World Team Championships: Portugal's Upset, China Rolls, France Over England - Butterfly Table Tennis
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World Team Championships: Portugal’s Upset, China Rolls, France Over England

(by Steve Hopkins, photo ITTFWorld)

We are down to the Final 8 at the 2022 ITTF World Team Championships Finals in Chengdu.  Top seeded China, dominated their Round of 16 match against India 3-0 to advance.  China will face a Swedish squad the topped Belgium 3-0.  The other two teams in the top half of the draw are Japan and Portugal.  Japan dispensed with Brazil easily in their Round of 16 matchup – with Shunsuke Togami upsetting Hugo Calderano 3-1 before Harimoto and Oikawa each scored 3-0 wins.

In the biggest upset on the men’s side thus far, it was Portugal over Slovenia in the Round of 16.  Portugal had lost their final match in their group stage (1-3 to Denmark) but made up for it in the Round of 16 of the elimination rounds.  Marcos Freitas started things off with a pretty easy 3-1 win over Deni Kozul – Freitas has certainly played in these big moments in the past, but Kozul was favored today.  Joao Geraldo then faced Darko Jorgic – again, with Slovenia heavily favored.  But, like the first match, the Portuguese player was up early and stayed up throughout the first game.  A similar script followed in the second game as Geraldo and Jorgic were tied 4-4 before Geraldo ran off five unanswered to take a commanding lead before Jorgic fought back for a 13-11 win.  Jorgic dominated the third game from the start and went up 2-1 in the games.  The fourth game was close throughout, but Geraldo secured a 2 point separation and held on for the 11-9 win (now 2-2 and tied again).  A tight game in the fifth again turned to Geraldo at the end an 11-8 (3-2) win for Portugal – two successive upsets.  The final match was Joao Monteiro versus Peter Hribar – and the momentum for Portugal continued as Monteiro ran off three straight wins to seal the victory for Portugal.  Portugal advances, one of the top seeds is out.

The bottom half of the draw will be Korea versus Hong Kong and Germany versus France.  Korea topped Poland easily 3-0 in their Round of 16 matchup.  The same is true for Hong Kong, who easily defeated Egypt 3-0.  Germany also rolled over Croatia with a 3-0 score.  France’s win over England was a minor upset.  England’s Liam Pitchford was the strongest of all the players, and he won both of his matches (a 3-2 win over Felix Lebrun and a 3-2 win over Alexis Lebrun).  Pitchford could not get any help from his teammates, however.  Sam Walker lost 0-3 to both Lebrun brothers, and England’s David Mcbeath lost a tight 3-2 match to Jules Rolland).   England was one of the Top 8 seeds, so they are out a round early.  France advances – with a team of dynamic players where 22 year old Rolland is the oldest.   Alexis Lebrun is 19 and his younger brother Felix is 16 – and it is getting hard to imagine a European landscape that won’t feature both of these brothers near the top for the next decade.

France will face Germany.  The German squad is also full of fresh faces – as Dang Qiu is the team captain, and his teammates Benedikt Duda and Kay Stumper each had impressive wins over Croatia.  When was the last time that France and Germany faced each other and each had a penholder on the team?  Penholders Felix Lebrun and Dang Qiu could face each other when the teams play on Friday morning.

The Women’s team matches seldom suprise.  China, Germany, Japan and Taipei have each advanced to the Semifinals already.  China has yet to lose a match.  Japan is in the same position – dominating every match.  China will face Taipei, who held on for a 3-2 win over Singapore on Thursday.  And Japan will face Germany, who were down 0-2 to Hong Kong before fighting back with three straight wins.

Lots of action still scheduled as the teams edge closer to the Finals on Sunday.

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