It was a heartbreaking loss for two-time champions Thailand, who started off brilliantly to take the first two sets, only to concede the last three at the hands of their arch-rivals, who had won the title in 1975, 1983 and 2007.
It was Thailand’s fourth straight loss against Japan in a space of two months. Japan won their second round clash 3-1 and also beat the Thais twice at the World Grand Prix pool stage last month.
“We had a good start today. We did everything right and won two sets. But then Japan changed their setter and the speed of the ball was much quicker. They were able to turn it around, so credit to them,” said Thailand coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul, who had hoped to emulate his predecessor Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai by leading Thailand to the Asian title.
Kiattipong, who retired as coach of the national team after the World Grand Prix finals last year, led Thailand to the top twice in 2009 and 2013, beating China and Japan in the finals, respectively.
“I would like to apologise to all the Thai fans for not being able to bring home the title. But I hope they continue to support this team,” said Danai.
“Some of the players in this team are still quite young and they did remarkably well to get to the final in this championship. They will continue to develop and I think they will have a great future.”
There was some consolation for the Thai players after 17-year-old rising star Chatchu-on Moksri was named the championship’s best outside hitter, along with South Korea’s Kim Keon-Koung.
Hattaya Bamrungsuk was voted the best middle blocker and Nootsara Tomkom took home the best setter award.
Japan’s Risa Shinnabe was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
In a third-place play-off earlier yesterday, South Korea vented their frustration on dethroned champions China 25-11, 25-18, 25-20 to take bronze.
Kim Her-Jin finished with 16 points and Park Jeong-Ah added 13 for South Korea, who avenged their loss to China in the 2015 final in Tianjin.
Jin Ye top-scored for China, contributing 10 points.
It was only the second time China missed a podium finish after winning the championship 13 times.
“We were disappointed with the loss to Thailand in the semi-finals on Wednesday (Aug 16), but we are happy that we beat China for the bronze medal,” said captain Kim Keon-Koung.
In the other classification battles, Vietnam beat Taiwan 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-23) to claim fifth, while Kazakhstan edged the Philippines 3-2 (25-20, 25-16, 21-25, 21-25, 15-3) to seal the seventh spot.
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