KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 -- Malaysia have a clear path into the quarterfinals of the Thomas Cup Finals to be held at Putra Stadium here from May 9 to 16 but will face an acid test in the knockout battle to make it into the last four.
In the draw for the groupings by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) here today, Malaysia, ranked as the third seed, were in Group B with Japan (6th seed) and Nigeria (11th seed) for company.
The hosts led by world singles ace Datuk Lee Chong Wei are tipped to easily top Group B with Japan in tow.
Only the two top teams from four groups will move to the next knockout stage of the sport's prestigious men's team event to determine the semifinalists.
Defending champions and top seeded China are in Group A with South Korea (5th seed) and Peru (10th seed).
Group C comprises Denmark (4th seed), Germany (8th seed) and Poland (9th seed) while Group D pools Indonesia (2nd seed), India (7th seed) and Australia (12th seed).
A fresh draw will be held again for the quarterfinal knockout.
Malaysia last lifted the Thomas Cup in 1992 when they were hosts.
Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) secretary-general Ganga Rao, when asked about Malaysia's chances of ending the 16-year drought, said Malaysia could be assured of the quarterfinals.
"Either Malaysia or Japan will top Group B and both teams will easily qualify for the quarterfinals because the third team in the group is minnows, Nigeria.
"We'll face the acid test in the quarterfinals.
The second draw will decide our fate in our mission to grab back the Cup that we last won in 1992," he told reporters here on Monday.
In a rousing battle in 1992, Malaysia beat Indonesia 3-2 to win the Thomas Cup for the fifth time in its history.
Since the inauguration of the Thomas Cup in 1949, only three Asian countries have dominated the honours.
Malaysia won it five times -- in 1949, 1952, 1955, 1967 and 1992 -- while Indonesia secured it 13 times -- in 1958, 1961, 1964, 1970, 1973, 1976, 1979, 1984, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002.
China grabbed the Cup seven times in 1982, 1986, 1988, 1990, 2004, 2006, 2008.
The Chinese scored in 2008 with a 3-1 win over South Korea 3-1 in Jakarta.
In the women's Uber Cup draw, Malaysia are seeded sixth and in Group A together with the top seed China and 11th seeded United States.
Group B comprises Indonesia, Denmark and Australia, Group C with Japan, Russia and Germany while South Korea, India and South Africa are in Group D.
Malaysia have never won the Uber Cup since its inauguration in 1957 while China won it 11 times, Indonesia and Japan four times each and the U.S, thrice.