World Cup of Pool – Croatia, China & Japan Advance

The Chinese team of Jian-bo Fu and He-Wen Le

The World Cup of Pool got underway today at Outland in Rotterdam, Netherlands as Croatia, China and Japan all advanced to the second round of the $250,000 event.

In the opening game of the tournament, Croatia stunned the 16th seeds Russia with a shock victory in an error-strewn encounter. Both sides looked nervous with all four competitors playing below their best.

However, the Croatian pairing of Philipp Stojanovic and Ivica Putnik did enough to book their place in the last 16 and set up a match against Philippines or Scotland.

In a scrappy opening rack, 15-year-old Ruslan Chinakov, the youngest player in the tournament, and partnered by European No.1 Konstantin Stepanov, scratched and that enabled Croatia to move through the balls with Stojanovic sinking the 9-ball.

With the winners-break format, Croatia had the upper-hand, but this did not last long as Russia was soon back at the table. They had a piece of fortune when Chinakhov nearly scratched with the cue-ball hanging over the left middle pocket.

But it did not drop and that enabled Russia, the tournament's 16th seeds, to claim the second, before Croatia restored their lead by winning the third.

For the first time in the competition, a team successfully ran out a rack as Croatia moved 3-1 in front. Each side shared one of the next two racks to make it 4-2.

It should have become 4-3 but Russia missed a glorious chance when Stepanov failed with an attempt on the 9-ball, before Putnik banked it into the bottom right pocket.

Croatia suffered a painful 8-9 defeat in the opening round against Vietnam in 2006, but were looking a good bet to make round two this time.

It was proving to be a tough match for Chinakhov as he missed yet another pot, this time on the 4-ball as the scoreboard ticked over to 6-2. The Russians pulled one back, although Stepanov had a heart-stopping moment as the 9-ball rattled into the jaws of the pocket before finally dropping.

In the next, Croatian Stojanovic produced a good effort to bank the blue-2, although later brought the opponents back to the table with a failed attempt at the long range 4-ball and it was 6-4, as the Russians won two successive racks for the first time.

This match was proving to be a comedy of errors and Croatia moved to the hill after Stepanov produced a poor shot that failed to sink a routine-looking shot on the 3-ball.

The 12th rack seemed to be one that neither side wanted to win as the 1-ball was repeatedly missed, but Russia kept their slim hopes alive as they eventually downed the 1-ball and held their nerve for 7-5.

Stepanov then played the last shot Russian shot of the competition and the disappointment was clear to see as the blue-2 stayed out once again and Croatia did the rest for an 8-5 victory.

CHINA eased into the second round with an emphatic 8-1 victory against South Africa.

The Chinese pair of Li He-wen and Fu Jian-bo were not at their best though as they gained a big slice of luck on three occasions and profited from some errors from the outclassed South Africans.

China won the lag but gave the South Africans a chance when Li He-wen, a semi-finalist at the 2006 World Pool Championships, missed a shot at the brown 7.

But Juan de Beer failed with an attempt at the 9-ball into the right side pocket before Fu Jian-bo held his nerve with a stunning long pot to put his country ahead.

It was a similar story in the second as another Li error went unpunished as Clinton Roussouw this time failed to down the 9-ball before Li made up for his mistake.

Many people had dismissed the South Africans as having little chance of winning but Li, for the third time in this match, failed with a crucial shot as South Africa recorded their first rack of the game.

China were not performing at their best but three successive flukes showed it was going to be their day.

Li He-wen enjoyed good fortune on a number of occasions as the ball failed to make the intended pocket, but then bounced off into another.

Despite Li He-wen struggling with his game, he was repeatedly helped out by his team-mate, although the South African's were finding it hard to spend any length of time at the table.

China eventually won 8-1 and will now play either France or Italy in the second round on Friday, September 28.

JAPAN looked good value as their team of Naoyuki Oi and Satoshi Kawabata made light work of the strong looking Spanish pairing of David Alcaide and Antonio Fazanes to record an 8 – 2 win.

The crucial moment in the opening rack came when Naoyuki Oi fouled to give the Spaniards ball-in-hand. A stunning 4-6 combination from David Alcaide set up Spain and they made it 1-0 with a flawless rack one.

However, Japan was helped by a lucky shot that saw the scores become 1-1. Satoshi Kawabata was at the table and smashed an attempt at the blue-2, which missed by some distance but the ball then cannoned into the 9-ball and it slowly crept into the bottom left pocket.

Oi did the business in the third to seal the rack and give Japan a 2-1 lead but that was harsh on the Spanish duo as they had done little wrong but were still losing.

With both the 2 and 3 balls being made on the break in the fourth, Japan were well positioned to extend their advantage and they did so with Kawabata ending the rack.

A 2-9 combination from Alcaide made it 3-2 before the pivotal moment of the whole encounter.

Fazanes went for power with his break shot but hit the balls so hard that the cue ball flew into the air and one of the balls out the pack ended up on the carpet.

Commentator Jim Wych, the Voice of Pool, stated that he had never seen that happen in the time he has been commentating, and Spain hardly had another shot in the entire match due to the sometimes-brutal nature of the winner-break format.

The Japanese pair raced through the racks, including the first golden break of the tournament when Naoyuki Oi struck gold in the ninth as Japan moved into a 7-2 lead an on to the hill.

In the decisive rack, Kawabata left Oi with a tough cut into the bottom right pocket so decided to bank the 9-ball instead into the left side pocket for a convincing 8-2 success.

But the scoreline was extremely harsh on Spain, who made fewer errors than the other two winners so far - Croatia and China - but were on their way out of the tournament.


Croatia 8 – 5 Russia
China 8 - 1 South Africa
Japan 8 – 2 Spain

Play continues tonight with three further matches:

Philippines v Scotland
France v Italy
Holland A v Indonesia