05 Sep 2019

From a distance Group 7 doesn't perhaps appear to be the standout group in the men's team event at the Liebherr 2019 ITTF European Championships, but inspect a little more closely and you will find three very evenly-matched nations battling tooth and nail to extend their stay in the competition.

Belgium, Poland and Serbia occupy the group and it was the latter two countries that featured in a head-to-head contest on day two in Nantes. As anticipated, there was very little to choose between them in what proved to be a simply outstanding encounter.

by Simon Daish

On the opening day of play, Serbia struck a narrow 3-2 victory over Belgium in a fascinating and hard-fought duel to establish positive momentum in the group, but the early pace-setters knew that there was little time to celebrate with another huge clash on the fixture list the following day.

Awaiting in the second set of group-stage matches was a fierce meeting with the top-seeded team in Group 7, Poland. However, Team Serbia entered the tie not only with confidence on their side but also the understanding that success on day two would be enough to seal top spot in the group.

One powerful weapon Serbia had up their sleeve was the vastly experienced and highly reliable warrior known as Aleksandar Karakasevic. So, it may have come as a shock for some to see the 43-year-old Serb suffer defeat in the match opener and it was a convincing one at that as Poland’s Marek Badowski produced an inspiring display to put his team 1-0 ahead (11-6, 11-9, 11-9).

An early setback for the Serbians, their deficit soon doubled as Jakub Dyjas inflicted a four games defeat upon Zsolt Peto (5-11, 11-3, 11-7, 11-7) to extend Poland’s lead to 2-0 and firmly in the driving seat.

The odds were beginning to stack up in the Polish team’s favour but their opponents refused to give up without a fight: Marko Jevtovic put Serbia on the scoreboard with his straight games win against Samuel Kulczycki (11-8, 11-9, 16-14) while Karakasevic made up for his previous loss, edging an entertaining encounter with Dyjas (6-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-13, 11-9) to draw the match level at 2-2. Was a truly legendary comeback about to be completed?

With both sides inseparable by the conclusion of the fourth match, a deciding fifth fixture was required to find a winner. The man who put his team on the front foot at the very start of the contest, Badowski went on to beat Peto (11-9, 4-11, 11-9, 11-2) to secure the most crucial of victories that saved Poland’s campaign in Nantes.

Team Poland has relied on the service of Dyjas to get them out of a tricky spot on more than one occasion in the past, but this time out it was Marek Badowski that delivered when his country needed him most.

Two matches down, just one to go and it’s still anyone’s game! Defeated on day one, the hunt for first position in Group 7 is still a possibility for Belgium but to pull it off they will need a mighty performance to see off Poland in the concluding battle.

Right now Poland are in pole position, but this unpredictable group might still have a surprise or two to offer.

2019 ITTF European Team Championships Samuel Kulczycki Jakub Dyjas Aleksandar Karakasevic Marek Badowski Poland Serbia Zsolt Peto Belgium Marko Jevtovic

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