Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, October 13, 2021 – The highly-anticipated semifinals are set for the 2021 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship at Terminal 21 Hall on Thursday, with home favorites Nakhon Ratchasima QminC VC going up against Sirjan Foulad Iranian, and Al-Arabi Sports Club challenging Burevestnik Almaty to vie for the top honour and the lone berth for the FIVB Men’s Club World Championship later this year.
On Tuesday, the final day of the pool round-robin preliminaries of the top flight competition, reigning and six-time Thailand League winners Nakhon Ratchasima, 2012 Asian Club champions Al-Arabi Sports Club, Kazakhstan’s Burevestnik Almaty, and Iran’s Premier League champions Sirjan Foulad Iranian all pulled out wins and ensured their eligibility in the do-or-die semifinals.
Burevestnik Almaty topped Pool A with 10 points, with Nakhon Ratchasima and South Gas Club from Iraq in second and third places with 8 and 7 points respectively. The aforementioned three teams had similar performances with three wins against one loss. Karza Sport Club from Kuwait and winless CEB Sports Club from Sri Lanka finished 4th and 5th with 5 points and no points respectively.
Sirjan Foulad Iranian dominated Pool B with 12 points from four straight wins, followed by Al-Arabi Sports Club with nine points from three wins against one loss. Thailand’s Diamond Food came in third place with four points from two wins against two losses, while AGMK of Uzbekistan and winless Rebisco Philippines finished 4th and 5th places with 4 points and one point respectively.
All participating teams went all-out in a last-ditch effort to win their last pool round matches on Tuesday.
Powerful left-hander Amorntep Konhan methodically tore the Sri Lankan defence to shreds with his exceptional attacks, as Nakhon Ratchasima swept CEB Sports Club in comfortable straight sets 25-21, 25-20, 25-13.
“We planned to win this match in 3-0 or 3-1 to guarantee our presence in the semifinals. The Sri Lankan team has developed a lot recently. Thanks to my players’ determination, we eventually won today’s match. They have done a good job,” said Nakhon Ratchasima head coach Padejsuk Vannachote.
“I have analyzed the Iranian styles and prepared my team to fight with the taller and tougher rivals and we will need to be in our top form to play them. I think it will be a challenging game for both teams,” he added, regarding the first encounter in the semifinals on Thursday.
Nakhon Ratchasima captain Wanchai Tabwises said, “Our team did well today. In the next match against Sirjan Foulad Iranian, we need to be in top form since they are so aggressive offensively and defensively.”
Earlier, in-form Burevestnik Almaty demolished Kazma Sport Club in convincing straight sets 25-17, 25-20, 25-22.
Veteran Vitaliy Vorivodin scored a match-high 15 points for the Kazakh side, while Abdulrahman Almutawa was top scorer with 15 points for Kazma Sport Club.
Sergey Rezanov, one of Burevestnik Almaty’s key players, said after the match, “We knew how important this match was for us. I am happy that we won and made it to the semifinals. We lost 2-3 to South Gas Club but won all the other matches in straight sets.”
Meanwhile, Sirjan Foulad Iranian survived Diamond Food’s huge scare to win an action-packed four-setter, 25-19, 25-23, 23-25, 25-23. Shahrooz Homayonfarmanesh scored a team-high 19 points and team-mates Serbian Aleksandar Blagojevic and Mahdi Jelveh added 17 and 12 points respectively to the team’s tally. Kantapat Koonme was top scorer with 25 points including 21 attacks from 42 attempts in the Thais’ losing effort.
Sirjan Foulad Iranian head coach Saeid Rezaei, assured of his team’s semifinal berth, rested the team’s best player, Saber Kazemi, and allowed more chances for the bench players against Diamond Food.
Sirjan Foulad Iranian made a clean sweep in Pool B as expected, while Diamond Food, which did not make the cut for the semifinals, are relegated to classification for 5th-8th places. Diamond Food, third place in Pool B, will take on Pool A fourth-placed Kazma Sport Club on Thursday.
Diamond Food head coach Somboon Nakpung said, “Even if Sirjan used their bench players, their performance is still great. My team players had their best performance, but Sirjan are so strong to beat. I think it is a valuable experience for our team to play at this level and I am glad we came this far for the first time in the Asian Club Championship.”
Diamond Food Captain Kittikun Sri-utthawong said, “Sirjan had a very solid game and was aggressive in both attacks and blocks with fewer errors. I think my team did well and never gave up until the end. They gained a lot of experience playing with a tough team today.”
Sirjan head coach Saeid Rezaei said, “The semifinal match is definitely a game of life and death, and we will definitely go against the opponents with all our might.”
Regarding the game against Diamond Food, he said: “This game was a good opportunity to use the players who we did not use in the previous matches, so that they are at the appropriate level of preparation and, if necessary, can help the team in the remaining two matches.”
In the final Pool B match of the day, Al-Arabi Sports Club lived up to expectations following a brilliant 3-0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-12) win against Uzbekistan’s AGMK.
Brazilian Felipe Bandero chipped in with 16 points for Al-Arabi Sports Club, while Bunyod Egamkulov led AGMK with 13 attacks and one solid block.
Al-Arabi SC from Qatar previously won the 2012 Asian Club title and picked up silver in 2010, 2015 and 2016, and bronze in 2007, 2009, and 2017, their last appearance in Vietnam, where they beat Kazakhstan’s Altay in the third-place playoff.
Rebisco Philippine and CEB Sports Club finished in fifth place in each pool and are relegated to 9th-10th classification. They are set to battle it out on Wednesday when the remaining teams will have a rest day to get ready for the resumption of the semifinals and 5th-8th playoffs the following day.