Republic of Ireland slightly eased their qualification woes in the Snooker World Cup after beating Germany 3-2 in Thailand today.
Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien edged another lengthy battle that sends the Dublin duo into second place in Group A and the Germans of Patrick Einsle and Lasse Munstermann back home.
Pakistan, who lost 3-2 to Wales earlier in the day, must overcome Egypt tomorrow and hope that Ireland suffer a catastrophe against the Welsh in order to upset the two seeded nations.
However, if both Ireland and the Pakistanis finish level on points, the Asians will progress after the match between the pair on day one ended in favour of Pakistan.
Wales are sitting comfortably at the top of the leaderboard following their third victory and require only a solitary frame against the Irish tomorrow to confirm their quarter-final berth.
The result of the day, though, went to Malta who recorded a vital 5-0 whitewash over United Arab Emirates in Group B.
Both Alex Borg and, in particular, veteran Tony Drago were on form as they leapfrogged both seeded nations China and Australia to top the table on twelve points, having played all their round robin encounters.
China’s 3-2 triumph over the Australians today ensured both countries will need to win their final matches tomorrow to prevent the Maltese from an unlikely passage through to the quarter-finals.
It has to be said that it would be nice to see Malta, who were tipped as dark horses prior to the event, advance to the last 8 as they have been one of the few competitors that have consistently entertained throughout the week so far – a lot of which has to do with Drago’s flamboyance around the table of course.
The Aussies of Neil Robertson and Steve Mifsud will fancy their chances against the U.A.E. but China must defeat host stronger outfit Thailand 1, who also still have an extremely slim opportunity of making the quarters if a series of unlikely results go their way.
Proceedings in Group C have been considerably more straight forward with 3rd seeds England and 6th seeded team Northern Ireland already through with a day to spare.
England defeated India 4-1 while Mark Allen and Gerard Greene’s Northern Ireland unit inflicted a fourth consecutive 3-2 loss at the hands of Belgium, who must surely be thinking what could have been if a couple of frames had gone their way.
Group D has also been made more straight forward after unheralded Poland made a hash of their clash with Afghanistan.
The Middle-Easterners proudly won their first World Cup match 4-1 and that result, coupled with ‘Dream Team’ Scotland’s 3-2 triumph over Thailand 2, almost guarantees the Scots and Hong Kong’s places in the knock-out phase.
Thursday was another day filled with long matches and relatively poor performances that left a lot to be desired in terms of entertainment.
Another aspect worth noting is the lack of attendance in Bangkok while the fans that have turned up have been particularly muted, which has not helped in creating any sort of atmosphere in the arena.
Once again, it would be a shame for this revival of the World Cup to be a once off but one feels that there has to be some fireworks over the weekend if there is a significant future for the event using this format.