It’s Finland v China for World Cup Glory

Markus Juva and Mika Immonen

THE 2007 World Cup of Pool final will be between Team Finland, represented by Mika Immonen and Markus Juva and Team China, consisting of He-wen Li and Jian-Bo Fu.

Both sides recorded emphatic wins this afternoon at the Outland Nightclub in Rotterdam, as first Finland hammered Canada (Alain Martel and Edwin Montal) 9-0 and then the Chinese got the better of Japan – Naoyuki Oi and Satoshi Kawabata – 9-4.

The race to 11 championship match will take place at 18.00 hours local time and with $60,000 going to the winners and $30,000 going to the runners-up, there will be everything to play for.

In the first semi-final of the afternoon, Finland produced an emphatic display of tactical excellence as they crushed Canada 9-0 in the opening semi-final.

The Finnish side recorded a dry break off the first rack but then slightly changed the positioning of the cue ball as they found an effective, if uninspiring, formula which they successfully repeated again and again.

With each soft break they were left with a shot on every time and were rarely in trouble, although they deserve full credit for displaying some of the best teamwork seen in the competition this week.

Finland had been in good form to reach the semi-finals with fine victories against Qatar, England and Switzerland, while Canada has been less impressive with a large slice of luck in their wins over India, Korea and Belgium.

The Finnish pairing of Mika Immonen and Markus Juva were at the table first after winning the lag but Immonen recorded a rare dry break, only the 11th in the whole tournament so far.

Canada's Edwin Montal had produced a number of mistakes and looked extremely nervous in their triumph over Belgium and he again made a twitchy start as he let Finland back to the action. That enabled Juva to down the final 9-ball as the Europeans made it 1-0.

Immonen got lucky in the second as he missed a pot at the 1-ball but it ended up behind the orange 5, although half of the 1-ball was still visible. However, Montal failed to connect with the same ball and, with ball-in-hand, Finland quickly moved 2-0 ahead.

Finland ran out from the break in the third and at 3-0 were looking good value for their lead. Canada finally got another opportunity but did not take advantage as a rash shot from Alain Martel left the red 3 tight on the left side rail and Juva produced a stunning effort to put his team back in control for 4-0.

The Europeans were opting for soft breaks from the same spot in every rack but it was proving effective as they kept having shots on the 1-ball. It was a similar story in the fifth as they once again ran out a rack and at 5-0 the semi-final was proving to be much more one-sided than had been expected.

It was not the most exciting pool but there was no denying that it was working for Finland. Once again, in a near copy of the previous rack, Finland produced a soft-break, had a shot on and ran out for 6-0.

The seventh did not go all of Finland's way as Martel had a shot but he failed to make it safe and the Europeans, who were working well as a team, did not make another mistake in the rack and the scoreboard showed 7-0 with Finland two away from the final.

Once again, Finland got the speed of the break perfect and again had a shot on the 1-ball. Canada would need Finland to make an error or be on the end of only the second whitewash of the competition after Philippines defeated Croatia 8-0 in the Last 16.

It became 8-0 and with a shot on the 1, the Finnish pair were within touching distance of the final. Mika Immonen sealed the 9-0 win as Canada, who had only had nine shots in the whole match, were on their way home.

CHINA had reached the final four after defeating South Africa, France and then the defending champions Philippines in a memorable quarter-final on Saturday evening.

The hugely-popular Japanese side, who had smiled and joked their way to wins over Spain, Holland A and Singapore, had been unseeded but performed well to make the semi-finals.

China won the lag by the narrowest of margins and then ran out the opening two racks as Japan were rooted firmly in their seats.

The Japanese should have won the next rack as they got back to the table but Naoyuki Oi dogged a simple-looking 9-ball. However, Jian-bo Fu also missed the same ball, before Satoshi Kawabata did likewise. It was left to He-wen Li, a semi-finalist in the 2006 World Championships to down the 9-ball for 3-0 to China.

But the same player scratched in the fourth as Japan recorded their first rack of the match. The scoreline should have narrowed to 3-2 after Fu scratched but Kawabata did the same with only the 9-ball left on the table.

China gratefully accepted the present for 4-1 and ran out the next to give them a 5-1 lead in this race to nine. The missed 9-ball from Japan in the fifth was proving costly as they had not had a shot since and China ran out once more in the seventh for 6-1.

The Japanese side had an opportunity in the eighth after Jian-bo Fu had produced a tight safety but Oi failed to connect with any ball on the table to give another ball-in-hand to the Chinese and they made it 7-1.

Throughout the tournament there had been a number of close matches but both semi-finals were proving to be one-sided affairs.

It had been a near-faultless performance from the Chinese pair but that ended in the ninth as He-wen Li failed to pocket the 2-ball. Japan had to keep the China team in their chairs and managed it for this rack for 7-2.

Japan ran out the tenth and with the score now moving to 7-3 the crowd were hopeful of this being the start of a magnificent fightback.

Oi and Kawabata were not giving up and a fine shot from Oi, who rolled the 2-ball down the right hand rail, set up another Japanese rack, their third in a row for 7-4.

Just when it seemed Japan would get back in the match, Kawabata missed a bank attempt on the 2-ball, which was left hanging over the bottom left pocket and that was looking like being their last shot of the match.

China sealed the job in the 12th rack and moved to the hill at 8-4. Fu was unsuccessful when trying to pot the 2-ball but Japan did the same and that was it. The game was as good as over as China won 9-4 to set up a final with Finland.