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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia suffer first defeat

Cambodia suffer first defeat

091218_24
The Cambodian national volleyball team (blue shirts) won all but one of their preliminary games in the 2009 WOVD World Cup to set up today’s semifinal against Slovakia.

Cambodia lost their last WOVD World Cup preliminary game against Germany Thursday to set up a repeat of the 2007 Cup semifinals against Slovakia today

GERMANY confirmed their favourites tag for the World Organization Volleyball for Disabled (WOVD) World Cup with a convincing three-sets-to-one victory over Cambodia at the Olympic stadium Thursday night. In front of a parochial near-capacity crowd, the locals cruelled themselves with some silly unforced errors throughout the first two sets.

Coach Christian Zepp said before the game he would like a performance similar to the one they displayed against a strong Slovakian outfit Tuesday, saying that an improved focus on minimising errors might see them beat the competition heavyweights.

“The problem is I know the coach is very, very good,” Zepp said of the German team tactician Athanasious Papageorgiou of Greece, who once lectured him at the German Sports Institute of Cologne, “They play two different systems, and it’s very hard for me to see which system they are going to use today.”

The Germans jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the first set thanks to three unforced errors by the Cambodians, a margin that was maintained to see the set won 25-21 by the reigning champions. Robert Kampczyk starred for the away squad, making the defence seem featherlight, with some brutal spikes down the line.

Papageorgiou predicted before the game that the home team can sometimes fall into lapses, which appeared to be the case in the early and latter stages of the first set.“When they get into a flow they can be very good, but when they flow bad [they can fall apart].”

The second set saw the visitors further assert their dominance, answering everything Cambodia threw at them. With the score tied at six apiece, Germany caught fire to score 15 of the sets final 22 points, to take it 25-13. Germany weren’t fazed by a the deafening home crowd that cheered every Cambodian point. “We love the crowds,” Papageorgiou stated. “The people here are very fair – when they see something good they appreciate it.”

The crowd erupted as Cambodia won the next set, avoiding the errors that plagued them in the first two and forcing plenty on Germany’s behalf. Star player Man Veasna erupted with several powerful jabs through the German wall, while Chhim Panh and Tith Preab provided rock-solid defence at the net.

However, the Germans righted the ship in the final set, leading by six at a stage before ruthlessly finishing their opponents off.

Earlier in the day, Cambodia struggled to put away a plucky yet thoroughly outclassed Malaysian team 3-0, in a scoreline that did not reflect the poor play of the home team.

Malaysia led by as much as four points early on, with some fundamental errors and a lack of urgency by the locals contributing to an underwhelming performance.

The Cambodians were down 10-11 before rattling off 15 of the next 18 points, to take the set 25-14. They never trailed again, winning the next two 25-10 and 25-11, despite the errors continuing to stockpile.

Ultimately their power and athleticism was too much for a smaller and less experienced Malaysian squad competing for their first time internationally.

The lackadaisical approach threw a spanner in the works for Zepp. “That was very difficult for us, they were not taking it seriously which was a big problem for me,” he said. “I [would’ve] liked to practise some things for the game against Germany, and that did not work out at all. I would’ve loved to have [used] more players on the court, especially to give some of the players the time to rest because [there are] two games today. But I didn’t have the chance because they didn’t focus. I’m kind of disappointed with that.”

An example was the late substitution of star veteran Chhim Chandy, who remained on the bench until the last set, before his return to court was forced due to player fatigue. Zepp maintained that his players tended to play up or down to their opposition. “This is always the problem. When you are playing a team that is stronger than you are, you [play] stronger. When you play a weaker team, you play weaker as well.”

Germany will now face Poland in the semifinal after finishing atop the preliminary table, while Cambodia play the third placed Slovakia.

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