Eight teams remain in the hunt for World Cup glory as the quarter-finals get under way later on Saturday in Wuxi.
A dramatic final round of group stage encounters produced eight teams who will battle it out for global glory this weekend.
Two countries narrowly missed out on a place in the knockouts in the final frame of their round-robin series.
Brazil secured an impressive 3-2 victory over runaway Group A leaders Wales but watched in disappointment as defending champions China B fought back from behind to record the 3-2 scoreline they needed to match the South Americans on points – advancing because of their prior head-to-head result.
China A also went perilously close to exiting early when Marco Fu’s Hong Kong came within a few balls of sinking the home favourite’s fate in the deciding frame of their contest.
Had Hone Kong beaten China A, they would have progressed behind Belgium from Group B in second place, but Ding Junhui compiled a majestic 67 clearance to the pink to maintain the hopes of the 2011 champions.
For Ding to have any chance of winning on home soil he will have to rely on his partner Liang Wenbo improving greatly over the next couple of days.
The English Open champion has been completely out of sorts and it’s a credit to Ding that he was able to drag his side through regardless.
China A face the in-form Welsh in the last eight with Mark Williams and Ryan Day displaying some of the best form in the tournament so far despite their late defeat to the Brazilians.
Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao’s China B meet Belgium in a clash of young players looking to make it big in the game.
Belgian star Luca Brecel has obviously been the leader of that outfit but his inexperienced teammate Jeff Jacobs has done remarkably well and stands proudly as the sole amateur remaining in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, proceedings developed more clearly in the bottom half of the draw.
England had already qualified from Group C on Thursday and their 4-1 dismantling of Australia, coupled with Iran’s terrific 5-0 hammering of Malta, sent the Aussies packing.
Iran, with the talented Hossein Vafaei Ayouri at the helm and world amateur champion Soheil Vahedi by his side, meet Thailand in a highly intriguing all-Asian clash.
Thais Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Noppon Saengkham topped Group D following a whitewash drubbing of Cyprus, finishing ahead of a Northern Ireland team who went unbeaten in the round robin phase.
It all meant that 2015 runners-up Scotland bowed out despite a late win against India.
There’ll be plenty of experience on show as Judd Trump and Barry Hawkins’ England take on the Northern Irish unit of Mark Allen and Joe Swail.
England will rightly be considered favourites due to their players’ world ranking positions and the fact that they only surrendered three frames in their group, but they haven’t really been tested by a seriously strong team yet so it’ll be interesting to see how their form holds against the gritty couple from Belfast.
The format for the knockouts is increased slightly with each fixture now taking place over the best of seven frames.
Like the group stages, two singles frames will be played before a doubles encounter, with two reversed singles ties then contested.
A further doubles frame will then be played if required and, if the scores remain level after the six frames, a final singles bout will determine the outcome.
Coverage continues on Eurosport.
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