian Boys' U19 Champs


Japan's Kento Miyaura spikes past the Thailand block at the Boys' U19 Asian Championship.

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, March 30, 2017 - Hosts Myanmar overpowered Australia and Japan thrashed Thailand to top Pools A and C respectively at the end of their round-robin preliminaries at the SMM 11th Asian Boys' U19 Volleyball Championship at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium on Thursday.

Earlier, Korea and China made clean sweeps in Pools B and D after completion of their first round campaign. Playoffs for the round of the last eight teams will be contested on Saturday and Sunday ahead of the knock-out quarterfinals on Monday.

On Thursday, the last day of pool play, Myanmar delighted a large crowd of home supporters with their dramatic 3-1 (25-23 23-25 25-16 25-22) victory over Australia.

After the match, Myanmar's head coach Kyaw Swar Win expressed his satisfaction over his team's performance, citing that it was beyond his expectation. "I think the match should have finished in five sets, but we played well to complete it in four. It's unbelievable. We next take on Thailand and Japan in the next round. Thailand are a cut above us, while Japan are very strong. We just try our best."

The day's second match saw formidable Japan prove too strong for Thailand, overwhelming the fighting rivals with exceptional tactics and splendid teamwork to seal the straight-set 3-0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-18) win.

Kento Miyaura contributed 20 points for Japan including 19 kills. Mahiro Saeki added with 14 kills. Chaiwat Thungkham led Thailand with 10 points, all of them from spikes, while Khomsan Phoonsang added 3 block points.

"This is our second game and compared with our previous match against Sri Lanka, I think we played this one much better," Japan's head coach Hiroshi Honda commented after the match. "We next take on Myanmar and Australia. Both are good teams. We now have to prepare ourselves for the next two matches against them. The reason we won today is that at the start of the game, we played well to score many crucial points. If we could not make a good start and didn't score points, it would be very difficult to win the match. Our best player in this match is Kento Miyaura."

Meanwhile, Iran had few problems in taking down underdogs Bangladesh on Thursday. With Morteza Sharifi tearing the rivals' defence into shreds and the 205cm-tall Mahdi Jelveh Ghaziani and Ali Tabari blocking scintillatingly, Iran won the completely one-sided encounter 3-0 (25-11, 25-12, 25-13).

After the match, Iran's head coach Mohammad Vakili said, "It's our first win in this tournament. This match is very important for us. If we had lost, we'd have crashed out from the top eight and would have instead played in the 9th-11th classification. My target was just to beat Bangladesh because we could not lose again since we had already lost to Korea. A loss to China in the playoffs is not important because we can come back to play again in the round and keep our title defence dream alive, but here if we went down to Bangladesh, we would have lost our title. However, I think that Bangladesh are still second to our team. They are not in such high level despite the fact that they played this match much better than their previous match against Korea."

At the end of the pool round-robin preliminaries on Thursday, hosts Myanmar topped Pool A with six points from two straight wins. Australia finished second with three points from one win against one loss, while Hong Kong came third.

Unbeaten Korea made a clean sweep in Pool B with six points from two wins, followed by defending champions Iran with three points from one win against one loss to Korea. Bangladesh came third in the pool.

Japan emerged as the Pool C winners with six points from two consecutive wins, while Thailand secured the second place with three points from one win against one loss. Sri Lanka had to be content with the third place.

China led Pool D despite the lone win over Chinese Taipei. Following the Kazakhstan’s withdrawal a few days ahead of the competition, the match schedule remained unchanged and teams taking on Kazakhstan would be given straight-set win with three points.

Therefore, China had six points from two straight wins. Chinese Taipei finished second with three points from one win against one loss. Kazakhstan did not show up on court, but were handed 0 point from two losses, claiming the third place in the pool.

Friday is the rest day. The playoffs of the round of last eight teams will consume on Saturday, with Korea (1B) taking on Chinese Taipei (2D), China (1D) pitted against powerhouses Iran (2B), Myanmar (1A) playing Thailand (2C) and Japan (1C) challenging Australia (2A), while the 9th-11th classification sees Hong Kong (3A) taking on Sri Lanka (3C).

The top four teams advance to the 2017 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship, 18-27 August in Bahrain. The hosts, plus Egypt and Tunisia from Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Chile from South America, and Cuba, USA, Mexico and Puerto Rico from NORCECA have already qualified. The remaining six spots will go to the top-ranked teams of the European U19 Championship. beginning on 22 April in Hungary and Slovakia.

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