World Cup of Pool – Solid China Too Good for Philippines

Jian-Bo Fu and He-wen Li

THE CHINESE pairing of Jian Bo Fu and He-wen Li proved a bit too much for Team Philippines as they dumped them out of the World Cup of Pool at the quarter-final stages.

The 9-6 scoreline was a fair reflection of what was a highly entertaining match but the Chinese were just too strong as they stemmed an emerging comeback from Reyes and Bustamante.

China had reached the quarter-finals thanks to an 8-1 victory over South Africa and an 8-6 triumph over France.

In the other quarter final the Finnish duo of 2001 World Champion and Mika Immonen and Markus Juva enjoyed a good victory over dark horses Switzerland, a team consisting of Dimitri Jungo and Marco Tschudi.

However it was the Philippines v China which was the stand out match of the evening session and the Pinoys won the lag but no one could have expected what happened next as Bustamante recorded a dry break, something that had happened only a handful of times all week.

Bustamante then made another surprising error when he missed an escape shot from a snooker to give China ball-in-hand and Li He-wen made it 1-0 to the Chinese.

It was proving to be a poor start from Bustamante as China lost position but Philippines gifted them a route back when Bustamante scratched with only three balls left on the table.

China took the opportunity and quickly moved into a 2-0 lead in this race to nine. Reyes and Bustamante were glued to their seats in the third rack as He-wen Li and Jian-Bo Fu broke and ran through the rack to see the defending champions 3-0 down.

He-wen Li had announced himself to the pool world by reaching the semi-finals of the 2006 World Pool Championship and his country were on course to make the last four of another major global competition.

China ran out the fourth rack as Bustamante and Reyes, who have often smiled in the arena, sat in silence as worry set in.

With the winner-break format, Philippines needed some luck and got it at the start of the fifth as Jian-bo Fu came up with a dry break of his own. Bustamante and Reyes, national heroes in their home country and supported by a large number of fans here in Rotterdam, did the rest to finally make their mark on the scoreboard, but still trailed 1-4.

In the next, Bustamante misjudged a safety on the 1 but it was not immediately punished, although Reyes' attempt on the 1-ball that rattled in the top left pocket but would not drop, did prove costly.

A spectacular 6-9 combination from Jian-bo Fu moved China one step closer to victory and gave them a four-rack advantage at 5-1.

Fu went from hero to villain in a very quick space of time as he missed an attempt at the red 3 and the Philippines pulled a rack back at 2-5, as the crowd began to hope of a memorable fight back.

A two-rail safety escape from Li to hit the 2-ball went wrong in the eighth to give ball-in-hand to the Philippines and they clinched their second rack in a row, although were still behind by a 3-5 scoreline.

Bustamante made one of the best pots of the tournament with a stunning table-length attempt on the 1-ball but then got no luck as the cue ball had drifted out of position. As a result, Reyes missed the attempt on the 2-ball and China regained control of the match as the scoreboard now showed 6-3.

China ran out the next as Reyes and Bustamante both looked miserable, only two racks away from being eliminated.

They needed some luck and got it in the next. With the 1-ball over the pocket but another ball between that and the cue ball, it seemed a straight-forward kick-shot off the bottom rail.

However, Li's attempt was unsuccessful and Philippines gratefully grasped the opportunity to win another rack. Li and Fu both left chances in the next rack and it eventually went the Philippines' way as Reyes banked the 4-ball into the 9-ball for 5-7.

In a thrilling 13th rack, with the cue ball on the bottom rail and the 9-ball tight on the top rail, Fu tried a brave attempt of kicking the cue ball off the left side rail. It would have been one of the shots of the tournament if successful but instead left a simple pot for Reyes as they took their third rack in a row for 6-7.

The match had looked to be swinging the Philippines way but they changed in the next as Reyes missed a simple green 6 as China moved to the hill and led 8-6.

With victory in their sights, China ran out what was the final rack of the game to advance to the last four.

FINLAND will meet Canada in one of the semi-finals in the 2007 World Cup of Pool as the Finnish duo of Marcus Juva and Mika Immonen defeated Switzerland's Marco Tschudi and Dimitri Jungo by 9-4.

The last two European sides met in the third quarter-finals as tenth seeds Finland went up against 15th seeds Switzerland.

Both sides had performed well to reach this stage with Finland defeating Qatar and England, while Switzerland had eliminated Hungary and USA.

Finland won the lag and made a lightning start as they broke and ran out in both the opening racks to move 2-0 ahead with Switzerland not even getting a shot.

When they did finally get to the table, they made a spectacular impact as Jungo kicked in a fantastic 3-9 combination to quickly pull one rack back.

The fourth rack was the longest of the match so far after Switzerland failed to take advantage of an Immonen error when he left the 1-ball hanging over the bottom left pocket. However, Switzerland still managed to win the rack in what was already looking as a tight and tense encounter that could go down to the wire.

Both sides played a nervous fifth rack as Juva left the blue 2 on before Jungo did likewise on the red 3 that remained hanging over the right side pocket. That proved to be the decisive mistake as Finland regained the lead.

There was then some controversy as Switzerland took a toilet break, but the Finnish players were convinced that this was a strategic move and had been done to throw Finland off their game.

Finland, who still had the break, responded in the best way possible as they let their pool do the talking by running out the next for a 4-2 advantage.

The earlier controversy had seemed to fire up the Finnish duo and they moved closer to their victory target of nine by making it 5-2.

Switzerland had a rare chance in the next as Immonen failed to sink a long-range 2-ball and overcut it but Tschudi could also not pocket the same ball and Juva eventually downed the 9-ball for the fourth successive rack for Finland.

The crucial moment in the ninth came when Immonen lost position going to the 8-ball with only two balls left on the table. Juva tried to play safe but left Jungo a long-range attempt on the 8-ball, which the Swiss player made thanks to a thin cut, before Tschudi pocketed the 9-ball for 6-3.

Immonen missed the 1-ball to bring the Swiss back to the table and the fired-up Switzerland players reduced the deficit by 1. It was not long before the gap was back to three racks as a 1-9 carom from Immonen made it 7-4.

It was the same player who finished off the next rack and Finland were now on the hill and looked on course to advance into the semi-final. There was no love lost between the two countries as both teams were desperate to win the match.

Juva attempted a table-length bank but got it wrong to give Switzerland another chance. With a host of other World Cup players watching the action, it should have been a rack that Switzerland won but Jungo choked on a simple-looking 9-ball, which was left over the left side pocket for Immonen to end the match.

"I felt better than in previous games," said Juva. "I was a little bit concerned that I wasn't nervous enough and if you feel more relaxed you start to be over confident but ten minutes before the game the nerves got me again.

"I played very carefully and with this table and this format you have to play carefully."