Thai spikers' Rio dream over

Thai spikers' Rio dream over

Pornpun Guedpard receives the ball as Wanna Buakaew looks on during their Olympic qualifying match against South Korea in Tokyo on Saturday. (AP photo)
Pornpun Guedpard receives the ball as Wanna Buakaew looks on during their Olympic qualifying match against South Korea in Tokyo on Saturday. (AP photo)

TOKYO — Thailand's dreams of Rio came to an end on Saturday night when Japan secured the last Olympic berth in the women's volleyball qualifying tournament.

Japan finished ahead of Thailand despite losing a five-set match to Italy (23-25, 27-25, 27-25, 21-25, 15-9). The home side only needed to win two sets to punch its ticket to the Olympics for a record 12th time. Japan won the bronze medal at the 2012 Games in London.

Italy also needed to win only two sets so it has qualified as well.

The result was a bitter blow to Thailand, which staged a thrilling comeback earlier on Saturday from two sets down against South Korea to secure a 3-2 victory (25–19, 25–22, 27–29, 24–26,12–15).

The Koreans also booked a place in Rio on points despite the loss to Thailand, and they were followed a few hours later by the Netherlands, who defeated Peru 3-0. For the Dutch, it is their first trip to the Olympics since 1996 in Atlanta.

Thailand will face Peru on Sunday — the match starts at 10.55am Thailand time — in its final match of the tournament.

The Tokyo tournament is one of two events being held to decide the five remaining spots in Rio. The top three teams plus the top Asian side qualify. The second tournament, which concludes on Sunday in Puerto Rico, consists of four teams, and only the winner will take the last spot for the 2016 Olympics.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier hailed the fighting spirit of the Thai team after they showed great form by clawing their way back against the Koreans.

"The prime minister praised all the players and coaches after the national team overcame the strong favourite South Korea in a nail-biting match," government spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkumnerd said.

Gen Prayut made the comment after arriving from Russia for the summit between the host and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Sochi. The meeting ended on Friday.

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