Only reigning champions Germany stand in the way of Cambodia’s long-cherished dream of internat-ional acclaim as the two sides set up today’s final showdown of the 2011 WOVD Standing Volleyball World Cup after clearing semifinal hurdles yesterday at a packed indoor hall of the Olympic Stadium.
Three-time World Cup winners Germany had to endure a few hiccups before they brought their all-court press to bear on an error-riddled Slovakia, shutting out an hour-long contest at 25-16, 25-21, 21-17.
Later, Cambodia worked out a solid tempo throughout their semi, producing impressive bursts of class to down Sri Lanka 25-19, 25-19, 25-18 in a splendid improvement on their lab-oured five-set victory over the same opponents during the league stage.
“It’s a great advertisement for disabled sports,” Christopher Minko, director of the Local Organising Committee and secretary of the Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled) said last night.
“Cambodia is already a winner on the organisational front, having hosted this biennial mega-event an unprecedented three times in a row since 2007. We want to prove that we are champions on the court as well.”
The grand final is scheduled to begin at 5:30pm today, after the play-off for third place btween Sri Lanka and Slovakia.
“I have healthy respect for Cambodia as great competitors. We won the preliminary league game, but playing in the final is quite different,” Germany coach Athanasios Papageorgiou told the Post after their match yesterday.
“I hope we play to our strengths.”
The key to Cambodia’s success against Sri Lanka was in the middle of the court, where the reception and pass links worked well to supply main spikers Sang Veasna and Ou Phalla with timely set-ups.
The first two sets followed the same pattern of the home side jumping to an early lead, then powering through to a safe finish.
Sri Lanka’s best came in the third set, when they took a 10-5 lead, but Cambodia clawed their way back to level the scores at 15-all, then surged ahead to wrap up the tie.
While the Cambodian celebrations on court went on quite some time after the finish, there was concern in the camp for Nget Sambo who was badly hurt during the first set and had to be carried away for immediate medical help.
According to team sources, he may not be able to play in the final.
This is the first appearance in a World Cup final for the Kingdom, and the sense of their greatest achievement was not lost on head coach Hang Chhaya and the rest of the management.
“We are on the verge of history. I am elated, and nothing will give me greater pride than winning this coveted trophy. We got the bronze in 2007 and finished fourth in 2009, and it’s our time now,” Hang Chhaya said.
“The team has been playing with great gusto and spirit, and I hope they can pull it off against Germany.
“They are unstoppable now. They know what winning is like, and the way they turned this match around against Sri Lanka was amazing.
“I am confident they will rise up to this challenge.”
Former Los Angeles police officer and renowned fitness guru Willie Guillory, who has been specially brought in as a motivation and fitness coach for the team, also hailed their performance.
“The boys were terrific tonight. They’re in good spirits, they’re in good shape, and they’ll go all the way,” Guillory said.
Sri Lankan coach Lalith Premalal said he was disappointed with the result but overall quite pleased that his side had done so well.
“I hope they will do well in the play-off against Slovakia,” he said.
In yesterday’s morning session, Kazakhstan beat debutants Laos 25-7, 25-15, 25-13 in the first of their two-match fifth-place playoff. They will play the concluding game this morning.