Aaron Chia (right) and Soh Wooi Yik. - AFP pic
Aaron Chia (right) and Soh Wooi Yik. - AFP pic

ON Tuesday, Malaysia passed their first test in the Thomas Cup finals with flying colours. But today the real danger awaits Lee Zii Jia and his men.

Malaysia, who cruised to a 5-0 win over Canada in their opener in Aarhus, Denmark, will have to fight every inch of the way against Japan.

If they fail to overcome world No 1 Kento Momota and his men, it will imperil Malaysia's chances of going far in the prestigious men's team competition.

Both Malaysia and Japan have already qualified for the quarter-finals, but both want to finish top of Group D to avoid the likes of China or Indonesia in the knockout stage.

Against Canada, skipper Zii Jia led by example, beating world No 39 Brian Yang 21-18, 21-13 in the first singles.

Cheam June Wei and Ng Tze Yong also impressed in the second and third singles respectively against higher ranked opponents while the scratch pairs of Nur Izzuddin Rumsani-Soh Wooi Yik and Aaron Chia-Goh Sze Fei also delivered.

But while Canada were no pushovers, Malaysia's real concern from day one has always been Japan, and how to deal with them.

Malaysia's rivalry with Japan has been festering since the samurai shuttlers cut down Malaysia 3-2 in the 2014 Thomas Cup final.

Also developing into a personal rivalry is the much anticipated showdown between Zii Jia and Momota.

At the recent Sudirman Cup in Finland, Zii Jia beat Momota once and lost once. However, Japan came out tops against Malaysia twice in the world inter-team competition.

Zii Jia is rallying his teammates, especially his fellow singles shuttlers, to rise to the occasion.

"I think June Wei and Tze Yong both did well considering this is their first Thomas Cup appearance.

"But while Canada deserve respect, they are not the strongest opponents, and the real test is always Japan," said Zii Jia.

"It will be a real test of character as Japan's second and third singles are both highly ranked players, and they haven't shown their full strength, and so is Momota.

"I may have beaten Momota recently, but I'm not thinking about any psychological advantage.

"I'm focusing on my own condition,
and I believe Momota will be ready to play."

Apart from Zii Jia, Malaysia will need June Wei and Tze Yong to do their part against world No 13 Kanta Tsuneyama and world No 16 Kenta Nishimoto respectively.

Alternatively, Malaysia can call on former Asian Junior champion Leong Jun Hao or 17-year-old Aidil Sholeh while Japan also have world No 43 Koki Watanabe and world No 53 Kodai Naraoka in reserve.

In the first doubles, Malaysia will bank on Olympic bronze medallists Aaron-Wooi Yik against world No 16 Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi.

The second doubles should see a keen contest between world No 26 Sze Fei-Izzuddin and world No 27 Akira Koga-Taichi Saito.



Group C: China bt the Netherlands 5-0, India bt Tahiti 5-0

Group D: Malaysia bt Canada 5-0


Group A: Japan bt Indonesia 5-0, France bt Germany 3-2

Group C: Egypt bt Tahiti 5-0

Group D: China bt Denmark 5-0