Badminton: England's desperate situation

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ENGLAND believe they can prove their men and women are both still among the top eight nations when they begin their campaigns in the world team championships in Glasgow today.

However, if both are to be among the three nations that qualify from this venue for the Thomas and Uber finals in Jakarta in May they will need to overcome the worst injury crisis they have had.

Five players are injured, with the England No 1, Joanne Muggeridge, and the world doubles bronze medallist, Nick Ponting, definitely out. Emergency calls have been made to Sarah Hore, the England No 5, and to Neil Cottrill, who has only one cap, which leaves the women more seriously at risk of failing to reach the finals from a record entry for a European qualifying venue of 39 nations.

Much may depend on whether the national champion, Suzanne Louis-Lane, can play well without being fully fit and upon whether or not England's most-capped woman, Gill Clark, decides to risk her perennially troublesome knees. The trip to the Far East will certainly rest on the outcome of the group match against the Netherlands and perhaps, too, on a play-off against Russia on Saturday.

Denmark and Sweden are favourites to qualify in both men's and women's competitions, with England's men likely to be contesting the vital third place against the Netherlands. Even without Ponting they ought to make it.

It is the first time a combined Thomas and Uber Cup event has been held in Britain. The hosts, Scotland, seeded in the 5-8 categories in both competitions, begin their campaigns today.

The greatest intensity of the week may well be generated by tomorrow's match against England, with the winners going through to the last four in the Thomas Cup.

Even if the Scots do go out, the home fans should enjoy watching an unprecedented glut of world-class badminton on the final day.