Jakarta: Indian women's team, led by Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu, will have to punch above its weight to salvage any hopes of a medal after being handed a tough draw in the badminton event at the 18th Asian Games.
Indian women's team, which won a bronze medal in the last edition at Incheon after finishing third, will face top seeds Japan in the quarterfinals after receiving a first-round bye. The team events begin on Sunday.
India are placed in the top half of the draw along with Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia and Japan, while China, Thailand and Chinese Taipei are placed in the bottom half.
Japan, who clinched the Uber Cup title this year, boasts of top singles players such as 2017 World Champion Nozomi Okuhara and world No 2 Akane Yamaguchi, besides current world no 1 and world no 2 pairs of Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota and Misaki Matsutoma and Ayaka Takahashi respectively.
A depleted India, without the services of Sindhu and doubles specialist Ashwini Ponnappa, were outclassed 0-5 in the Uber Cup in May this year.
Though India will be fielding a full strength team this year, it would take an extraordinary effort to outwit the Japanese women's team, a result that would assure of a medal.
In the men's team event, India, led by Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy, are likely to have an easy first-round outing as they take on minnows Maldives in the opening clash.
If India can cross the first hurdle, they will take on hosts Indonesia, who received a first-round bye, in the quarter-finals.
Top seeds China will also head straight into the quarter-finals, while defending champions Korea will start their campaign against Thailand on Sunday.
Japan and Malaysia will cross swords in a mouth-watering clash, while Pakistan will face Nepal in another opening round match.
Indonesia boasts of good players such as Jonatan Christie and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in singles, while their doubles line-up comprise of world no 1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and world no 9 Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto.
The Asian Games team competition is a knock-out affair with a best-of-five format comprising three singles and two doubles matches.
Once the team finals are over, the draw for the individual event will be carried out on August 22.