Aside from the trio powerhouses, hosts Thailand, Vietnam and Kazakhstan all registered their first victories in the biennial tournament with a straight-set win over their respective rivals.
Vietnam, which finished eighth place at the previous edition in Taicang, China two years ago, got off to a flying start by pulling off a scintillating win 25-11 25-9 25-10 in a totally one-sided battle against underdogs Sri Lanka.
Chinese Taipei, champions at the 2005 Universiade in Izmir, Turkey and the third place at the last year’s Asian Games, showed no mercy to unfancied New Zealand to thrash the inexperienced rivals in straight sets 25-19 25-6 25-13.
The more thrilling encounter between Indonesia, coached by Chinese Li Qiujiang, and the newly-formed South Korea saw the latter power past the former 25-17 25-19 25-11.
Despite the three-set win, Korean head coach Lee Jung-Chul admitted that his team did not play well in the opener against the Indonesians.
"I’m not happy with the way they played. They have to improve more on spiking and blocking. Mine is a mixed team between six veterans and six newcomers. We trained only one month in preparation for this championship, but we aim higher this time that we can finish at least the third place overall to China and Japan apart from securing a ticket for the World Cup and the World Olympic Qualification Tournament," he said.
Nakhon Ratchasima Governor Somboon Ngarmluk presided over the opening ceremony, which was followed by the match between the host side and Australia.
After salvaging a 4-4 tie in the opening set, Thailand, powered by devastating Onuma Sittirak and Pluemjitr Thinkaow, collected consecutive seven points to take the initial 11-4 lead and from then never looked back to win the comfortable set 25-13. The in-form Thais continued their winning streak to clinch the remaining two sets 25-11 25-12 and the effortless match.
With the victory over Australia and Tajikistan’s withdrawal, Thailand now top Group A.
"I rested several good players including captain Vilawan Apinyapong in this match because I want them to strengthen the team in future tougher matches against Chinese Taipei and Kazakhstan," Thai head coach Nutthapol Srisamutnak commented.
"However, I’m happy with my girls’ form despite the fact that they still have more to improve especially their blocking and Malika Kanthong’s first-ball receiving, I watched Chinese Taipei play their first match earlier and I think they played below-par. At the last year’s Asian Games in Doha, they produced much better form than this. However, I don’t think my girls will underestimate their rivals no matter what team they will take on.
"If we beat Kazakhstan and Chinese Taipei, we are sure of finishing top four in this tournament and if so, we will be more than happy as we successfully hit our initial target.
The fist-pumping Japan were also in awesome form on Wednesday, thrashing Uzbekistan in the comfortable tussle 25-8 25-10 25-11, while Kazakhstan had a little problems outclassing debutante Iran in straight sets 25-10 25-16 25-12.
On Thursday, Japan take on Korea, Uzbekistan meet Indonesia, Kazakhstan play New Zealand, Vietnam go up against China and Iran take on Chinese Taipei.
Photos credited to FIVB.org.
Courtois Straight Through to the Semis
– Pauline Courtois leads after first day