PETALING JAYA: The odds are heavily stacked against them but the national badminton team are not ruling out an upset over Japan at the Sudirman Cup in Nanning, China.
Should Japan field their best in the last eight, they will have five shuttlers who are ranked in the world’s top five in the events contested.
In men’s singles, they have the world’s top ranked player in Kento Momota while Nozomi Okuhara is the women’s world No. 2.
They also boast world No. 2 Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda in the men’s doubles.
In the women’s doubles, they have world No. 1 pair Mayu Matsumoto-Wakana Nagahara and No. 3 Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino in the mixed doubles.
But Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria is optimistic that Malaysia can spring a surprise.
“I’m very proud of the players because right now we’re the only team outside the top eight seeds who have made it to the quarter-finals,” said Norza.
“The team spirit is very high and I think on a good day, it’s not impossible for us to beat any team.”
World No. 19 mixed doubles pair Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing have in the past won against Watanabe-Higashino while No. 21 pair Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi have also defeated Kamura-Sonoda this year.
“Even (Goh) Jin Wei has defeated Akane Yamaguchi (world No. 4) at the Malaysian Masters in January, so it’s not impossible.
“The most important thing is that our team spirit must be high. If one of the players go down, one of their teammates must come up and deliver just like what Lee Zii Jia (world No. 20) did when he upset Sameer Verma (world No. 13) after Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie (world No. 13) went down to the Indian mixed pair (Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Ashwini Ponnappa who are the world No. 27).”
BAM coaching director Wong Choong Hann also remains hopeful of an upset.
“We’re going up against a really strong Japanese team but we’re motivated after our victory over India,” said Choong Hann.
“We won’t give up and are hopeful that some of the matches will produce some surprises.”Group AcTypeface:> Japan bt Thailand 4-1 (Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda bt Kittinupong Kedren-Nipitphon Phuangphuapet 21-14, 21-13; Akane Yamaguchi lost to Pornpawee Chochuwong 21-9, 14-21, 20-22; Kento Momota bt Sitthikom Thammasin 21-19, 21-10; Misaki Matsutomo-Ayaka Takahashi bt Jongkolphan Kititharakul-Rawinda Pranjongjai 21-17, 21-17; Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino bt Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Savitree Amitrapai 21-11, 21-14).
Group BcTypeface:> Denmark bt Indonesia 3-2 (Mathias Christiansen-Sara Thygesen bt Hafiz Faizal-Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja 21-17, 21-11; Viktor Axelsen bt Anthony Sinisuka Ginting 21-9, 21-16; Kim Astrup-Mathias Boe lost to Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan 20-2214-21; Mia Blichfeldt bt Firtriani Fitriani 21-13, 21-19; Maiken Fruergaard-Sara Thygesen lost to Greysia Polii-Apriyani Rahayu 18-21, 13-21).