World Cup of Pool – Super Japan Edges Holland

Naoyuki Oi

The Japanese pair of Satoshi Kawabata and Naoyuki Oi put on a smashing show as they reached the quarter finals of the World Cup of Pool following a thrilling hill-hill encounter with Holland A consisting of Niels Feijen and Nick van den Berg.

The game ebbed and flowed from start to finish but there was plenty of drama, skills and mistakes to keep a capacity crowd at the Outland, Rotterdam on the edge of their seats.

In the end though it was the Japanese who broke and ran the ultimate rack of the match under severe pressure to take a great victory.

Earlier in the evening, defending champions, The Philippines pasted Croatia 8-0 in quick time to make it through to the quarter-finals themselves. The Croatian pair of Putnik and Stojanovic never settled as the Filipino pair of Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante turned the screws from start to finish.

The first match of the evening was the last round one game of the tournament as Team USA survived a scare as they crept past the unfancied Maltese pairing of Tony Drago and Alex Borg.

Malta had held the lead at 5-2 and 7-4 before the US pair of Corey Deuel and Rodney Morris stepped up a gear as they ran through the final four racks to clinch the win.

Alex Borg and Tony Drago were again the Malta side and they won the lag. Tony Drago, who this week was announced as part of the European side that will play in the Mosconi Cup against America in December, is renewed as one of the fastest players in world pool.

He justified this as he and partner Alex Borg raced through the opening rack in only 90 seconds for a 1-0 lead.

In the second, USA were soon back at the table but Corey Deuel missed the blue 2 into the bottom left pocket, before Drago failed to sink an attempted red 3 into the left centre as America took advantage to level it at 1-1.

This was proving to be the most thrilling start to any of the matches of the tournament as Malta profited from another USA error to move into a shock 2-1 lead.

Malta then sprinted through the fourth rack with the 9-ball being deposited only 64 seconds after the break shot to thrill the packed crowd.

It was a similar story in the fifth with the only worrying moment for Malta coming when Drago slightly under hit the positional shot going from the 8-ball to the 9-ball. The shot was harder for Alex Borg than he would have liked but it made no difference as the score became 4-1 to leave the second seeds shell-shocked.

Both sides made errors in the sixth as Drago and Borg both failed with attempts on the red 3, before Morris did the same with the brown 7.

However, this time Malta could not take advantage as Borg missed with his shot on the 8-ball and that gifted America a chance to regain their composure and claim their second rack.

But Malta soon regained their three-rack advantage after Morris rolled the 4-ball unsuccessfully towards the bottom left pocket and that brought Malta back to the table for a 5-2 lead with a shock looking on the cards.

The Europeans moved through the balls but a potential turning-point came when Borg sunk the 6-ball and then had to watch in horror as the cue ball rolled up the table and into the top right pocket. USA did the rest to pull it back to 3-5.

Deuel scratched off the break as the cue-ball was kicked in by the 5-ball but it did not prove decisive as a foul from Borg gave the Americans ball-in-hand d and the gap was now only one.

With the red 3 hidden behind both the 4 and 6-balls, Deuel attempted a kick shot off the top rail but the cue ball bounced off the three and then into the pocket. Malta had ball-in-hand and Drago finished off the rack and threw his arms in the air as his side moved a step closer to a memorable victory.

America were stuck in their chairs hoping to get another shot. It did not happen in the next as Malta broke and ran through the rack for a 7-4 lead as they moved to the hill.

In the 12th, Borg attempted a one-rail escape to connect with the 1-ball but only managed to double kiss the ball and that left a great chance for USA, which they accepted but still trailed 5-7.

With the winner-break format, USA could still run out the next three racks but had very little margin of error. They did the first part by keeping Malta in their seats for the 13th and the scoreboard now showed 6-7.

It became the first hill-hill match of the competition as a stunning reverse bank shot on the 1-ball from Deuel as the cue ball only narrowly avoided the pocket. That helped America make it 7-7 and with a perfect break in the next were in prime position to complete the win.

Corey Deuel sunk the final 9-ball to put the Americans in the last 16 and finally end the brave resistance of the Malta side.

PHILIPPINES produced a stunning exhibition of pool to thrash Croatia 8-0 and become the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals in the 2007 World Cup of Pool.

Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante, the reigning World Cup holders, have shown they will be a very difficult team to beat and will now face either France or China in Saturday's quarter-final.

There was controversy during the lag as Bustamante's effort was closer to the bottom cushion but referee Michaela Tabb adjudged his effort to be a foul as the ball had crept into the other half of the table.

But it did not matter as Philippines made it 1-0. Bustamante scratched in the second but the error was not punished as Stojanovic failed to sink the 4-ball with a jump shot attempt as the Asian side doubled their lead.

It soon became 3-0 after both Stojanovic and Putnik had missed with attempts on the brown 7, a ball that has cursed a number of players throughout this tournament.

Every slight error from the Croatians was being ruthlessly punished by the Filipino pair, who once again were showing why they are regarded as two of the best players in the world.

Reyes and Bustamante had to work hard in the opening round to defeat Scotland 8-6 but this match was looking to be a much easier task.

The duo had the speed on the break and moved 4-0 ahead, halfway to their total of eight. There had not been a whitewash in the tournament yet but this looked an increasingly likely outcome, especially as they ran out from the break in the fifth rack for a stunning 5-0 ahead.

At the start of the next Philippines made a rare error as Reyes overhit his break shot and lost position of the cue ball, which slumped into the left side pocket.

However, once again Croatia could not capitalise as Putnik left the pink 4 hanging over the bottom left pocket and yet again it proved to be costly. Bustamante downed the 9-ball with the match as good as over.

The scoreline at this point was 6-0 but Croatia had a rare opportunity in the seventh. Reyes had left an opportunity on the 4-ball but as Putnik missed the following shot it was as if the Croatians knew they were already a beaten side.

It was time for the Philippines to show some party shots and Bustamante produced the biggest cheer of the week when he produced a stunning kick shot to pocket the 7-ball into the right side pocket after Reyes had left him out of position.

That moved them to the hill, but only minutes later it was all over as Philippines again broke and ran through the rack for the first 8-0 whitewash of the tournament.

HOLLAND A were once again backed by a capacity crowd at the Outland Nightclub in Rotterdam, Holland as they faced off against Japan in their second round match.

Satoshi Kawabata won the lag for Japan and his partner Naoyuki Oi downed three balls off the break. From there, they completed a comfortable run out to draw first blood.

Another quality break created an easy lay out for the Japanese and they took full advantage to increase their lead to 2-0.

In the third game, Kawabata ran out of position going from the 2 to the 4 and snookered his partner. The consequent escape saw the Japanese scratch to give Holland their first crack at the table.

With ball in hand, the Dutch duo of Niels Feijen and Nick van den Berg looked composed as they ran through the table to open their account.

The brown 7 went down off Feijen's break shot and van den Berg played a classy bank shot to drop the 1 ball. The 2 ball was straight in, followed a 2/5 combo into the corner bag. The remaining balls were all out in the open and the Dutch cleared to level it at 2-2.

A cut break from van den Berg saw three balls drop. The two was available down table but Feijen played a shot to nothing, hooking the Japanese and leaving a one rail escape.

They failed to make contact to give the Dutch ball in hand. They made no mistakes as they ran out to take the lead for the first time.

With no pot on the lowest ball, van den Berg played safe, forcing Oi to take out his jump cue. He hit the green 6 first to give another ball in hand to Holland. Looking like a relaxed practice session, the dynamic Dutch duo cleared up to increase their lead to two racks.

The travel from the 1 ball to the 2 was tough so Feijen gave his partner the chance to hook their opponents. Kawabata escaped but left the 2 out in the open. The Dutch looked good for another rack but Feijen inexplicably twitched on a straight 9 ball, cueing off the rail.

The Japanese grabbed the opportunity to reduce the deficit.

There was yet another ball in hand for Holland as Oi lost the cueball and Kawabata scratched trying to play safe on the 1 ball.

Things once again went awry for Feijen as he lost concentration on a simple 6 ball. The balls fell perfectly for Japan and they downed the 6 and then the 9 ball to take the rack and level the match.

A big break from Oi saw three balls go down but the cue ball went uptable and Kawabata was forced to play safe on the blue 2. Amazingly he scratched once again. Van den Berg had no shot on the 2 ball apart from a long shot 2/9 combo which he missed.

Oi took on the two ball and made it but the position was lost. Oi revived the situation with a good pit on the 6 ball, gaining good shape on the 7.

The rest of the rack was a formality as Japan regained the lead at 5-4.

Oi, who looks a real quality player, laid a dastardly snooker for Feijen but the Dutchman was equal to it as he jumped a line of balls to pocket the 1 ball.

Van den Berg played an equally good shot to pocket the 2 ball. The out wasn't easy but a succession of good pots sealed the rack for Team Holland and level it.

Things looked good for another Dutch rack but van den Berg missed a relatively easy 5 ball into the top corner pocket.

Team Japan, sensing their chances, completed the three ball run out to take the lead at 6-5.

Kawabata could only laugh as he hugely over ran the cue ball and put it behind the 9 ball. Oi could just about see it and had a go but missed badly.

Feijen took the time out and then made a great long pot to deposit the 2 ball. Nerves were now creeping but Feijen and van den Berg hung onto theirs to clear up and level the score at 6-6.

Dutch hopes were raised in the next as they got back to the table and Feijen stole the rack with a carom off the 6 ball onto the 9 to get to the hill at 7-6.

A push out was called in the next as two balls stood between the white and the 2 ball. Feijen pushed the cue ball down table and the Japanese refused it.

Van den Berg played a good safety as Kawabata took out his jump stick. He missed the pot on the blue 2 but completely snookered the Dutch as the cue ball ended up behind a pack of balls.

Feijen made contact and the consequences were none too damaging for the Dutch. More safety followed and it was Holland who cracked first as van den Berg's jump shot hit the wrong ball first.

The 5 to the 6 was the big shot for Kawabata and he played it well to set up the rack for Team Japan and take the match to hill-hill.

A great break under pressure from Oi spread the balls out and left their fate in their own hands. An awkward shot on the 6 ball cueing off the rail was a real nerve tester for Oi but the happy-go-lucky Japanese pulled it off and set up a straight forward run out to take a magnificent match 8-7.