by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Brazil, always a force in Latin America and the no.10 seeds in Halmstad beat Portugal, the no.8 seeds, the 2015 European champions but more pertinently the three-nil winners against DPR Korea the previous day.
Meanwhile, England, the no.12 seeds and surprise bronze medallist two years ago, accounted for their illustrious predecessors in the position. They beat Chinese Taipei who, in 2014 in Tokyo, had sensationally beaten Korea Republic to secure the third step of the podium.
Impressive, the margin of victory was even more impressive; a three-nil win was the order of the day with Eric Jouti, the young man I watched win the Cadet Boys’ Singles title at the 2009 Latin American Junior Championships in Cartagena de Indias gaining his “welcome to the next level”.
He beat Tiago Apolonia (8-11, 11-5, 11-6, 5-11-9) to seal the victory after Gustavo Tsuboi had given Brazil the perfect start by overcoming Marcos Freitas (11-9, 7-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-8), to be followed by Hugo Calderano who accounted for João Monteiro (11-5, 4-11, 11-5, 11-7).
Sitting courtside in the role of coach was Francisco de Armas, always Paco, who when representing his native Cuba, competed at the Perrier 1995 Men’s World Cup in Nîmes. Sitting in the tiered seating savouring proceedings was Jean-René Mounié. He is the personal coach of Hugo Calderano and Simon Gauzy whilst also fulfilling role of coach for Brazilian teams as and when required.
“Gustavo played really well, yesterday he beat Pavel Sirucek but today everything was better than yesterday, his movement was better, he was aggressive. He gave Brazil the best start possible. For Hugo it was a tough match, João Monteiro is a fighter, in serve and receive he is good; Hugo imposed himself on the match. Meanwhile Eric was outstanding, he had played Tiago before and lost but he had shown that there were distinct possibilities; today he showed responsibility. He followed the trend of the team.” Jean-René Mounié
A good start for Brazil afforded by Gustavo Tsuboi, for England that role was fulfilled by Paul Drinkhall. In the opening match of the fixture, he beat the player who throughout this century has been the stalwart of Chinese Taipei. He beat Chuang Chih-Yuan a thrilling five games duel, determined by the minimal two point margin in the deciding game (11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 12-10).
Liam Pitchford doubled the advantage by overcoming Chen Chien-An (6-11, 11-8, 11-9, 15-13), before Lin Yun-Ju stemmed the tide. The supremely talented teenager overcame Sam Walker (9-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-6).
Hope for Chinese Taipei with Chuang Chih-Yuan next on court; a revival was in the air, Liam Pitchford had other ideas, he beat Chuang Chih-Yuan in three straight game (11-7, 11-4, 11-8).
Two fixtures completed; two wins for Brazil, two for England, two teams inspired.