Ahmedabad, Oct 20 (IANS) Thailand set up its semi-final date with hosts India after beating Japan 37-33 in a hard-fought Group B clash of the Kabaddi World Cup at the Arena by TransStadia here on Wednesday.
It could have been anybody's game until the 37th minute as both the teams were locked at 32-32 but Thailand kept their nerves in the next three minutes to dethrone Iran and top the Group in the race to the semi-finals.
Thailand captain Khomsan Thongkham led his team from the front scoring 10 points as Japan fought valiantly only to go down at the very end and finish fourth with 12 points from five games.
On Wednesday, both teams started well with tackle and raid points as the score was levelled at 2-2 after three minutes. Japan's defence managed to resist Thailand's star raider Khomsan sending him to the bench twice as they led 5-2 after five minutes. Khomsan scored his first point of the match in seventh minute as Thailand levelled the game at 5-5.
It was an extremely close contest as both teams exchanged points and it was 7-7 in the 12th minute. Thailand forced a super tackle in the 13th minute to lead 10-9.
Japan's defence scored two quick points in two minutes as they tied the game at 12-12 after 15 minutes. With Thailand just reduced to a man, Peeradach Jajantam came up with an unbelievable super tackle to give his team 14-13 lead. Japan inflicted the first all out of the match in the 19th minute to lead 17-14 but Khomsan responded with a two-point raid to help Thailand square the scores 17-17 at the end of the first half.
Coming back, Japan scored a tackle point in the 22nd minute to hold a slender one-point lead. Japan led 20-17 after 24 minutes as their defence held strong against the Thai raiders.
Thailand's Santi Bunchoet scored with a super raid in the 27th minute, as both teams were levelled at 21-21. Japan forced a super tackle by Kazuhiro Takano in the same minute to lead 23-21. Japan then forced two more super tackles in two minutes to open a six-point gap and lead 28-22 after 30 minutes.
Japan's defence was in brilliant form as they scored 16 points in 32 minutes to extend their lead to 30-24.
But Thailand bounced back in style to score five points in two minutes besides forcing an all out in the 35th minute to level the scores at 32-32.
Thailand then took a two-point lead in the 38th minute to get the tie-breaker 34-32 before Khomsan punched another two-point raid in the 40th minute to seal the match in Thailand's favour.
In the semi-finals on Friday, Thailand will play India in the first match while South Korea will take on Iran in the second game.