England suffered a 4-1 defeat by Group B favourites Japan when the Thomas Cup Finals got under way in New Delhi on Sunday.
Team captain and world number 23 Rajiv Ouseph looked like giving England a winning start when he took the first game convincingly against world number four Kenichi Tago 21-9.
And he was in sight of a straight-game victory with match point in a close second game, only for Tago to level the match 22-20 before going on to take the decider 21-13.
The England squad were up against it after Chris Adcock and Andy Ellis went down in the top men’s doubles in another three-game contest.
Adcock and Ellis, ranked number nine in the world, fell 21-7 18-21 21-8 against Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo, who are the number three pair.
The Japanese squad claimed a winning lead in the second singles when world number 14 Kento Momota defeated Thomas Cup debutant Rhys Walker 21-10 21-14.
England’s only success came in the fourth contest when Chris Langridge and Peter Mills rose to the occasion to take the second men’s doubles with a 21-10 21-13 victory against Noriyasu Hirata and Hirokatsu Hashimoto, who are ranked five places higher at number 16 in the world.
But in the final contest 18-year-old Sam Parson, who was also making his Thomas Cup debut, went down 21-9 21-7 to world number 25 Takuma Ueda.
Team leader Pete Jeffrey said: “Raj played an excellent two games and held a match point at 20-19 in the second. He played a positive match and was only just second best.
“Chris and Andy got off to a slow start against the fast attack of a top ranked Japanese pair but played a brilliant second game to take the match into a decider.
“After an even start we couldn't maintain our level and the match slipped away in the second part of the third game.
“Chris Langridge and Pete Mills played a superb match, winning comfortably in two games. We imposed our control game on the hard- hitting Japanese pair and they had no answer to it.
“Rhys Walker and Sam Parsons played against tough opponents but gained valuable experience playing at this level.”
In the other Group B match in the opening session European champions Denmark defeated Hong Kong 4-1.
England face Denmark on Tuesday afternoon and meet Hong Kong in Wednesday’s evening session. Only the top two teams in each group go into the knockout stages.
To play - Thomas Cup Group B (all local times):
Tuesday (2pm): Denmark v England, Japan v Hong Kong
Wednesday (7pm): Japan v Denmark, Hong Kong v England
To play - Uber Cup Group W:
Monday (9am): China v England, Chinese Taipei v Russia
Wednesday (7pm): China v Chinese Taipei, England v Russia
Inspired? Find your way to play at badmintonengland.co.uk/waystoplay.