Can NT overpower Vietnam anew?

KUALA LUMPUR – As the crucial battle against Vietnam in the 29th Southeast Asian Games draws near, national coaches and team officials are scrambling to plot a surefire way to win – not just to top the group stage – but also to prove that their previous victory was no fluke.

Head coach Francis Vicente said emerging victorious over Vietnam anew would be a massive development as it reflects the progress of the team and the volleyball system in the country.

Sitting solidly at 45th in the FIVB ranking, Vietnam is a serious foe.

In fact, it has a Japanese mentor in Hidehiro Irisawa and has been a bridesmaid to superpower Thailand in the past eight editions of the SEA Games starting 2001 in Kuala Lumpur.

So in a nutshell, it was Vietnam who took the place of the Philippines as chief rival of Thailand in the biennial meet and it’s about time for the Filipino spikers to reclaim that spot by prevailing in a very important match.

Vietnam was at its best in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship last month.

Seasoned middle blocker Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa and attacker Thuy Tran Thi Thanh played their hearts out while Irisawa masterfully shuffled his ladies like a battle-scarred general in a warzone.

But still, the Filipinos prevailed.

And now that they will lock horns again in the SEA Games, Vicente expects fireworks to erupt.

“Before we went here, our mindset is clear: Beat Vietnam.”

“Winning over them will be very important for us in this tournament as well as Philippine volleyball in general. It will show that all the hard work we put to improve the system of volleyball in the country is paying off.”

Avoid Thailand

There’s also one reason why the Philippines has to beat Vietnam.

It is to avoid Thailand.

A victory by the Filipinos over the Vietnamese will give them the top spot in Group B and avoid a semifinal confrontation with the Thais on Saturday.

If the Filipinos emerge victorious, they will face a lighter foe in Indonesia in the next round for a win that would send them to the finals and assure them the silver medal.

“But if we lose, we will have no choice but to face the Thais in the semis and the loser between Vietnam and Indonesia in the bronze medal match.”

“That route is more complicated. That’s why we really have to beat Vietnam and bring the Philippines back to the podium of the SEA Games.”

Match against Vietnam is set at 2 pm at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibit Center Hall 11.