Every match counts for China in Volleyball Nations League as a Paris Olympics spot beckons

Chinese head coach Cai Bin said he expected to use star player Zhu Ting more in Hong Kong as his side looks to bounce back from a disappointing VNL leg in Macau.

China coach Cai Bin says the losses in Macau “are on me”. Photo: May Tse

“I’d expect the rankings would be different after every match [in Hong Kong and Japan],” he said. “So, for us, every match matters.

“For every match, and every point in Hong Kong, our team will do the best we can. I hope the entire team can make the most of every point and play some exciting matches.”

China lost to Japan and then Italy in Macau, conceding the top Asian spot, which guarantees automatic qualification, to Japan with four matches each to go.

Cai was subsequently heavily criticised by Chinese fans and former professionals, some of whom demanded his resignation and questioned whether he was the right man for the job.

Cai said he was responsible for the poor run of results – which saw China slip to world No 7, one behind Japan – but insisted he would maintain an open attitude towards the criticism and doubts.

“We didn’t play to our standard in those two matches; the team also didn’t show its spirit,” the 57-year-old from Zhejiang said. “As the head coach of the team, those losses were on me.”

The lack of playing time for returning star Zhu also raised the fans’ ire.

The 29-year-old started only in a 3-0 win over Thailand at the start of the month, but the towering outside hitter served only one ball in a damaging 3-0 loss at the hands of the Italians on June 2.

But with China’s qualifying quest now hanging in the balance, Cai hinted Zhu would receive more court time in Hong Kong this week.

Star hitter Zhu Ting will receive more game time in Hong Kong, says coach Cai. Photo: Xinhua

“Zhu’s return is undoubtedly a great lift for the team and she plays a key role among the players,” the head coach said. “She began to adapt to the team’s rhythm in Macau, especially her cooperation with the setter.

“Since joining the team in Macau, Zhu has been regaining her stamina, but we need to protect her and cannot play her [too much] before she returns to fitness.

“Zhu’s condition is rather good now and her injuries are under control, so I believe we could go all out with our team selections.”

Tickets for VNL Hong Kong range from HK$150 to HK$1,400. The organisers revealed that 80 per cent of Tuesday’s tickets have been sold while the late- session tickets from Friday to Sunday, when China are playing, are all sold out.


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