U.S. enters group stage finale vs. Iran in desperate need of win
Iran’s team is in desperate need of a win after finishing 10th out of 16 at the 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships. They could not take advantage of two-win victories over Indonesia and Turkey in the first two round robins and fell short in the finals against the Netherlands. But Iran will still advance into the elimination stages — only if they defeat the United States in this final.
U.S. is still riding high after clinching an upset win over top-seed and defending champion China in the Olympic super tournament. But the table tennis world champion will soon need to qualify for the world’s showpiece competition in Australia if he wants to continue his domination.
“This is one of the games that we haven’t performed,” Iran’s coach Mehrdad Nafchi told the official Iran Table Tennis Federation website. “We have lost 10 of our last 10 matches, and we need a win to advance.”
Iran is playing the U.S. in Group B on Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and will need a win to advance. The team is ranked 13th.
In addition to Iran’s chances of reaching the knockout stage, U.S. hopes to win it.
Iran’s first-round matches against Spain and Chile were all lost but the U.S. is aiming at a win over the Asian powerhouse. The team is ranked fourth.
The U.S. is ranked fourth in the world and has defeated the top three teams — France, China and Germany — and is on a winning streak of 27 matches. The top three teams had also eliminated the U.S. in the quarterfinals the past three years.
After a two-year absence since it last played in 2013, the world team’s third-place finish was a huge success for its comeback. Iran was among the eight teams to have qualified for the 2013 world team championship that was held in Tehran.
As the U.S. prepares to play Iran, it is hoping to end the streak of being eliminated from the World Team Table Tennis Championships. The U