Montreux, Switzerland, May 2, 2016 - In a thrilling game, Opposite Gong Xiangyu was the heroine for China, scoring 19 points in a sensational performance to help her team overcome Belgium 3:0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-21) and seal their place in the semi-finals, leaving the Belgians with work to do in their final Pool B clash with Brazil on Friday.
Despite China’s three consecutive days of fixtures, there were no signs of lethargy or fatigue as they put in a professional, yet mesmerising display of attacking quality- the perfect remedy to yesterday’s shock loss to the Turks- to see themselves safely through to the semi-finals. Gong Xiangyu was the thorn in the side of the Belgians throughout, her intelligent attacking play holding off the Europeans throughout an intriguing tactical contest.
The court at Montreux was a cauldron of noise as the first set got off to a flying start, with next to no long rallies and points raining down like confetti for both teams in a frantically paced opening few minutes. An ace from the first serve by Liu Xiaotong for the Chinese set the tone, and two superb Belgian blocks from Freya Aelbrecht and Laura Heyrman followed in response. However Gert Vande Broek’s team still struggled to pull away from their opponents, Yang Junjing scoring a superb point leaving the whole of the Belgian reception flat-footed. From then, China seemed to find another gear, Gong Xiangyu’s spike piercing the heart of the Belgians as the Chinese accelerated ahead to edge a tense first set 25-23.
The second set saw the game grow into an intense tactical battle, with some spectacular rallies on display including a great save from Britt Ruysschaert that laid the ball on a plate for Lise Van Hecke to smash home for a well-worked Belgian point, leaving the Chinese reception wanting. Later, a great block by Hui Ruoqi.helped the Chinese regain the advantage, before the Olympic qualifiers flexed their muscles and powered into a comfortable lead to leave Belgian efforts in vain. The Europeans still made a game of it pulling the deficit back to 20-24, but China held their nerve to secure the second set 25-20.
The third set continued where the second left off, China showing calm and composure to retain control of the game. Gong Xiangyu.-in the heat of the action once again- came up with a great block and spike to keep the Yellow Tigers at bay, just as the Belgians seemed to be finding a way through China’s cast-iron rear-guard Several heart-stopping rallies unfolded on court in which Belgium re-emerged in sight of the Chinese, but momentum was with the Asians who upped their blocking game just at the right time; key contributions from Zheng Yixin and Hui Ruoqi helping them on their way to a 25-21 third set win.
Belgium’s fate meanwhile is still in their own hands, and they will hope to finish the job and confirm their own passage to the next round on Friday when they grapple with Brazil at 4:30pm CET.