News

World Cup: Dark Horses

The eight seeds have been assessed but now it is time to look at three of the other twelve teams that may contend in the upcoming Snooker World Cup in Thailand.

Thailand 1

As host nation, Thailand has been given the privilege of sending a pair of two-man teams – one would assume in an effort to boost the local interest for the revived tournament.

The main team is by far the most menacing looking and could fancy their chances of progressing a long way on home turf – or home baize.

Veteran James Wattana and Dechawat Poomjaeng make up the unit and the home fans will have high hopes for at least a place beyond the group stages.

China are the runaway favourites to win Group B but second place is up for grabs with Australia and Malta also in the hunt. The United Arab Emirates complete the quintet.

41 year-old Wattana instigated an unlikely snooker boom in Thailand during the 1990s when he burst onto the scene and reached two World Championship semi-finals.

He twice won the Thailand Open, a ranking event at the time, but his form dropped at the turn of the millennium.

That said, barring one season Wattana has remained on the Main Tour as a professional and can show glimpses of his old form.

In the short five frame matches during the Round Robin stage and in front of what he hopes will be a boisterous partisan crowd, Wattana could yet enjoy a renaissance.

His playing partner, Poomjaeng, will be unknown to many but is on the Main Tour this season and came from 3-1 behind to edge John Higgins 4-3 in  PTC 1 in June.

Malta

The more I think about it, the more I realise that Group B is the Group of Death.

The twosome of 40-plus year-olds Tony Drago and Alex Borg may not seem all that menacing but the dynamic duo have credentials.

Most people know of the enigmatic nature of the ‘Tornado’ but, after falling off the Tour in 2008, the former world number 10 has enjoyed a stellar few campaigns in the twilight of his career.

Drago claimed the EBSA International Open in 2009 which earned him his place back on the professional circuit and has since amazingly risen to 46th in the standings.

Additionally, his Most Valuable Player Award at the Mosconi Cup – pool’s version of the Ryder Cup – ensures that Drago has pedigree when he comes to team tournaments.

His teammate Borg has been on and off the Main Tour throughout his snooker career but has enjoyed his greatest moments on the amateur scene.

Borg lifted the EBSA European Championship in 2005 and 2006 and showed positive form in the recent 2011 staging of the event when he reached the last 16 in Bulgaria – defeated by eventual champion Daniel Wells.

Malta won’t win this year’s World Cup – well, it is unlikely – but they could spring a couple of upsets and, as already noted, the second place in Group B is up for grabs.

Belgium

It was difficult to choose the third team to preview because Thailand 2, Germany, Poland and India could all merit being outside tips to cause a few shocks.

However, the Belgian unit of Luca Brecel and Bjorn Haneveer is exciting.

Haneveer is a seasoned journeyman. The 34 year-old has been on and off the Main Tour for almost 20 years and, in comparison to his teenage ally, boasts a wealth of experience.

This could prove a harmonious relationship as, without question, Brecel is the more naturally talented but, at 16, lacks the knowledge that comes with many years of hardened battle.

The 2010 Young Belgian Sportsman of the Year, though, is being heralded as potentially the next star of the game á la Judd Trump.

The mixture of youth and experience between Brecel and Haneveer may be dangerous but they will have to overcome the seeds of England and Northern Ireland, in addition to India and Brazil, if they fancy their chances of a quarter-final berth.

Nevertheless, their place in the event should generate some excitement.

The group tables and format can be viewed by clicking here.



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.