• Kyodo

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The Japan men’s team suffered a 3-1 loss to South Korea in the quarterfinals of the World Team Table Tennis Championships on Friday, missing the podium at the tournament for the first time since 2006.

The trio of Tomokazu Harimoto, Jun Mizutani and Kenta Matsudaira were unable to match the performance of their female compatriots who earlier in the day beat the unified Korean team to set up a final with China on Saturday.

In the opening match of the men’s quarterfinal at Halmstad Arena, Harimoto lost to Jeoung Young-sik 3-2 after allowing his opponent to close out the victory by claiming the final two games. Up next for Japan was Mizutani who leveled the tie with a 3-2 victory over Lee Sang-su.

After Matsudaira was beaten 3-1 by Jang Woo-jin in the third match, putting Japan in a must-win situation, Mizutani returned to the table to face Jeoung but was whitewashed in straight sets.

It was the first time since the 2006 team championships in Bremen that the Japan men’s team failed to secure a podium spot. That year, Japan finished 14th.

After the tie, Japan head coach Yosuke Kurashima said he will “accept defeat gracefully,” believing that Mizutani has more to gain than lose from the experience. The defeat will also provide important lessons for the up-and-coming Harimoto, he said.

“I feel very bad for not being able to win a medal. We had our chances but didn’t execute,” Mizutani said. “I regret that we didn’t get off to a good start. I want to make up for that in future.”

Harimoto said, “It hurt. … I’m disappointed that we couldn’t win. I want to be able to beat any player no matter how good he may be.”

South Korea advanced to the final four along with Sweden, Germany and China.

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