The Korean men’s volleyball team suffered a humiliating defeat in their first match of the Hangzhou Asian Games.
The Lim Do-heon-led South Korean men’s volleyball team lost to India in straight sets 2-3 (27-25 27-29 22-25 25-20 15-17) in their first match of the men’s Group C preliminary round at the 19th Hangzhou Asian Games at the Linping Sports Center in Hangzhou, China on Tuesday.
Korea, ranked 27th in the world, came into the tournament aiming to win their first gold medal in 17 years since Doha 2006, but were outclassed by the 73rd-ranked Indians from the first game.
It had been 11 years since Korea had lost to India in an international tournament with professional players since the 2012 Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Cup in Vietnam. South Korea also lost a close full-set match back then.
A hard-fought first set win… A foreshadowing of a shock loss
South Korea started with setter Han as captain, middle blockers Kim Kyu-min and Kim Jun-woo, outside hitters Na Kyung-bok and Jeon Kwang-in, opposite spiker Heo Su-bong, and libero Park Kyung-min.
In the first set, Korea took an early lead thanks to an open attack from Heo Su-bong and a service ace from Na Kyung-bok, but India, led by 6-foot-2 middle blocker Aswal Rai, fought back.
After falling behind 20-22, Korea came back with a service ace from Jeon Kwang-in to take the set 27-25 thanks to back-to-back attacks from Na Kyung-bok in the deuce and an Indian error.
However, the second set also saw another deuce battle, this time between the Koreans, with Kumar Vinit hitting an open attack before Lim Dong Hyuk’s open attack was blocked by Rai to give India a 29-27 victory.
With momentum on their side, India continued to capitalize on their height advantage in the third set. South Korea, on the other hand, struggled as their attacks were blocked one after another. Coach Lim Do-heon made a change by replacing the setter with Hwang Taek-ro, but the team was on the brink of a 22-25 deficit.
Fortunately, South Korea attacked India’s receiving line with powerful serves, and Na Kyung-bok, who struggled in the third set, bounced back to take the fourth set 25-20.
Gold hunt after 17 years, will today’s defeat be ‘weak’?
But the crisis was far from over. In the fifth and final set, Korea failed to handle the pressure and committed unforced errors. Facing match point at 12-14, Korea scored two consecutive points on an open attack by Jeon Kwang-in and a direct kill by Na Kyung-bok to take a dramatic deuce.
The Koreans pulled back to 15-14 thanks to an open attack from Na Kyung-bok, but the celebration was short-lived as both Na and Heo Su-bong’s attacks were blocked.
Na Kyung-bok scored a game-high 31 points for South Korea, while Jeon Kwang-in and Heo Soo-bong combined for 22 points. However, unlike India’s attack, which utilized a variety of left and right wings, Korea stuck to a monotonous attacking pattern. It was also disappointing to see that their top attacker, Jung Ji-seok, was unable to play due to back pain.
Nineteen countries participated in the men’s volleyball competition at the Asian Games. They were divided into six groups, with the first and second place finishers in each group advancing to the round of 12 tournament.
South Korea was in Group C with India and Cambodia and was expected to top the group, but lost to India in the first game. India, who had also beaten Cambodia 3-0 in straight sets the day before, went on a two-game winning streak to clinch the top spot in the group. 메이저놀이터
South Korea can still advance to the round of 12 if they beat Cambodia on Nov. 21. However, the unexpected loss to India was a huge blow to their pride, and they are no longer assured of an easy victory in their remaining matches.
It remains to be seen whether this loss will prove to be a medicine or a poison for the Korean team as they look to win gold at the Asian Games.