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Thomas Cup Preview - China Ready to Dominate Yet Again

With three players in the world's top four and some powerful doubles combinations, defending champions China start as favourites to claim yet another Thomas Cup crown in Jakarta, Indonesia next week.

World number one Lin Dan, All England champions Chen Jin and second-ranked Bao Chunlai lead the way as the Chinese look to sweep all before them in the world's most prestigious team event.

Top seeds China appear to have an easy path to the quarter-finals, having to face minnows Canada and Nigeria in the Group A. They need to finish top of the group to enter the last eight while a runner-up position will put them into the first round of the knockout stages.

Still, anything but first place would be a stunning upset given the paucity of recognised players in the Canadian and Nigerian line-up.

The Chinese have their sights set on Olympic domination in August and the Thomas Cup will be an ideal arena to both assess the opposition and hone their own skills.

When casting an eye over the other teams, there is little to suggest that China's hold on the title is under threat. However, never discount Indonesia, who are the favourites to win Group D, which also features Germany and Thailand.

The Indonesians, playing in from of their vociferous home fans, will be sending out their best singles players in Sony Dwi Kuncoro, Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat and Simon Santoso.

However, they will probably be looking to their doubles players to help them gain an edge over their rivals. Indonesia have decided to pair Candra Wijaya with mixed doubles specialist Nova Widianto.

They first came together at the Asian Championships in March, where they reached the final.

Malaysia have a tricky task in Group B, which is the most difficult in the tournament thanks to the presence of South Korea and England.

The English are always a threat in team events but South Korea have recently emerged as a powerful force in badminton, especially in singles.

Park Sung-hwan won the recent Asian Championship singles crown while Lee Hyun-il has proved himself on the big stage with victory at the Korean Open, beating Lin Dan in the final.

Denmark lead the European challenge in Group C against Japan and New Zealand. Their main players are European champion Kenneth Jonassen and former world number one Peter Gade.

All teams qualify for the knockout stages but only the group winners go straight to the quarter-finals. The rest must fight it out in the first round.

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