World Cup of Darts: Five Talking Points!

Scotland clinched their maiden World Cup of Darts title in Hamburg on Sunday evening, as Gary Anderson and Peter Wright defeated the unheralded Republic of Ireland duo of William O’Connor and Steve Lennon in a pulsating finale.

The previous eight World Cups have been shared with four wins apiece for Netherlands and England, but Scotland broke new ground at the Barclaycard Arena. As the dust settles on a dramatic weekend in Germany, here’s five talking points from this year’s World Cup…

Sublime Scotland

There had been plenty of uncertainty surrounding Scotland’s chances at this year’s World Cup. Peter Wright has struggled for much of 2019 whilst Gary Anderson had featured in just a handful of Pro Tour events due to his injury problems.

The second seeds performed superbly throughout the weekend, but the catalyst for their success was the camaraderie between Anderson and Wright. At times they’ve been accused of playing as two individuals but this year they really gelled as a partnership and reaped the rewards.

That was evidenced in their first round tie as they posted a 101.55 average in a 5-0 thumping over Denmark, and they maintained this momentum throughout. They won six successive Singles matches to breeze through to Sunday’s showpiece – their win over Belgium the obvious highlight.

It was often said that Anderson and Wright were too good to never win the World Cup – now they’ve proven that notion to be correct. They’re just the third nation to lift this title and having flourished as a team this year, you wouldn’t back against them retaining their crown in 2020.

Inspired Ireland

The World Cup is a tournament with synonymous with shocks and Republic of Ireland took on the giant-killing mantle this weekend – dumping out four-time winners England and Netherlands en route to reaching the final in Hamburg.

O’Connor and Lennon also accounted for eighth seeds Austria in the quarter-finals but their wins over England and the Dutch will live long in the memory. O’Connor averaged a career best 115.10 to defeat Cross and send the top seeds packing in round-two, but Lennon was the star against Netherlands.

The 25-year-old was edged out by Michael van Gerwen in the Singles, but O’Connor forced a Doubles decider with victory over Jermaine Wattimena. However, Lennon averaged over 109 and converted stunning 131 and 128 finishes as the Irish ran emphatic 4-0 winners in the pairs showdown.

Prior to this year, Republic of Ireland had never progressed beyond the second round. O’Connor was competing in his ninth successive World Cup and had been thwarted six times in round-two. However, he and Lennon – ranked 47th and 35th in the world respectively – demonstrated their class on the global stage.

O’Connor captured his first ranking title in a Players Championship event last month whilst Lennon has made vast strides in just his third year on the professional circuit. Their team chemistry was instrumental in their success and they promise to be a real force in this event for many years to come.

Off-colour MVG

Michael van Gerwen was bidding to win a record-equalling fourth World Cup title in Hamburg. The world number one teamed up with debutant Jermaine Wattimena and victory would have seen Netherlands secure an unprecedented fifth World Cup crown.

Five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld was absent from the Dutch team for the first time in World Cup history and there was speculation about how Wattimena would fare. Nevertheless, the biggest surprise was Van Gerwen’s struggle.

It would be foolish to expect perfection, even from MvG. However, the Dutchman failed to register an average in excess of 97 in any of his six matches, as illustrated by Darts statistician TheRedBit180.

Van Gerwen only featured in 33 legs across those six matches but his tournament average of 91.35 is remarkably low by his exceptionally high standards. That was a key factor in Netherlands missing out on a place in the World Cup final for the first time since 2015.

MVG provided an honest appraisal of his performance after losing his singles rubber against Dawson Murschell in the quarter-finals and he’ll be smarting after such disappointment. That’s ominous for the rest of world darts, as he’ll be even more motivated to right those wrongs on his return.

Strength in Depth

The strength in depth within world darts has never been greater. Four of this year’s quarter-finalists were unseeded nations and they showed no fear, despite the fact that many of the participants were experiencing their first taste of televised action.

That was evidenced by the performance of Italy’s new-look partnership Andrea Micheletti & Stefano Tomassetti. They were both making their televised debuts but the duo performed magnificently; losing out to Canada despite averaging 95.47 – Italy’s best ever average at a World Cup.

Japan’s team of Seigo Asada and Haruki Muramatsu followed up last year’s run to the quarter-finals by reaching the last four at the Barclaycard Arena, whilst Singapore strengthened their giant-killing reputation by dumping out third seeds Wales – a real caveat for the success of the PDC Asian Tour.

New Zealand enjoyed their best run at a World Cup, with Cody Harris and Haupai Puha seeing off debutants Lithuania and South Africa to reach the last eight, whilst Canada reached their second World Cup quarter-final – despite competing without three-time world champion John Part for the first time in the event’s history.

Russia and Philippines also posted their highest averages at a World Cup despite bowing out in round-one. The game is growing globally at a significant rate and the exposure for these ‘lesser’ nations will be invaluable. That has to be the major success story from this year’s tournament.

Change in format?

The World Cup is one of the most captivating events on the darting calendar – largely due to it’s unique appeal. It’s the only opportunity we have to see players competing in a pairs event, which provokes so much emotion, passion and drama.

Representing your country is a huge honour and it was refreshing to see Michael Smith – a World Championship and Premier League finalist – claim that making his England debut constituted one of the finest moments of his already impressive career.

In terms of the format, the first round is solely comprised of a best of nine legs Doubles match. However, from the second round onwards, the ties begin with two Singles matches and only if the scores are locked at 1-1 do we get to witness a Doubles decider.

As a consequence, we saw just four Doubles matches in the second round, quarter-finals and semi-finals combined. The pairs element is integral to the tournament’s popularity but the magic was lost ever so slightly as a number of the established nations cruised through with comprehensive Singles wins.

Michael van Gerwen, Simon Whitlock and Wayne Mardle have been vocal in calling for the tournament to be solely pairs based. As a team you should win together and lose together, but the individual element tends to take precedence for much of the competition. Hopefully that changes in 2020.

Photo Credits: Stefan Strassenburg/PDC Europe

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