The Kingdom is assured of a place in the WOVD World Cup semis
AFTER their resounding win over a jetlagged Poland in the opening game of the 2009 WOVD World Cup on Monday, the Cambodian disabled volleyball team stepped up a gear to triumph over a strong Slovakia outfit in their second match Tuesday.
Slovakia broke the nation’s hearts during the 2007 World Cup when they defeated the Kingdom team in the semifinals. However, all was avenged Tuesday, with the home team bolstered by a huge crowd at Olympic Stadium, spurring them to victory with drums, flags and passionate chanting.
The Slovakian team had introduced three new young players to their lineup but still depended on veteran spikers Josef Mihalco and Lubomir Novosad. Mihalco took to the court clearly nursing an injured leg, but Slovakia nevertheless claimed the first set 25-20.
The deficit ignited a Cambodian side who knew a loss would severely dent their dreams of gold. Captain Chhim Chhandy displayed great leadership, and Man Veasna, Pin Sarath and Chhoum Kong combined well to create a wall of blockers at the net and unleash some stinging spikes to clinch the second set 25-17.
Cambodia kept their momentum in the third, frustrating the Slovakian team into picking up a yellow card for dissent. The Europeans were starting to realise the determination of the host side, which sealed the set 25-21.
Never to be underestimated however, the Slovakians echoed the steely nerve of coach Helena Hankova, and took adavantage of a loss of concentration by the Cambodians. Slovakia’s Jan Kacmarik had a sublime set, zipping spikes down the sidelines to leave Cambodia’s Im Phiream sprawling in their wake. The visitor’s renewed vigour silenced the raucous stadium as they hammered Cambodia 25-13.
To their credit, the home team never dropped their heads, striding out for the fifth set looking stronger than ever. Slovakia in contrast were tired, and discipline was slipping. Josef Mihlaco, struggling with injury, slipped and never regained his mobility, with frustration spilling over to earn him a yellow card – his team’s second of the match.
Cambodia never looked back, and put on a real show to the delight of the crowd, sealing victory with a 15-10 score in the final set (deciding sets play to 15 points).
The stadium erupted into scenes of pure, undiluted, sporting ecstasy as the Cambodians were mobbed by media and fans alike.
The victory Tuesday guaranteed Cambodia a place in the semifinals Friday, and with a comfortable 3-0 win over India on Wednesday, the pressure is off ahead of their matches today against Malaysia and world champions Germany.