Malaysia dished out a fiery performance to beat Japan 3-2 and confirmed their berth as group champions at the 2022 Thomas Cup, putting them in a tasty quarter-finals showdown against India.
It was a performance that proved the national shuttlers's capability of beating anyone on their day, and should give them loads of confidence going to the knockout stage.
There were several changes to the line-up, most notably Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin bumped as the first men’s doubles, while Aaron Chia was paired with Teo Ee Yi.
The first match pitted the in-form Lee Zii Jia against a familiar opponent in Kento Momota.
He came into this encounter looking for a consecutive victory against the world number two, having beat the Japanese at the All-England Open in March.
The Malaysian’s confidence told from the offset as he dictated play against Momota, mixing a variety of combinations that included spinning net shots, half smashes and his signature cross court kills.
The Malaysian led 20-13 in the first game, but Momota managed to stage a mini comeback before Lee eventually closed out at 21-17.
If Momota was poor in the opening game, he was worse in the second, allowing Lee to cruise to a 11-0 lead.
Momota looked dumbfounded and stranded on many occasions as Lee was left to finally end his misery after 46-minutes.
Goh-Izzuddin added to that lead with a sensational 21-19, 21-16 victory over world number four pair Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi.
The decision to put the pair as the first doubles paid off handsomely, as they controlled most of the tense rallies, staying steady at the net and finding plenty of disguised drop shot winners to leave their opponents scrambling at times.
“It was a tense match, stressful at times too. We kept our focus throughout which was key tonight. We believed in ourselves and it paid off. We ate some tomyam today and that was one of the reasons of our powerful performance!” said the duo.
Kanta Tsuneyama pulled a point back for Japan with a hard-fought 21-16, 22-20 over veteran Liew Daren in a battle that lasted an hour.
It paved the way for Akira Koga-Yuta Watanabe to salvage another point against the scratch pairing of Aaron Chia-Teo Ee Yi.
The Malaysian edged a tense first game 22-20 after both pairs traded points in a high octane opening for the lead, before going on to seal top spot in the group with a 21-19 victory in the second game.
It was a gamble that paid off to field this pairing, who were on the offense in both games and channeled most of their attacks in Koga’s direction, which the stocky Japanese struggled to deal with.
With the pressure off, Leong Jun Hao entered the fray as the final men’s singles against Kenta Nishimoto.
This was the only match that stretched to three games, won by the Japanese 21-6, 19-21, 21-15.