Five of the top eight seeds in next week’s revival of the Snooker World Cup are from Britain and Ireland.
The remaining three reside in the Southern Hemisphere and I will now take a look at the prospects of the two-man teams put forward from China, Australia and Hong Kong.
The Chinese could be a dominant force in the 2011 World Cup with the dynamic duo of Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo in the line-up.
The 4th seeds find themselves in a tricky group alongside Neil Robertson’s Australia and a Thailand 1 team that includes veteran James Wattana.
Malta will also prove difficult opponents with Tony Drago and former professional Alex Borg competing as it ensures that Group B could be highly entertaining.
That said, the permanent class of Ding and Liang should be more than enough to place in the top two after the round-robin stage and progress to the quarter-finals.
Both Chinese cueists enjoyed thoroughly mixed seasons in the last campaign.
Ding erased any of the doubts left in his mind from the 2007 Masters Final when he comprehensively lifted the trophy at Wembley Arena in January and his confidence materialised at The Crucible where his run to the final was only just denied by Judd Trump in one of the legendary last four encounters.
On the other hand, despite reaching the final of a PTC event early in the year, Liang went on to lose all of his ranking event matches throughout the 2010/11 season and almost fell outside the Top 32 in the rankings list.
The 24 year-old has shown signs of recovery early on in this campaign, though, and a Chinese victory will help further invigorate a sport that is booming in the Far East at present.
One massive component in China’s favour is experience. Ding and Liang won the Gold medal in the men’s team snooker event in each of the last two Asian Games.
It is an exciting time for Australian snooker.
After many, many years of promise there is finally a ranking event Down Under later this month and what better way to promote the Australian Open but for their national team to win the World Cup.
What the Australians have in their favour is the 2010 world champion Neil Robertson.
Running against them is the fact that the Aussies have struggled to produce any other prodigious talent and have resorted to 38 year-old ex-pro Steve Misfud to make up the twosome.
Misfud, as with most high-level competing amateurs, is a very capable player but he will have to perform out of his skin to accompany Robertson to an unlikely Australian triumph.
Robertson himself felt the pressures and expectations that came with being the world champion and his form deteriorated in the second half of 2010/11.
The six-times ranking event winner will feel he will need to be at the top of his game in Thailand and, if he isn’t, the home nation and the Maltese will have a fighting chance of causing an upset in Group B.
Throughout the last couple of articles it has come to my attention that none of the groups are easy for any of the teams but Hong Kong, the 7th seed, may struggle in Group D.
Scotland is obviously the sternest test and will be favourites to top the group but the battle for the second quarter-final place could be close with Poland and the second Thailand outfit in the mix, as well as relative unknown quantity Afghanistan.
Hong Kong will be reliant on Marco Fu to return to somewhere near the form that has seen him reach at least the last four of each of the three majors in snooker, as well as claiming the 2007 Grand Prix.
His partner Fung Kwok Wai would not be a household name but, like China, this duo has experience in team events.
Fu and Fung won the Silver medal in the 2006 team snooker event at the Asian Games so should feel confident in each other’s company.
This could prove crucial as an immediate bond within a team could be the difference between qualification and simply making up the numbers come the end of the group stages.
It would be a surprise to see Hong Kong at the tail end of the competition but expect them to at least challenge for a place in the last eight.
The group tables and format can be viewed by clicking here.
Categories: Snooker News