….World, European Champions Battle in Group One
Nigeria men’s team has been drawn in Group F alongside India, Slovakia, Vietnam, Switzerland and Turkey at the 2016 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Team Championships holding in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In the draw held at the weekend, Nigeria will battle for the knockout stage against highly-rated India team led by veteran Sharath Achanta, who has always being a thorn in the flesh of Nigerian team as well as Aruna Quadri’s conqueror at the 2015 World Championship in China, Soumyajit Ghosh.
India is highest rated team in the group followed by Slovakia, while Nigeria is the third rated team in the group.
Just like their male counterparts, the Nigeria women’s also face a Herculean task as they have been pitched against India as well in Group G. Other teams in the group are Croatia, Puerto Rico, Colombia and Portugal.
The battle for promotion to the elite division for Nigeria will commence on February 28 as the matches will be played in a round robin format with the two top teams progressing to the knockout stage.
Meanwhile, European champions, Austria faces a prodigious familiar adversary in their quest to add more silverware to their laurels as they are expected to compete against world champion, China in Group A of the Championship division.
In Kuala Lumpur Austria and Greece will meet again in what might be considered one of the more difficult groups from which to gain a top three place to keep medal hopes alive.
Also in the group is Chinese Taipei, bronze medallists two years ago as a result of a dramatic three matches to two success against the Korea, the fourth seeds. It was an engagement in which Chuang Chih-Yuan saved match points against Joo Saehyuk the fourth contest of the fixture to set the scene for Chien Chen-An to secure victory at the expense of Jung Youngsik. The Czech Republic and DPR Korea complete the group.
Likewise, Group C in the Men’s Championship Division lists four teams who reached the main draw in 2014; Japan, the third seeds, appears alongside Portugal, Poland and Singapore. Belarus and Ukraine complete the line-up.
Notably at the 2014 World Team Championships, with the established trio of Tiago Apolonia, Marcos Freitas and João Monteiro on duty, a three-one win was recorded against the Polish formation of Wang Zengyi, Daniel Gorak and Robert Floras; the win coming prior to a three-nil defeat against the Japanese outfit formed by Jun Mizutani, Koki Niwa and Kenta Matsudaira. Belarus and Ukraine are the two remaining outfits in the group.
Testing times ahead for Japan: it is the same for all in Kuala Lumpur. Germany, the second seeds in the Men’s Championship Division and Korea Republic, the fourth seeds, each face just one adversary that gained a top 12 place in Tokyo.
Sweden is the team in question for Germany; for Korea Republic, it is Croatia. Alongside Germany in Group B, France, Denmark, England and Malaysia comprise the six outfits; for Korea Republic in Group D, it is Hong Kong, Russia, Romania and Italy. The top four in the Championship Division of the Men’s Team event is the same as two years ago in Tokyo.
In the Women’s Team competition, China and Japan occupy the respective top two seeded positions once again, likewise it is the fourth spot for Hong Kong.
However, a different outfit occupies the third seeded place in the draw; the team in question is the Netherlands, in Tokyo it was Korea Republic.
One step further, a medal, is very much the goal for the Netherlands but in Group C, they face Singapore, Ukraine and Belarus; all teams who reached the main draw in Tokyo. Poland and France complete the group.
Testing times await the Netherlands; arguably for the host nation it is even more testing.
Malaysia is drawn in Group A alongside China, the defending champions and top seeds; Chinese Taipei, Romania, Hungary and Spain are the remaining teams.
First Stage Draw
Championship Division – Men
Group A: China, Austria, Chinese Taipei, Greece, Czech Republic, DPR Korea
Group B: Germany, Sweden, France, Denmark, England, Malaysia
Group C: Japan, Portugal, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Singapore
Group D: Korea Republic, Hong Kong, Russia, Croatia, Romania, Italy
Championship Division – Women
Group A: China, Chinese Taipei, Romania, Hungary, Spain, Malaysia
Group B: Japan, Germany, DPR Korea, Czech Republic, Thailand. Brazil
Group C: Netherlands, Singapore, Poland, Ukraine, France, Belarus
Group D: Hong Kong, Korea Republic, Austria, Russia, United States, Sweden
Division Two – Men
Group E: Brazil, Iran, Belgium, Netherlands, Thailand, Canada
Group F: India, Slovak Republic, Nigeria, Vietnam, Switzerland, Turkey
Group G: Hungary, Egypt, Slovenia, Argentina, Mexico, Norway
Group H: Spain, Serbia, Bulgaria, Australia, Latvia, Puerto Rico
Division Two – Women
Group E: Serbia, England, Canada, Belgium, Turkey, New Zealand
Group F: Slovak Republic, Egypt, Lithuania, Italy, Switzerland, Mexico
Group G: Croatia, India, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Portugal
Group H: Luxembourg, Slovenia, Greece, Vietnam, Chile, Bulgaria
Division Three – Men
Group I: Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Finland, Qatar, Mongolia, New Zealand
Group J United States, Scotland, Algeria, Luxembourg, Guatemala, Cyprus
Group K: Chile, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Paraguay, Uzbekistan, Yemen
Group L: Congo Brazzaville, Indonesia, Lebanon, Estonia, Ireland, Sri Lanka
Division Three – Women
Group I: Indonesia, Macao, Wales, Finland, Norway, Laos
Group J: Australia, Uzbekistan, Estonia, Congo Brazzaville, Algeria, Nepal
Group K: Venezuela, Iran, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ethiopia
Group L: Argentina, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Mongolia, Latvia, Azerbaijan