by Simon Daish
Heading into the second-leg, little separated Italy and Ukraine in the scores with the Italians leading the tie by a narrow 3-2 scoreline.
With the advantage on the side of the hosts Italy was dreaming of securing its spot in the Men’s Championship Division for the event in Luxembourg, and for a while it looked as though the home side would achieve that goal.
Mihai Bobocica and Niagol Stoyanov propelled Italy into a 2-0 lead following victories against Yaroslav Zhmudenko (15-13, 11-9, 11-8) and Kou Lei (11-6, 11-13, 11-7, 11-6), yet it was not to be for the Italian team as three consecutive wins for Ukraine’s Ievgen Pryschepa, Viktor Efimov and Yaroslav Zhmudenko against Marco Rech Daldosso (6-11, 6-11, 12-10, 6-11), Mihai Bobocica (6-11, 7-11, 3-11) and Niagol Stoyanov (7-11, 11-5, 8-11, 10-12) gave Ukraine qualification for the top division.
One of the countries joining Ukraine in the Championship Division is Poland after the squad of Wang Zengyi, Jakub Dyjas and Robert Floras prevailed against the Czech Republic.
The opening tie of the encounter saw Wang Zengyi recover from a game down to defeat Tomas Konecny across four ends (9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8), and subsequent victories from Jakub Dyjas and Robert Floras over Lubomir Jancarik (11-9, 12-10, 11-5) and Dimitrij Prokopcov (7-11, 11-8, 14-12, 13-11) ensured a 3-0 triumph for the home side.
England has missed out on the Championship Division with Slovakia progressing in their place, but the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships bronze medallists gave a good account of themselves in the second-leg with Liam Pitchford’s brace helping the visitors to a 2-3 away win.
Two other play-off encounters also took place as Russia came through its tie against Serbia with a 2-3 triumph away from home, while Hungary’s attempt to overturn a losing aggregate scoreline proved unsuccessful as Belarus sealed its position in the top-flight despite suffering a 2-3 home defeat in Minsk.
The Liebherr 2017 ITTF European Championships are set to take place in Luxembourg between Wednesday 13th and Sunday 17th September.