by Simon Daish
China’s road to the final has been, on paper, immaculate: winners of all five of their group stage encounters the second seeds went on to achieve back-to-back successes against Austria and Sweden to progress to the gold medal contest for the 26th occasion.
Another point to note is that not one of China’s players has suffered defeat so far in Halmstad; there were close shaves for Fan Zhendong and Ma Long in their respective fixtures against João Geraldo and Robert Gardos but not one side has managed to put a dent in China’s title assault.
For Germany the path to the final has been slightly more dramatic with the no.1 seeds requiring the full match distance to see off Group A opponents Egypt and Slovenia before pulling off a mini-comeback against 10th seeds Brazil in the quarter-finals.
In the penultimate round of play Germany negotiated its toughest match of the 2018 event to date with Timo Boll’s brace and a crucial win from Patrick Franziska guiding the team to a narrow 3-2 victory over Korea Republic.
Since the turn of the century China and Germany have met in the Men’s Team final at the World Team Championships on four occasions with the former of the two sides winning each encounter including four years ago in the 2014 final.
More recently the two countries did battle at the quarter-finals stage of the 2018 ITTF Team World Cup in London, a tie which saw China prevail 3-0 but could Germany be set to mount a stronger challenge in Halmstad?
Success for China in the closing match at the Halmstad Arena will see the team extend its record of gold medals in the Men’s Team event to 21 while Germany is searching for its first title in what will be their sixth final that is if you include the 1969 World Championships when West Germany finished in the runner up spot.