by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Korea, following the historical happenings of the previous day will select from Cha Hyo Sim, Kim Nam Hae, Kim Song I, Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun; no doubt Kim Song I, bronze medallist at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will appear in the choice as will Jeon Jihee, hitherto unbeaten in Halmstad. The third name is very much open to conjecture. Notably, Suh Hyowon at no.12 on the current Women’s Rankings, the highest rated player of all the Korean female players did not gain a place in the squad.
No doubt for Japan, Kasumi Ishikawa will lead the line, she is increasingly assured against defensive play, a bonus for the Land of the Rising Sun should the classical defensive skills of Kim Song I gain a place in the Korea selection. Expect Mima Ito, ever more the team player and Miu Hirano, most impressive in Halmstad, to complete the selection.
In the opposite half of the draw, China whatever the decision of coach Li Sun, has an embarrassment of riches in the guise of Chen Meng, Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen, Wang Manyu and Zhu Yuling; for Hong Kong who select from Doo Hoi Kem, Lee Ho Ching, Minnie Soo Wai Yam, Mak Tze Wing and Ng Wing Nam it is a monumental task. Realistically Hong Kong, with a team developed from within, has achieved its goal. The bronze medal in the words of Doo Hoi Kem is “unbelievable”.
Meanwhile, in the Men’s Team event, a Swedish coach is guaranteed a medal. Sweden under the guidance of Ulf “Tickan” Carlsson meet England inspired by Marcus Sjöberg; both outfits have excelled in Halmstad, both are somewhat surprise quarter-finalists, each having started the tournament as the third highest rated team in their initial phase groups.
We can anticipate England will continue with the trio of Paul Drinkhall, Liam Pitchford and Sam Walker, the outfit that won bronze two years ago in Kuala Lumpur; for Sweden expect to see Kristian Karlsson and Mattias Karlsson on duty, one anticipates Jon Persson will complete the line but Anton Källberg is a most realistic option.
Similarly Brazil is also a surprise quarter-finalist; likewise they started play as the third ranked outfit in their initial phase group; they have taken Latin America to new heights and face Germany. Hugo Calderano leads the line with no doubt Gustavo Tsuboi and Eric Jouti in support; for Germany Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov are the obvious selections but is there a question mark over the fitness of Dimitrij Ovtcharov.
Patrick Franziska is the favourite to complete the German selection with Ruwen Filus and Bastian Steger waiting in the wings. Could either or be called to duty if there is a problem with Dimitrij Ovtcharov?
Furthermore, worthy of note is that earlier this year at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open, Hugo Calderano beat Timo Boll.
Teams starting play in third place in their first phase groups, the same applies to Austria who have excelled expectations. However, they face the toughest task of all; they meet China. No doubt Robert Gardos, Stefan Fegerl and Daniel Habesohn will be the selection, for China I suspect they will play safe. Fan Zhendong, Ma Long and Xu Xin will enter the arena, Lin Gaoyuan and Wang Chuqin will look on in admiration.
In the one remaining fixture, Japan faces Korea; they start as slight favourites. Perhaps not at their best in the group fixture against England but otherwise in Halmstad Tomokazu Harimoto and Jun Mizutani have earned their stripes. However, what of the third spot? Koki Niwa is the obvious choice but in Halmstad he has been below par. Will either Kenta Matsudaira or Yuya Oshima be preferred?
Conversely for Korea, there is a clear selection; Lee Sangsu, Jeoung Youngsik and Jang Woojin is the first team; expect Kim Donghyun and Lim Jonghoon to be resigned to the bench.
Play starts at 11.00am; the Men’s Team quarter-finals China faces Austria, in the Women’s Team semi-finals Japan opposes Korea.