by Simon Daish
China v Singapore
The first semi-final of the day sees favourites China take on Singapore at 10.00am local time in what should prove to be an exciting contest.
So far, we’ve only had the one glimpse at the Chinese women’s team in Yogyakarta, but that encounter with DPR Korea was all we need to know they mean business. Liu Shiwen was the experienced head in a young line-up which included Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu and all three players produced devastating performances to defeat the opposition by a commanding 3-0 margin.
Singapore’s journey started in the group phase of the competition, coming out on top against Maldives and Sri Lanka without dropping a single game! Through to the quarter-finals, Singapore sprung a shock 3-1 victory over Korea Republic with Lin Ye, Yu Mengyu and Feng Tianwei contributing one win each.
Based on previous meetings Chinese fans will be feeling pretty confident that their team will succeed against Singapore. In recent years China has held an immaculate record against their semi-final opponents, beating Singapore 3-0 at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and then 3-1 two years later at the 2018 ITTF Team World Cup in London.
However, there is one head-to-head meeting with China that Team Singapore will be looking to take inspiration from and that’s the 2010 World Team Championships final. Feng Tianwei played a key role in helping Singapore to a shock gold medal finish on that occasion – can she lead her country to another famous victory over the 17 times Asian champions? Surely not?
There’s no secret that the odds sit firmly in China’s court in Yogyakarta, they are after all searching for a seventh consecutive women’s team gold at the event. But, if there’s one team that still haunts the top seeds somewhat it’s Singapore following their shock defeat at the 2010 World Team Championships.
Chinese Taipei v Japan
Following the conclusion of China’s meeting with Singapore it’s time for the second women’s team semi-final as Japan and Chinese Taipei battle it out in the lower section of the draw.
Japan head into the match off the back of a convincing 3-0 win at Thailand’s expense. Miu Hirano, Kasumi Ishikawa and Hitomi Sato were a delightful watch against their Thai counterparts in the quarter-finals and with Saki Shibata and Miyu Kato also available for selection, you can bet you’ll see a strong team lining up for the country in the penultimate round.
As for Chinese Taipei, the path to the semi-finals was slightly trickier: facing fierce competition in the form of Hong Kong, Team Chinese Taipei required a heroic display from Chen Szu-Yu who came up trumps twice while a third win from Cheng I-Ching also proved invaluable.
The most recent head-to-head between the two teams came on this very stage four years back at the 2015 ITTF-Asian Championships in Pattaya, Thailand. On that occasion it was a case of one-way traffic as Japan powered to a 3-0 victory but should we expect a closer contest this time around?
Whether Chinese Taipei can cause an upset or not will depend heavily on how the duo of Cheng I-Ching and Chen Szu-Yu fare. Both players are fully capable of taking the challenge to the Japanese squad, but the task will be a difficult one. Stranger things have happened in sport, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Who will be crowned champions?
Four teams remain, on Tuesday that number will be cut down to two. China and Japan are the favourites to progress but can Singapore and Chinese Taipei spoil the party?
If it is indeed to be another bout between China and Japan at the final hurdle the former of the two teams will head into the match with confidence on their side. However, rule out this young and exciting Japanese outfit at your peril! What ever the final outcome the women’s team contest is set for a spectacular conclusion.