Korea's Kim Yeon-Koung hit top form against Netherlands on Sunday
Tokyo, Japan, May 15, 2016 - Hosts Japan and Italy are the only two unbeaten teams after two days of the women’s volleyball Olympic qualifier in Tokyo, while Korea is the team that caught attention on Sunday.
Realistically Korea may have expected to lose their opening two matches this week, having drawn Italy and form team The Netherlands to kick the qualifiers off.
And after losing 3-1 to Italy on the opening day, few people could have expected what unfolded at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon.
Korea bounced back from the disappointment to post a shock 3-0 (29-27, 25-23, 25-21) win against The Netherlands, inspired by the heroics of captain Kim Yeon-Koung.
It wasn’t that the Koreans won that shocked, it was the 3-0 scoreline against a team who is considered one of the favourites to earn a ticket to Rio this week.
Yeon-Koung was outstanding with 24 points, with Dutch coach Giovanni Guidetti describing the Korean captain as ‘something special’.
One outcome that is becoming more obvious by the day is that Italy will be one of the four teams going to Rio.
They haven’t earned their ticket yet, but their 3-1 (17-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-16) win over Thailand was impressive and sent out a very clear statement to the remaining teams in Tokyo trying to earn their place at the 2016 Olympics.
Hard to believe Italy could be so convincing after being completely outplayed in the opening set by a Thai team desperate to get to their first Olympics.
17-year-old Paola Egonu is set to be a star this week, both for her power and unpredictability, while Thailand setter Nootsara Tomkom continues to impress.
Peru has kept its dream of a long-awaited return to the Olympics alive with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 26-24) win over the Dominican Republic, a result which makes the task for Dominica to get to Rio very tough.
Peru, who once won medals regularly at Olympic Games, haven’t been to one since 2000. There’s a long way to go this week, but as captain Mirtha Uribe pointed out, the dream is still alive, and with opposite Angela Leyva running into form the country can have high hopes.
For the Dominican Republic the challenge looks much harder. Having lost both opening games against teams they might have expected to beat, the rest of the draw looks incredibly tough.
The task is about to get tougher for host Japan after opening wins against Peru and Kazakhstan. On Tuesday night they will take on the rampant Koreans in what is shaping as one of the matches of the week.
The depth of the Japanese team so far as been impressive, and their confidence has troubled both their opponents so far.
For Kazakhstan things are looking bleak, with two comprehensive defeats already and some tough matches still to come.