by Simon Daish
The Köping Arena was the venue chosen for the opening tie between Sweden and Slovakia, as both teams battled it out to gain the early advantage in the play offs.
Sweden and Slovakia reached the play off round after finishing in the runner-up positions in Group J and Group I respectively, and both sides were well aware of the importance surrounding the match in Köping.
Matilda Ekholm gave the hosts the perfect start to the encounter following her straight games success against Eva Jurkova (11-8, 11-3, 11-6) before Sweden’s lead was doubled through Li Fen who saw off Slovakia’s Eva Ódorová across four ends (11-4, 9-11, 13-11, 11-6).
The match was then brought to a close as Linda Bergström proved too strong for Lucia Truksova (11-5, 11-2, 11-5) giving Sweden a 3-0 win ahead of the return leg in Bratislava.
“A good effort by all three players of the players. Matilda Ekholm leads the way by following a weak start to take control and win the game. They fold down a bit when we were certain individuals that we want to win and do it so well”, Peter Sartz (Swedish Women’s Coach).
Wales was the last country to finish its group stage campaign following travel problems surrounding their previous match against Kosovo.
After a couple of delays the match was eventually played out with the Welsh team claiming a 3-0 victory, however, the first play off tie didn’t go as well as the squad would have hoped as Belarus stormed to a powerful result.
Viktoria Pavlovich, Daria Trigolos and Alina Arlouskaya prevailed over Chloe Thomas (11-5, 11-3, 11-6), Charlotte Carey (11-9, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10) and Beth Roberts (11-3, 11-2, 11-3) as Belarus registered a comfortable 3-0 home win.
Spain and Croatia also impressed in their respective matches as both nations picked up 3-0 successes.
The team of Maria Xiao, Galia Dvorak and Sara Ramirez faced little trouble as Spain cruised to a comfortable victory away to England, while Croatia enjoyed a positive visit to Novi Sad as Dorina Srebrnjak, Tian Yuan and Mirela Đurak overcame their Serbian opponents.