Japan head coach Park Joo-bong holds aloft the Thomas Cup after they beat Malaysia 3-2 in the final in New Delhi on Sunday. - AZHAR MAHFOF/ The Star
NEW DELHI: Japan head coach Park Joo-bong was beaming with joy as he was hoisted up by his charges after their historic Thomas Cup success.
Japan overcame a fighting Malaysia 3-2 in their first final appearance and have now joined the Thomas Cup elite winner’s circle which previously comprised only Indonesia, China and Malaysia.
It is also a first for Joo-bong in his coaching resume, which included stints in England and Malaysia before joining Japan in 2005. Japan reached the semi-finals twice in Kuala Lumpur (2010) and Wuhan (2012).
“Japan have never won the Thomas Cup before and it is a big history for our badminton back home.
“Whoever could take the pressure well today had the edge.
“I am proud of Takuma (Ueda). He had experience playing in the last Thomas Cup in Wuhan and coped with the pressure to clinch the winning point for Japan today.
“We had nothing to lose in the final. Before coming, I thought we had a chance to get into the final.
“I’m so happy with my players’ fighting spirit,” said the former world and Olympic champion.
He also praised the Malaysian team for their gallant display.
“The Malaysian players showed their potential as the tournament progressed. Many people did not expect this. I’m happy that both Malaysia and Japan put up a good show in the final,” he said.
Japan qualified for the knockout stage as group champions after beating Denmark 3-1. They beat France 3-1 in the quarter-finals before stunning mighty China 3-0 to advance to the final for the first time.
Malaysia topped their group with a 3-2 win over South Korea and reached the last four after beating Denmark 3-1. They earned their first final appearance in 12 years after stunning Indonesia 3-0.