South Korea’s women’s volleyball team, looking to redeem itself, suffered a humiliating defeat at the Asian Championships. The loss has cast a cloud over the team’s prospects at the Hangzhou Asian Games, a Paris Olympic qualifier that will be played with the same squad as the Asian Championships.
South Korea, coached by Cesar Hernandez Gonzalez, lost to Thailand 0-3 (20-25 22-25 23-25) in straight sets in their quarterfinal round Group E match at the 2023 Asian Volleyball Championship in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand on March 3.
South Korea,먹튀검증 ranked 35th by the FIVB, struggled to break through the tight defense of 15th-ranked Thailand. At 16-16 in the first set, attack errors by Lee Sun-woo (KGC Ginseng Corporation) and Lee Han-bi (Pepper Savings Bank) threw them off balance, and they fell behind 16-20. At 21-21 in the third set, they lost an open attack to Hyundai E&C’s Asian Quarterfinalist Wipawi Sithong and a rally to Korea Expressway Corporation’s Tanata Suksot.
Korea, which began the quarterfinal round with one loss to finish second in Pool C (2-1), was relegated to the 5-8 bracket after Vietnam swept Australia in straight sets 3-0 (25-15 25-15 25-21) in the second match of the quarterfinals. With the top two teams in Pool E advancing to the quarterfinals, Thailand and Vietnam secured two wins while Korea and Australia suffered two losses.
“The top four is the goal,” Cesar said before the tournament. However, they ended up with their worst finish in the history of the tournament. This is the first time the Korean women’s volleyball team has ever made it past the quarterfinals at an Asian Championship. South Korea hasn’t won a title since its first appearance at the Asian Championships in 1975, but it has finished at least fourth (runner-up seven times and absent in 2021).
After reaching the quarterfinals in London and Tokyo, South Korean women’s volleyball has struggled to find a new generation after mainstays Kim Yeon-kyung, Kim Soo-ji (formerly of Heungkuk Life) and Yang Hyo-jin (Hyundai E&C) retired from the sport. In the FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL), where the core nations compete, the undefeated streak has continued into this year’s edition, after Korea finished last in the preliminary round of the competition last year for the first time since its inception.
The performances at the VNL and the Asian Championships highlighted the weaknesses of Cesar’s leadership, which have long been noted as a weakness of the national team, and the inability to find players or tactical alternatives in the generational transition.
The team’s continued slide in the world rankings has made qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics a challenge. After this tournament, the team will travel to Poland to play Italy (2nd), USA (3rd), Poland (7th), Germany (12th), Thailand, Colombia (21st), and Slovenia (25th) in Group C of the Paris Olympic Qualifiers. A top-two finish in Group C will qualify the team for Paris, but realistically, it’s a long shot. Failure to qualify for the 12-team event would be the first Olympic failure in 16 years. Not only is it difficult to qualify, but the prospects for Olympic tickets, which can only be earned by advancing in the rankings, are uncertain.
After the Paris qualifiers, the team will travel to China to prepare for the Hangzhou Asian Games, but this failure puts their chances of medaling at the Asian Games in jeopardy. Aside from a fifth-place finish in Qatar in 2006, the team has won a medal in 14 previous attempts. They won gold in Hiroshima in 1994 and Incheon in 2014.