BEIJING (AP) It's the flash of the Germans versus the finesse of the Chinese in the finals of men's team table tennis.
China shut down South Korea 3-0 while Germany barely held off a determined Japanese squad on Saturday to advance. The final should be an interesting showdown between the Europeans, who like to take big swings at the ball, and the top-ranked hosts who can move it around the table with pinpoint accuracy.
"We have nothing to lose. The Chinese have the pressure," Germany's Christian Suss said. "China has to win the gold medal in their own country here, and we will see what happens in the final."
China's Wang Liqin predicted a tough battle, but added, "Ultimately, I believe we're going to win."
Led by Timo Boll, the sixth-ranked player in the world, the No. 2 Germans were on the offensive for the majority of the contest against Japan, driving to the sides and corners of the table and making their opponents chase the ball. The crowd responded to the fast rallies with shouts of "Hao!" (Good!) on every slam.
But the Japanese waited for the Europeans to make mistakes and mixed in a few of their own searing shots to force a decisive fifth game in three of the matches.
The deciding match in the 3-2 contest pitted Boll against No. 63 Seiya Kishikawa, whose misfired returns were a big factor in the German victory. Boll had a shiny sheen of sweat on his forehead apparently more related to nerves than exertion.
"I played him before in the German Bundesliga and I won both matches, but today he really played at his limit," Boll said. "Mentally, it was very tough."
Meanwhile, the top-ranked Chinese crushed No. 3 South Korea 3-0 in a contest that seemed to get easier for the host team as the night progressed.
"By the third match they weren't as competitive," said China's Wang Liqin. "The Korean team is really an excellent opponent, especially in big competitions. They're very dangerous. So we made very thorough preparations."
Teammate Wang Hao easily beat defending singles gold medalist Ryu Seung-min 3-1 in a rematch of the Athens Olympics final.
Ryu complained this week that the boisterous pro-China crowd in Beijing had been distracting him during the tournament. He never found his rhythm during his match Saturday, when the spectators were louder than ever, waving flags and screaming "Go Wang Hao" between serves.
"Ryu Seung-min is a really tough competitor. So psychologically and in every other way I made really good preparations," Wang Hao said. "I didn't get ruffled. I stayed calm."
South Korea will go on to play Hong Kong, and Japan will meet Austria in the bronze medal semifinals.
In the women's team competition, South Korea and Japan will play for the bronze medal after each won contests against difficult opponents.
The Koreans beat the United States 3-0 in a bronze-medal semifinal, although two of those matches went to five games. Many of the matches were close until the end, when the Americans inevitably gave up game points or the go-ahead score.
"We weren't fully confident. We stayed in the game, but we're still not as good as them," U.S. player Gao Jun said. "We have to play to our best to have any kind of a chance, but we felt like we played quite well today. We're satisfied with our performance, it's just a shame to lose."
Japan, ranked fifth in the tournament, beat No. 3 Hong Kong 3-2 in the other contest.
"Our goal was to win a medal. So tomorrow we have to get back to work," Japan's Ai Fukuhara said afterward.