It has been decided. China will meet the Germans in the semifinal match of the Olympic Men Team competition. Yesterday, China and Germany safely surpassed the hurdle against Singapore and Austria respectively. The score was 3-0 in both matches, showing the world how strong they are. But between the two, who is the stronger team?
Past records would say it is China. The Chinese Men Team has met Germany ten times in Team competitions of the World Championships and the Olympics. In all those occasions, China, not even once, lost a battle.
However, all those victories do not necessarily convey tension-free battles. In fact, the Chinese Team has repeatedly experienced the German's tenacious blocking skills. In the 2006 Bremen Championships semifinals, Ma Lin lost to Timo Boll in the first match. Four years later in Moscow, Ma Long lost to Boll in the first match as well.
Timo Boll vs Ma Lin 2006 Bremen World Team Championships
video kindly shared by Intel286
Timo Boll vs Ma Long 2010 Moscow World Team Championships
video kindly shared by janus770
Now, let us assess the lineups of these teams. Among the German lineup, Timo Boll is the superstar as he is the only player who has the ability to inflict pressure on the Chinese Team. But can we still expect an outstanding performance from Boll against the Chinese players this time?
In the opening round (Round 16), the German superstar Timo Boll was defeated by Jorgen Persson of Sweden. This eventually led to some doubts on Boll's condition. However, Timo Boll immediately adjusted his condition and swept the Austrian Werner Schlager in the quarterfinals.
It is worth noting that Timo Boll's performance in the Team event is far better than the Singles after he was ousted in Round 16 against Adrian Crisan. Also because of that loss, Boll is expected to certainly give his 100% effort in the Team event to prove himself. He could be deadly.
Meanwhile, Dimitrij Ovtcharov has just confirmed that he would be the next German sensation to watch out for. He won the bronze medal in the Singles against the more experienced Chuang Chih Yuan, showing the world that his condition is equally dangerous as well.
Lastly, Bastian Steger, as the third person of the team, definitely has a gap in terms of strength compared to the two main players. However his skills in the Doubles should not be taken for granted. On this aspect, he could be a serious opponent of the Chinese Team.
For the past two rounds, Timo Boll has partnered with Bastian Steger in the Doubles and their results were consistently good. Against Sweden in the first round, the German duo posted a sweep victory. One round after, Boll and Steger lost one set but still finished a 3-1 score.
This gives the Chinese Team considerable pressure as we all know that Zhang Jike, Wang Hao and Ma Long are not really good in the Doubles. In fact, Wang Hao and Ma Long lost in the opening round against Russia. However, if Zhang Jike and Wang Hao will play in the Doubles against Germany, this could be a thrilling match.
If that will be the arrangement, then Ma Long will play in the first Singles and will most likely confront Timo Boll. In 11 encounters against Boll, Ma Long has won 8 times and lost thrice. But in Team competitions in World Championships and World Cup, Ma Long lost. This will be a severe test for Ma Long.
The Olympic veteran Wang Hao might be placed in the fifth match while Zhang Jike might be up against Dimitrij Ovtcharov. In the recent Men Singles semifinals, Zhang Jike has won over Ovtcharov so the chances are quite good.
However, if that won't be the case, if Ma Long and Wang Hao will play in the Doubles, Zhang Jike will be the first Singles player and will play two Singles matches. Wang Hao will be the second against Ovtcharov. In last year's World Team Cup, Wang Hao lost to Ovtcharov so the team must be cautious. This arrangement will also face the problem in the Doubles.
Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs Wang Hao 2011 World Team Cup Magdeburg
video kindly shared by janus770
The Chinese lineup is actually really strong considering that they have the Olympic gold medalist and Grand Slam winner Zhang Jike, three-time Olympic silver medalist Wang Hao, and the Pro Tour King Ma Long. As long as there will be no problems in the Doubles, considering the comprehensive strength of the Chinese players, the Chinese Team's possibility to beat the opponent is still quite big.
If past records say China is the stronger team, their lineup actually levels the playing field. Each player has their advantages and disadvantages, leaving everything up to who will be able to play their true level and be able to grab all the opportunities that will present itself in the battle.
Shortly said, the semifinal battle between China and Germany would certainly be another great and intense confrontation that will be written in the history of table tennis. The match will take place today, August 6, 14:30 - 17:30 local time.
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