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China Take World Cup in Thriller

He-wen Li and Jian-Bo Fu

CHINA ARE the 2007 World Cup of Pool champions after holding off a marvelous comeback from Finland at the Outland Nightclub in Rotterdam. It was a fantastic victory for He-wen Li and Jian-Bo Fu and they can look forward to receiving all the plaudits when they return to their home country.

11-10 was the final score but at 10-6 up and breaking for the match, a Chinese victory seemed a certainty but a combination of nerves and some terrific Finnish heart took the game into a thrilling final rack.

Immonen broke and got a ball down and there was potential for Juva to make a 1-9 combination. The deliberation took for ages as the Finnish pair of Immonen and Markus Juva sized up their options and in the end Juva took it on but the 1 ball didn’t even connect with the 9 and it ran up table.

However, it left a 1-6 combination on and China made it to regain control of the table. The question was whether their nerves would hold up and they slowly inched their way towards the title. Jian-bo Fu pocketed the 9-ball to spark scenes of joyous celebration as China were the World Cup winners.

The Chinese players pocket $30,000 each while Finland can console themselves with a $15,000 pay day each.

Earlier, Fu missed a shot to win the Cup with the score at 10-8 before Li then nervously scratched in the next when China were two shots from glory as Finland forced only the third hill-hill match of the tournament.

China had beaten South Africa, France, Philippines and Japan on their way to the final, while Finland defeated Qatar, England, Switzerland and Canada.

In the semi-final, Finland had used the soft-break and positioned the cue ball in exactly the same position on their way to a 9-0 victory.

However, this tactic was not as effective in the final as Finland, who won the lag, saw a dry break to give China an early opportunity.

They appeared to have wasted their chance as the Finnish duo of Immonen and Juva were back at the table, although Immonen lost position going from the 8-ball to the 9-ball and Juva missed the subsequent 9-ball.

China sunk the same ball for 1-0 but then recorded a dry break of their own, the first time in this tournament where there had been two successive dry breaks. But they still won the rack, thanks to a 3-9 combination from Jian-bo Fu.

Amazingly, there was then another dry break from China, the third in a row. Juva failed with an attempt at the 6-ball but Jian-bo Fu then was not successful with an effort at the 7-ball, the 23rd time the 7-ball had been missed in the tournament, and Finland made it 1-2.

In the fourth, Immonen missed with his shot to kick off the rail and connect with the 1-ball and that proved costly as China made it 3-1. It was soon back to a one-rack gap as Fu could not down the 1-ball and a long bank from Immonen helped it become 2-3.

Finland had broke and run out five times in the semi-final and did for the first time in this match to tie the score at 3-3.

Yet another dry break, the fourth in seven racks, brought Finland back in action but Juva gifted the rack to China when he scratched as the score was now 4-3. It was level again after Fu produced a gaff on the green 6.

China regained the lead after a crucial miss from Juva on the 1-ball following yet another dry break as Finland were unable to reproduce the success from the break they had in the semi-finals.

For the first time since the early stages of the match, China moved two ahead at 6-4 before another dry break in the 11th from China and it was 6-5.

The 12th was an error-filled rack as Juva laid a tight safety and Fu was miles away from connecting with his desired target, but Immonen later lost position and the lead was back at two with it being 7-5.

China ran through the next rack and at 8-5 had the biggest advantage than at any other stage of the match. But they were still another three away from the title.

Both sides had used soft breaks in this match but Fu opted for power in the 14th and it seemed the right decision as the 1-ball disappeared with a straight-forward shot on the 2-ball. Within seconds it was 9-5 as China had now stamped their authority on the match with Finland desperate for another chance.

There had only been ten dry breaks in the previous 30 matches but now China produced the sixth in only 15 racks during the final. Finland did the rest and it was now 6-9 to China.

After another dry break, the seventh in 16 racks, the frustration was showing as Immonen slammed his fist down on the table after he left his partner with no shot on the 2. China moved to the hill and were now one potential shot away from the victory.

But, for the eighth time in this encounter, no balls went down on the break shot as Finland were clinging on but the thinnest of margins.

Finland were thrown a tournament lifeline as Li, aiming to make the 2 into the right side pocket, watched in horror as the cue ball vanished into the top left pocket. That gave Finland ball-in-hand and Juva held his nerve with a fine long-range pot the 9-ball for 10-7.

The Finnish pair had been successful in the semi-final with the soft break but Juva now went for power and got an instant reward for three off the break and his team ran out in one of the fastest racks of the final for 10-8.

Despite hitting the cue ball hard in the next, Finland had no luck and the ninth dry break of the match came at the worst moment for the Europeans.

The safety shot was not good enough and China moved through the balls and Fu Jian-bo had an attempt to win the World Cup. He tried to roll the 9-ball down the right rail but the ball rattled in the jaws of the bottom right pocket but did not drop.

Juva showed nerves of steel by sinking the 9-ball but were China going to regret that crucial error?

In a hugely dramatic final, Juva then scratched off the break to give China ball-in-hand and again in sight of victory. He-wen Li pocketed the 8-ball but in an unbelievable error the cue ball ended up in the right centre pocket. Juva again disposed of the 9-ball and it was hill-hill for only the third time in the tournament.

However it was not be for the Finns as Team China sealed a magnificent week as they became World Cup of Pool Champions.