Table Tennis: England in semi-finals: Chen misses French test

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England reached the semi- finals of the European Championships but will have to do without the services of their leading player, Chen Xinhua, for at least today. A courageous 3-2 win over Russia from 0-2 down on Saturday was followed by a back injury to the Yorkshire-based former World Cup winner, who withdrew half-way through yesterday's match with Austria, which England unexpectedly lost 4-2.

Chen had won his opening encounter against another former Chinese player, Qian Qianli, 21-15, 21-15 when his muscle strain became worse and he decided to take no further part in the match. By then England were virtually sure to qualify because France were well on the way to beating their only other serious rivals, Hungary.

Chen will miss the match against France which decides who tops the group; that will give the 34-year-old 48 hours to recover. The chances are, the manager Donald Parker believes, that England's No 1 will play in tomorrow's semi-finals.

England's women look likely to reach the semi-finals too, and are in contention for their first medal for 16 years. They scored an outstanding 4-2 win over Hungary on Saturday and achieved a hard-fought victory over France by the same score yesterday.

Lisa Lomas saved two match points to beat the European No 6, Wang-Drechou Xiaoming, and won three encounters altogether against the French.

A victory over the Netherlands today, which appears within their grasp, would put England's women in the last four.

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