Ryu Seungmin after beating Marcos Freitas to secure a Korean victory
Photo By: An Sung Ho
A place in the semi-finals was booked by the second seeds but Korea was stretched to the limit and almost suffered a painful defeat at the hands of one on Europeís, if not the worldís most improved teams, since the Beijing Olympic Games.
Four years ago, Portugal did not qualify for the Menís Team event staged in the splendours of the Peking University Gymnasium; four years later on Sunday 5th August at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Portugal stole the show on the afternoon of the ninth day of play in the ExCeL Arena.
The trio of Tiago Apolonia, Marco Freitas and Jo„o Monteiro won the hearts of the crowd whether British or from foreign fields.
Oh Sangeun Out of Form
Prior to the contest, there was a feeling that Oh Sangeun was vulnerable.
In the Menís Singles event he had been comfortably beaten by Japanís Seiya Kishikawa; in the opening round of the Menís Team competition he had suffered defeat against DPR Koreaís Kim Hyok Bong. It was a contest in which, in two games, he had held a substantial lead before suffering defeat.
Ryu Seungmin Problems with Left Handers
Equally, Portugal fielded two left handers in the guise of Marcos Freitas and Jo„o Monteiro.
Ryu Seungmin has been known to experience problems against lefties.
Furthermore, Portugal had an option in the doubles, the right handed Tiago Apolonia could comfortably partner either Marcos Freitas and Jo„o Monteiro.
Also, Marcos Freitas was pretty good at doubles; he won the Menís Doubles title with Croatiaís Andrej Gacina at the 2011 European Championships.
However, there was a downside; the downside for the Portuguese was Joo Saehyuk. No European is comfortable against his outstanding defensive skills combined with a dynamic forehand top spin.
At the recent GAC GROUP 2012 ITTF World Tour Brazil Open in Santos, Marcos Freitas had lost to Joo Saehyuk at the semi-final stage of the Menís Singles event.
He would play the two singles matches and was a banker for two wins.
Not as Predicted
There was hope for Portugal but several factors had to fall into place; they did but not as predicted!
In the opening match a back-to-form Oh Sangeun beat Tiago Apolonia (13-11, 11-7, 11-9) but then there was sensation.
Marcos Freitas faced Joo Saehyuk, a player against whom he had a minimal chance.
However, Marcos Freitas had clearly learned from the Brazilian experienced; he beat the Korean ace in four games (16-14, 11-6, 6-11, 11-9).
It was a tremendous performance but when Oh Sangeun and Ryu Seungmin combined to win the first two games in the doubles against Tiago Apolonia and Jo„o Monteiro, it seemed the door was being closed in Portuguese faces.
Incredibly, Tiago Apolonia and Jo„o Monteiro found inspiration.
They won the next three games to secure victory (6-11, 10-12, 11-1, 11-8, 11-7) and when Jo„o Monteiro won the first game against Joo Saehyuk in the fourth contest of the fixture thoughts flashed through the mind that a sensation may beckon.
Shell shocked, the Korean bench looked stern faced.
Yoo Nam Kyu, the Menís Team coach was clearly concerned; Joo Saehyuk received definitive instructions. The defender started the game in attacking mode; his forehand top spin devastating.
Joo Saehyuk captured the second game before gradually asserting his authority on proceedings to secure a four game win (8-11, 11-6, 11-4, 12-10).
Speedy Gonzales at Top Speed
Matters level, would the theory that Ryu Seungmin may experience problems against a left hander and an in form left hander in the guise of Marco Freitas hold good?
Ryu Seungmin had other ideas; he was ready for the battle, from the off he was at top speed; he tore into Marcos Freitas.
Memories of the speed displayed eight years earlier when winning the Menís Singles gold medal at the Athens Olympic Games came flooding back.
Extracted One Game
Marcos Freitas managed to extract the third game to raise Portuguese hopes but Speedy Gonzales was in full flow; he was not to be denied. He won in four games (11-5, 11-6, 11-13, 11-3).
Korean blushes were spared.
A full distance duel but in the counterpart quarter-final matters were less dramatic.
Germany beat Austria by three matches to nil with the fourth seeds never in doubt.
Dimitrij Ovtcharov opening proceedings by overcoming Robert Gardos in three straight games (11-9, 11-8, 11-4); Timo Boll followed suit defeating Werner Schlager in a similar manner (11-7, 11-7, 11-4), with Timo Boll remaining on court to partner Bastian Steger to success.
The duo accounted for Chen Weixing and Robert Gardos in four games (11-6, 13-11, 8-11, 11-4),
At the semi-final stage, Germany meets China; Korea confronts Hong Kong.
The matches will be played on Monday 6th August; the contest involving China and Germany will take place at 2.30pm followed by the duel between Hong Kong and Korea at 7.00pm (British Summer Time).