Sudirman Cup 2013: Previewing Semifinals on Saturday in Malaysia

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Sudirman Cup 2013: Previewing Semifinals on Saturday in Malaysia
Andrew Wong/Getty Images

The 2013 Sudirman Cup has only four teams remaining on the Level 1 stage, with China, Thailand, Korea and Denmark all still in the mix to bring home the trophy on Sunday. 

A "Final Four" of badminton, if you will, these four teams will square off in two head-to-head matches on Saturday afternoon. The winners will move on to the final on Sunday where the victor earns the spoils of the gold-plated cup trophy and the mantle of winning the tournament. 

If you're unfamiliar with the Sudirman Cup, it's an event that takes place every two years and has been that way since 1989, when Indonesia won the inaugural event. Since then, only China and Korea have taken home trophies (11 between the pair), making Asia the only continent to ever win the event. 

The mixed team format consists of five types of matches and both genders of athletes: Men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles and mixed doubles, each of which brings home one point toward a best-of-five format. 

Teams play to 21, and like the sport of volleyball, for example, a team must win two-of-three games to capture the match and earn a point toward the overall score—the first team to get to three wins moves on during the knockout stages of the tournament. 

With only three matches left before the 2013 winner is decided, let's take a look at the two head-to-head ones that will be played on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur

 

Korea vs. Thailand

When: Saturday, May 25, at noon ET

Where: Putra Indoor Stadium; Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Designation: Level 1 - Mixed Team

 

Korea already has a 5-0 win over Thailand to its credit, a dominant performance, per BWFBadminton, that helped get the Koreans back to the final four of this event for the 13th-straight time. 

Three-time Sudirman Cup winners (1991, 1993, 2003) and three-time runners-up, Korea has a loaded lineup that features Ko Sung-hyun, Kim Ha-na, Lee Dong-keun and others who were a part of the original thrashing of Thailand earlier in the tournament. 

Korea's Lee Dong Keun, image via Bettor.com

However, the Thais chose to rest Boonsak Ponsana and Ratchanok Intanon—the two best singles players the group has—and were unable to compete with the second unit, of sorts, that went head-to-head against an experienced Korean lineup. 

Korea also downed Germany in straight-set fashion on May 23, 3-0 victors in an another dominating performance from this dangerous lineup. 

Expect the Thais to unleash Intanon in the match on Saturday to combat the talent that Korea has put on display, but it's unknown if Ponsana, who was unfit to perform in Thailand's clinching win over Japan, will be able to put his reputation on the line in men's singles on Saturday. 

Having never been to the semifinals before, it's hard to put a gauge on what we should expect from Thailand. The win over Japan was a shock to the badminton community as Intanon's performance in women's singles was a thing of beauty for the young Thai squad, per the Bangkok Post

Without the experience that Korea will boast, expect Thailand to play with emotion and pride during the first of these two semifinals matches. We'll see if it will be enough to knock off an impressive Korean squad eager to return to the finals for the seventh time. 

 

China vs. Denmark

When: Saturday, May 25, at 6 a.m. ET 

Where: Putra Indoor Stadium; Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Designation: Level 1 - Mixed Team

 

Over the years, China has dominated the Sudirman Cup. 

The Chinese teams in this competition have won eight totals titles, and that includes two four-title streaks, only broken by Korea's championship in 2003. Simply put, the Chinese are the best badminton team in the world, and they proved that theory at the 2012 Olympics, as well. 

So far, though, China has been tested during the 2013 Sudirman Cup. 

Indonesia gave China fits in the May 23 contest between the two teams, as the Chinese lost both mixed doubles and men's doubles, where Indonesia gained two points and had a 2-1 advantage at one point before women's ace Li Xuerui earned a win and the 2-2 draw heading into women's doubles. 

The world's best women's doubles team, Yu Wang and Wang Xiaoli, finished the Indonesians off for good to move to the semifinals and a chance at an unprecedented fifth-straight Sudirman Cup. With some of the world's best players in tow and the experience that is unmatched by any other team still alive, China will be tough to beat. 

Denmark is the only non-Asian team to ever make it into the finals, doing so twice in the 13-event history of the Cup. After dropping a tough decision to Japan earlier in the tournament, the Danes rebounded with an impressive 3-0 win over the Chinese Taipei squad. 

Jorgensen, image via Badzine.com

Jan Ø. Jørgensen looked impressive during his men's single victory, and the rest of the Danes in play managed to put the Chinese Taipei squad away rather easily before the match moved into the women's sections of play. 

In what will be the 11th appearance in the final four for Denmark, the Danes are fielding a strong team and will look to capitalize on China's full-out performance against Indonesia in this match on Saturday afternoon. 

The Sudirman Cup is winding down, but we're far away from a victor. Make sure to keep pace with all the action by first seeing which two countries will emerge from these matches and move on to the finals this year. 

 

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