By Joey Villar

FOR decades, Thailand has been Philippine volleyball’s barometer for success.

So in the next six days, Filipino fans will get a chance to see the mighty Southeast Asian (SEA) champions up close and personal as the Thais wage war in Week 2 of the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) starting with a duel with the Canadians at 3 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The 15-time SEA Games gold medalist have actually given the country a sample size of its immense talent after its masterful 25-13, 25-10, 25-16 destruction of the host team in an exhibition game at the Filoil Flying V Arena on Saturday.

It was a reprise of the Thais’ 25-15, 25-14, 25-13 devastation of the Filipinas in the Hanoi Games last month on their way to claiming their 13th straight gold in the biennial event and 15th overall.

Now, expect the country to probe deeper into the product of Thailand’s ascension as a world power as the latter plays Poland on Thursday, current VNL leader Japan on Friday, and World No. 1 United States on Sunday.

And the Thais are not in the VNL for no reasons.

After Week 1 in Ankara, Turkey, the World No. 14 has stolen some of the thunder from the big guns by zooming to seventh in an ultra powerful 16-country field with eight points to show on three wins in four outings.

Its triumphs came at the expense of Bulgaria, 25-20, 25-22, 25-20, on May 31; World No. 5 Serbia, 25-23, 25-27, 25-20, 20-25, 15-12, on June 2; and World No. 3 and Asian Games titlist China, 25-23, 13-25, 14-25, 25-23, 15-11, on June 5.

Their only defeat thus far came at the hands of the Belgians, 25-22, 18-25, 23-25, 25-21, 15-13 on June 4.

Meanwhile, pace-setter Japan, unbeaten in four outings with 11 points, battles Poland, currently at No. 8 with eight points on three wins in four games, in the other offering at 7 p.m.

PLDT is a presenting partner while The STAR, Quezon City headed by Mayor Joy Belmonte, Maynilad, Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee are among those backing the event.