Comeback Kids Croatia Advance at World Cup

Ruslan Chinakhov

TEAM Croatia, made up of Ivica Putnik and Philipp Stojanovic, completed a superb comeback to dump Spain out of the 2008 World Cup of Pool in Rotterdam
The Spanish duo of experienced David Alcaide and Carlos Cabello, were two balls away from victory, leading 7-2 with just the 8 and 9 balls remaining.
Alcaide's miss allowed Croatia to save the match and they went on to win the next five to seal a glorious win, although not without a struggle.
Reigning European Straight Pool Champion Ivica Putnik lead from the front as he and Stojanovic overcame nerves and cashed in on some lax Spanish play to take the win.
Spain took an error strewn opener as both sides failed to settle, but Croatia took the second to level things before the Spanish completed a decent run out to regain the lead.
Croatia got back to the table following an illegal break from Spain, but Stojanovic scratched into the middle pocket. Alcaide lost position slightly as he double kissed the black 8 but Cabello retrieved the situation with a long pot, gaining perfect position on the 9 ball which they potted for 3-1.
The Spaniards ran out of position with just two balls left on the table and Alcaide scratched as he tried to play a difficult snooker. With ball in hand, the Croatians took the rack to move within one of their opponents.
A poor positional shot on the 2 ball saw Putnik hooked and he failed to make contact with the 3 ball. Another ball in hand situation saw Spain run out for 4-2.
Spain then took the next three to reach the hill at 7-2. Spain though made their first mistake in some time when Alcaide, who had looked uncomfortable throughout, missed the blue 2 following a perfect break.
Stojanovic, though missed a horror 3 ball but Alcaide once again missed, this time on the 8 ball with victory in his grasp and Croatia stole the rack to stay in the match at 3-7.
Buoyed by their good fortune, Croatia won the next but looked like they had blown their chance to go 5-7 when Stojanovic missed the 7 ball.
Cabello though failed to make a very tight cut on the same ball and the Croatians gave themselves a chance to save the match.
Amazingly, Croatia took the next to send the match hill-hill and a perfect break from Stojanovic saw two balls drop and a perfect layout.
They nervously worked their way through the table and when Putnik drove home a long 9 ball for the match, their delight was plain to see.
They now meet the might of the Americans for a place in the last eight.

16 year-old wonderkid Ruslan Chinakhov was the star of the show as Russia looked good value winners dumping Malaysia out of competition by an 8-4 scoreline.

Paired with former European No.1 and 2007 Mosconi Cup winner Konstantin Stepanov, the Russians had a little too much for the Malaysian pairing of Ibrahim Bin Amir and newcomer Lee Poh Soon.

Malaysia took the opening rack but a fired-up Lee then sent the cue ball to the floor on his break shot. With ball in hand Russia lost position but Lee missed a simple 9 ball to gift the rack to Russia.
Stepanov and Chinakhov cleared the table from the break in the next to go 2-1. Stepanov's attempt at a snooker in the fourth was foiled when he accidentally nudged the 3 ball in and his partner was forced to escape.
A lucky bank on the 2 ball when playing safe from Bin Amir set his side up for the run out to take the score to 2-2.
Russia were snookered in the next and Stepanov took the jump shot on. He missed it but the cue ball, travelling down table, nudged the 9 ball into the centre pocket for 3-2.
There was more luck for Stepanov in the next as the 9 ball was kicked into the same centre pocket on his break shot to open up a 4-2 lead.
Cueing confidently, the two Russians won the next and then worked their way through the table as they ran out for a 6-2 lead.
Chinakhov was called for a foul shot on the break as referee Nigel Rees deemed the cue ball to be ahead of the headstring. A 1/9 was on for the Malaysians and they took it to stop the rot at 3-6.
Lee made two balls on the next but the requisite third ball failed to travel past the headstring as Malaysia relinquished their visit.
The two teams traded visits before a fine cut on the brown 7 from Stepanov put Russia in the driving seat and they cleared to reach the hill at 7-3.
A bit too much juice on the break from Stepanov saw the cue ball drop and the Malaysians ran out to reduce the deficit and give themselves a life line.
A dry break though allowed Russia a tactical push out. The Malaysians gave the table back to them and Chinakhov produced a stunning jump shot to put Russia in charge and they cleared to take the match as comfortable 8-4 winners.
JAPAN, represented by Naoyuki Oi and Satoshi Kawabata, the same pairing that reached the semi-finals in the 2007 event, came back from 4-1 and 5-2 down to oust Australia in their first round match.
There was some controversy in the second rack as the Australians, leading 1-0, broke with Lawler. One ball went into a pocket with another going over the head string. However, due to the breaking rules which require three balls to be either pocketed or go over the head string, the table should have been passed over to Japan.
But neither side, nor the referee, noticed the error as Australia continued with their next shot and it was too late for play to be brought back when the mistake was realised.
Australia claimed that rack for 2-0 before each side won one of the next two as the scoreline now showed 3-1 to Australia. They took the next before Japan won the sixth for 4-2 but had no luck with the break in the next as Oi's powerful shot saw no balls fall into any of the pockets and Australia made it 5-2.
Wims then produced an illegal break as he downed one ball with only one other crossing the headstring. It gave Japan more time at the table and Oi and Kawabata, who had not let the earlier error get to them, did the rest for 5-3.
A fine 2-4 combination from Kawabata followed by an excellent thin cut pot on the green six from Oi helped to bring Japan to within one rack at 5-4.
Another powerful break from Oi came up dry but a misjudged safety from Wims gave the Japanese a shot on the 1-ball and Kawabata and Oi ran out from there for 5-5.
Japan were in total control throughout the 11th rack and after trailing 4-1 now lead for the first time in the match by 6-5 and were only two away from victory.
Australia had a chance in the next but Lawler potted the green six and then could only watch as the cue ball drifted into the side pocket. With ball-in-hand, Japan sunk the 7, 8 and 9 balls to move to the hill.
Japan produced a good break when it was needed and with two balls down and a shot at the 1-ball the match was there for the taking. They took it to win 8-5 and advance into the last 16.