Thailand coach Aghakouchaki plans another upset

Dubai: Thailand coach Abbas Aghakouchaki knows how to plot his way to the title after securing a hard-fought 51-43 win over pre-tournament favourites Morocco at the 10th Fazza International Wheelchair Basketball being played at the Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.

In a fight to decide group leaders and semi-finalists on the final day of group matches on Tuesday, Thailand fought off better-built Morocco 51-43, while South Korea got the better of Turkey 62-59 to end at the top of the two groups after three matches each.

In Wednesday’s semi-finals, Morocco will face Turkey, while Thailand will be up against South Korea at 2pm and 4pm.

“I don’t mind either of them [South Korea or Turkey] in the semi-final. I have a plan in mind to get past either of them, just like we did during today’s match against Morocco,” Aghakouchaki told Gulf News.

“I believe we have to take one match at a time. We will now watch the match between Korea and Turkey and see what we can do to achieve our goal of first advancing to the final,” the coach from Iran added.

Aghakouchaki led the Iran national team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. And when Thailand requested for his services he gladly answered in the affirmative and faced a new challenge. “One month is not a long time, but the good thing about this team is that they listen and implement everything that I tell them. And this is a great quality in helping us achieve our goals,” Aghakouchaki said.

Thailand started off well outscoring the Moroccans 17-6 in the first period. But the North Africans fought back well to clamp down in defence with a 12-4 show in the second that allowed the Asian nation to go in with a narrow 21-18 lead at the half-time hooter.

Morocco continued to trail 31-34 at the end of the third period before Thailand ran away to a comfortable lead midway through the final quarter with their star Aekkasit Jumjarean scoring three unanswered baskets to run away 51-43 victors.

The last match to determine Group B leaders was equally engrossing with South Korea battling Turkey before securing a smooth 62-59 win and set a semi-final meeting with Morocco. “Morocco will be tough, but we plan to stop them. We are missing three of our main players as two of them are playing in the leagues in Europa and one couldn’t make the trip due to family commitments,” Korean coach Han Sa Hyun said.

“Even though everyone is looking at us as the favourites, we would want to believe that we are not. We are here to take one match at a time, and our speed and determination will see us through,” he added.

Taiwan and Japan will be involved in the play-off for fifth place, while the UAE will have to take on South Africa to decide who will end at the bottom of the standings. In yesterday’s games, Taiwan defeated the hosts 56-35 and Japan got the better of South Africa 56-46.

RESULTS

Thailand 51, Morocco 43

South Korea 62, Turkey 59

Taiwan 56, UAE 35

Japan 56, South Africa 46