NAOKI Kawamae-Shoji Sato are not Japan's most feared pair but they could still stand between Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong and a place in the men's doubles quarter-finals in the London Olympics.
National men's doubles chief coach Tan Kim Her, in a telephone interview from London, said Naoki-Shoji are hard working and despite Kien Keat-Boon Heong having won all three of their previous meetings, they have to tread carefully when they meet in the group matches which begin on Saturday.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong have been drawn in Group D, considered the 'Group of Death', with favourites Chung Jae Sung-Lee Yong Dae, the second seeds, Naoki-Shoji and former world champions Tony Gunawan-Howard Bach of the United States.
Two pairs will advance to the last eight and with Jae Sung-Yong Dae favoured to top group, the battle for the second spot will be intense.
"Naoki-Shoji are the pair we need to be careful. They have beaten some of our national pairs while Kien Keat-Boon Heong have a 3-0 record. But they cannot take the Japanese pair for granted," said Kim Her yesterday.
"It will be a huge bonus if we can beat Jae Sung-Yong Dae, and Kien Keat-Boon Heong's match against the Japanese pair will be crucial for our medal aspirations."
Kim Her also sees the group as a blessing in disguise as it will toughen Kien Keat-Boon Heong mentally and they should play better in the quarter-finals.
There is a possibility Kien Keat-Boon Heong will play Ko Sung Hyun-Yoo Yeon Seong in the last eight and Kim Her feels the pressure will be on the Korean No 2.
"Surviving this difficult group will make Kien Keat-Boon Heong stronger and they will be a different pair against Sung Hyun-Yeon Seong in the possible last eight clash," Kim Her added.
"The record favours Sung Hyun-Yeon Seong but they don't have the Olympic experience, so Kien Keat-Boon Heong should take advantage of this and reach the semis.
"There is also a possibility Kien Keat-Boon Heong could meet Mohammad Ahsan-Bona Septano in the last eight but our pair also have the edge in this match as the Indonesians are also very shaky in major events.
"Since our pair are in the same group with Jae Sung-Yong Dae, they can only meet again in the final and that is also a good omen for us.
"Most likely, Kien Keat-Boon Heong will take on Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng (of China) in the semi-finals but we have nothing to lose. The China pair lost in the final in 2008 and this will play on their minds.
"If Kien Keat-Boon Heong remain positive, they can secure a medal.
The Olympics is for athletes who are brave and willing to take their chances and Kien Keat-Boon Heong can produce something special if they play without fear."
Malaysia have not won a medal since Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock's silver medal effort in 1996 and if Kien Keat-Boon Heong can adopt a no-fear attitude, they may end the 16-year drought at the Wembley Arena on Aug 5.