Nepal take on Maldives in what will be a virtual quarter-final matchThe two South Asian teams have played five times in the past four editions of the tournament since its inception in 2015.
Nepal take on well-known foes Maldives in a must-win match of the AVC Asian Senior Men’s Central Zone Volleyball Championships at the Army Physical Training and Sports Centre in Lagankhel, Lalitpur, on Wednesday.
The South Asian rivals suffered defeats against Kyrgyzstan in the three-team Group ‘A’. While Nepal lost the opening match in straight sets 25-23, 25-22, 25-22 on Monday Maldives lost 25-15, 26-24, 25-19 on Tuesday. The match between Nepal and Maldives will be a virtual quarter-final as the winners will make it to semi-finals.
The two South Asian teams have played five times in the past four editions of the tournament since its inception in 2015. Looking at the past records, Nepal hold a slight advantage over Maldives winning three and losing two matches. Nepal’s best run in the history of the tournament has been a third place finish in the 2017 edition. Back then, Nepal fought back from a set down to beat hosts Maldives in four sets in the round robin format participated in by four teams.
In the first edition in 2015, Nepal lost to Maldives and were confined to fourth place finish. In the next edition, Nepal beat Maldives in the group stage before losing third place playoff against the same opponents. In 2018 when the tournament was held in Bangladesh, Nepal were again drawn in the same group with Maldives and beat the South Asian opponents. They lost to Turkmenistan in the semi-finals and Kyrgyzstan in the third place playoff.
Nepal captain Em Bahadur Magar was aware that the match would be a do-or-die for them. “A semi-final place will be at stake tomorrow. We must beat them and we are capable to do that,” said the 31-year-old. “We are ahead of them in head-to-head and home support will be a big advantage for us.”
Nepal’s Dutch coach Han Abbing is expecting a tough fight. “I watched at the video played two years ago against Maldives. It was tight match and probably that will be the case on Wednesday as well. We are looking forward to it. The boys have experience of playing against Maldives and both the teams are almost similar,” said the 58-year-old.Asked if the home team was under pressure to getresult in their favour, Abbing said: “Every point and match is do-or-die.Players want to go into the court to win a point and the match. Sometimes yousucceed sometimes you don’t. We do not fear but we are looking forward enjoyit. We are trying to put in a good performance,” said the coach.
Kyrgyzstan advance into semi-finals
Kyrgyzstan entered the semi-finals from Group 'A' after defeating Maldives in straight sets during the AVC Asian Senior Men's Central Zone Volleyball Championship at the Army Physical Training and Sports Centre in Lagankhel, Lalitpur, on Tuesday.
Kyrgyzstan, who also defeated Nepal with relative ease, saw off Maldives 25-15, 26-24, 25-19 to top the group with six points. Kyrgyzstan had defeated Nepal 25-23, 25-22, 25-22 in the first match on Monday. The winners of Wednesday's match between Nepal and Maldives will make join Kyrgyzstan in the last four.
In the Group 'B' match, Uzbekistan stunned defending champions Turkmenistan in straight sets to record second successive win and strengthen chances of making it to the semi-finals. Uzbekistan earned a 25-18, 25-21, 25-15 win over Turkmenistan in the four-team group. Uzbekistan had defeated Bangladesh in straight sets on Monday while Turkmenistan had beaten Afghanistan in four sets.
In another Group 'B' match, Afghanistan saw off Bangladesh 3-2 to keep their semi-final hopes alive. The entertaining match saw Afghanistan register a 25-21, 19-25, 18-25, 25-22, 15-12 win over the South Asian opponents. The outcome meant, Uzbekistan lead the Group 'B' standings with six points from two matches while Turkmenistan, who have won one, are behind them with three points. Afghanistan are third with two points while Bangladesh are at the bottom with just one point.
While the teams winning in straight sets or fourth sets earn three points, teams that win in five sets get two points while the losing team will also walk away with one point. Teams losing in straight sets or four are not entitled to earn any point. Uzbekistan will take on Afghanistan and Turkmenistan will lock horns with Bangladesh in Group 'B' match on Wednesday.