World Cup of Darts- The Darkhorses

The 2015 World Cup of Darts gets underway in Frankfurt tomorrow evening, as Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld aim to defend their title, to secure Holland’s 3rd World Cup title, in only the tournament’s fifth staging. England, Scotland and Holland are the clear favourites for the tournament, however there are a number of outsiders capable of shocking the bigger nations. Here’s my list of 5 potential dark-horses in this year’s tournament.

Spain

Cristo Reyes
Can Reyes replicate his Ally Pally heroics in Frankfurt? (Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Spain has caused several major World Cup of Darts upsets in recent years. Arguably the biggest upset came in the inaugural event in 2010, as the Spanish duo of Antonio Alcinas and Carlos Rodriguez sensationally dumped out the England team of Phil Taylor and James Wade, ranked 1 & 2 in the world respectively. Spain recorded a phenomenal 6-5 victory, that culminated in a stunning 11-darter thanks to consecutive 180’s.

They continued their heroics to defeat Gary Anderson and Robert Thornton in the quarter-finals in 2010, before losing to eventual winners Holland, represented by Raymond van Barneveld and Co Stompe. However, in 2013, they repeated the feat, knocking out the Scottish pair of Anderson and Thornton thanks to last-leg brilliance from Alcinas, who recorded scores of 140 and 180, before clinically pinning D20 for a 13-darter and a 5-4 victory.

The Spanish team are renowned for being dangerous opposition; nevertheless they have a new acquisition to their ranks in 2015, as Carlos Rodriguez has been replaced by Cristo Reyes, who enjoyed a fine run to the World Championship last 16, where he defeated Wes Newton and Kevin Painter, before losing 4-1 to eventual champion Gary Anderson. Reyes is an extremely powerful scorer and his finishing at the tournament was particularly accomplished. His form on the Pro Tour in 2015 has been somewhat sporadic, but he claimed the scalp of Michael van Gerwen earlier this year, so his form remains strong.

Reyes will be partnered by Antonio Alcinas, who has always performed fantastically well in this competition.  Alcinas is an enigma and his lack of consistency is an issue, but he is a prolific scorer and has dealt extremely well with pressure situations in previous World Cup tournaments; the Spanish pair cannot be under-estimated by any means.

Austria

Suljovic & Rowby John
Suljovic and Rowby-John could be a perfect partnership. (Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

The Austrian duo of Mensur Suljovic and Rowby-John-Rodriguez could be a very tough team to beat in this year’s competition. They competed together last year and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Belgian brothers Kim and Ronny Huybrechts. However, Rowby-John will surely benefit from greater TV exposure, having competed in last year’s Grand Slam of Darts and the World Championships, whilst Suljovic is undoubtedly playing the best darts of his PDC career.

Rowby-John is a mercurial talent who seems to thrive on the big occasion. He acquitted himself excellently at last year’s Grand Slam, where he cruised to a 5-2 victory over Adrian Lewis. He narrowly missed out on qualification from the group stage, losing to fellow youth star Keegan Brown 5-3. Rowby is not a particularly prolific scorer, but his double-hitting is impressive.

Suljovic has enjoyed a fine 2015 thus far and the Austrian is on the verge of breaking into the World’s top 32. This is a fine achievement considering he doesn’t appear in many Pro Tour events. Suljovic has regularly featured in the latter stages of tour events this year, reaching the semi-finals of the German Darts Championship in February. Additionally, Suljovic reached the quarter-finals of the UK Open for a second successive year, where he was edged out 10-8 by Andrew Gilding.

Despite his unorthodox action, Suljovic has class in abundance and is extremely difficult to beat. His unconventional style can be particularly distracting for opponents, but he remains measured and focused throughout. He does possess impressive scoring power and is a prolific 140 hitter, but his combination finishes are also a prevalent feature of his game. With Mensur’s experience and pedigree, combined with Rowby’s energy, charisma and exuberance, Austria could pose a genuine threat to the favourites in this year’s competition.

Germany

Max Hopp
Will Max Hopp flourish in front of his home crowd? (Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

Germany will once again be captained by Jyhan Artut as they attempt to delight their home crowd by securing World Cup glory; however Andre Welge has been replaced by emerging talent, Max Hopp. Hopp has matured considerably over the last 18 months and at the tender age of 18, possesses significant big-stage experience. He has reached two Pro Tour quarter-finals in 2015, but he really came to prominence in last year’s World Championships.

Hopp recorded a stunning 3-2 victory over Mervyn King in the opening round at Alexandra Palace, sealing the win with an incredible 161 checkout. Hopp was relentless on the T20 and his doubling was also tidy. Although King had a pain-killing injection in his back prior to their encounter, he produced a high-level of performance in what was an absorbing contest. Despite Hopp not being able to replicate these heroics against Vincent van der Voort in Round-Two, he illustrated his obvious talent in his opening match.

Jyhan Artut’s most memorable PDC moment also came at the World Championships, when he whitewashed Wayne Mardle 3-0 in 2009 at Ally Pally. Artut has a smooth action and thrives on the support of the German crowd, as illustrated at the German Darts Championship earlier this year, where he competed in an enthralling battle with Mensur Suljovic, only to lose 6-5.

He will inevitably playing a nurturing role, especially with Hopp making his World Cup debut, but Hopp’s talent and scoring power could ease the pressure on Artut, particularly in the doubles format. The unpredictability of the event adds to the drama and anticipation; it will be extremely interesting to see how Hopp copes with the pressure; however the evidence thus far suggests he won’t be fazed. If Artut and Hopp both fulfil their potential in Frankfurt, they could enjoy a long run in this tournament.

Wales

Mark Webster & Jamie Lewis
Webster & Lewis both head to Frankfurt in fine form (Via: Tungsten Tickle)

It seems slightly strange to consider Wales as dark-horses for the event; nevertheless, as 7th seeds, they are not well-fancied, particularly given the difficulty of their draw. Mark Webster will once again lead the Welsh fight, but Jamie Lewis will make his World Cup debut in 2015.

Lewis has climbed to 33rd in the World after an excellent start to the calendar year, which included a run to the semi-finals of the Gibraltar Darts Trophy. Lewis is a prodigious young talent with an abundance of potential and with Mark Webster enjoying a renaissance at present, there is fresh optimism in Welsh circles that they could match their 2010 performance, where they lost in the tournament’s inaugural showing to the Netherlands.

Mark Webster has always performed well in the World Cup of Darts. In 2010, he was arguably the player of the tournament, carrying Barrie Bates for large parts of the event. Webster’s tenacity and determination will be integral for Wales this week, but after enduring major struggles over recent years, his form is returning.  He has reached a Pro Tour semi-final and two quarter-finals, but more importantly, his averages have been far more consistent. He has been throwing regularly around the 100+ mark and is displaying far more confidence in his game.

Jamie Lewis is a very dangerous proposition, capable of causing real damage against the World’s best.  Lewis suffered a miserable 2015 UK Open qualifying campaign, failing to qualify for the tournament in Minehead. This was undoubtedly a bitter blow for the Cardigan born 23-year-old, however his response has been immaculate.

As previously mentioned, he reached the semi-finals in Gibraltar, whilst he has reached a further two Pro Tour quarter-finals and a semi-final in Barnsley. The biggest frailty in his game over recent years has been composure in the latter stages of legs, but he has matured significantly and under the guidance of Webster, he will relish the chance to upset the odds. Wales could potentially meet Scotland in the quarter-finals; that could be an intriguing battle, but the quality of the Welsh pair must be acknowledged.

South-Africa

Devon Petersen
Will Devon be dancing for joy in Frankfurt? Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

The South-African duo of Devon Petersen and Graham Filby are far more capable than their seeding of 14 initially indicates. Filby does not compete on the PDC tour, having failed to secure a tour-card at Q-School, but he is certainly capable. South Africa suffered a 2-0 defeat to England in last year’s quarter-final, as Petersen and Filby lost their singles matches to Taylor and Lewis respectively.

Filby showed vulnerability in the singles, but he raised his game tremendously in the doubles format. His clinical finishing was an integral aspect of their success last year and he’ll need to produce that sort of level if they’re to progress beyond the last 16 stage, where they may potentially face defending champions Holland.

Devon Petersen requires little introduction. His charisma, exuberance and engagement with the crowd ensures he is one of the most popular figures on the circuit; despite this, his immense quality should not be under-estimated.

‘The Spartan’ thrives on the big occasion, as evidenced in his run to the last 16 stage of the 2014 World Championships. He reached the quarter-finals of the UK Open, losing 10-5 to Michael van Gerwen. Nevertheless, Petersen gave MvG a scare, particularly in the early stages.  He has hit a 9-darter on the circuit this year, so his form is in great shape. After overcoming injury and ‘darting politics’, it is fantastic to see a resurgent Devon throwing brilliant darts.

The South African’s face the ominous prospect of facing Netherlands in round-two, if MvG and RvB overcome USA and South Africa overcome Finland. If this scenario arises, the Dutch will be desperate to complete the job in the singles, because as illustrated last year, South-Africa are far stronger in the doubles format. South-Africa stunned Scotland in 2012, with Petersen partnering Shaun Hogan to a 5-3 doubles win over Anderson and Thornton, so they certainly have the pedigree. This may be a potential banana skin for the Dutch destroyers

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