It’s fair to say that England will have a far better chance in the Darts World Cup than they will in the football…
After all, Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis are the defending champions and the interesting thing about this tournament is always how well the teams gel.
In 2010, Taylor and James Wade failed to gel and went out early, while Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen didn’t really gel last year. In contrast, teams like Wales and Australia have often formed very good partnerships in the past.
The format sees the players compete in singles matches – and a doubles match is then played if the scores are tied, but it still requires you to work as a team and gee each other up.
If it was straight pairs matches then we might see more of the big sides go down, but I can’t see many seeds losing in their singles matches. Like in the Ryder Cup, team events often end up as individual events with players out on their own. If you’re a selfish person – as many top sportsmen are – then you focus on doing your own thing and it can end up being for the good of the team anyway.
But at times I feel you need some teamwork if you are to do well in this. Let’s take a look at some of the teams….
England (Phil Taylor & Adrian Lewis)
I actually think England are the second favourites behind the Netherlands this year, despite winning the last two World Cups. Taylor didn’t play very well at the Dubai Masters, but I think he will put things right when he puts that England shirt on. Like Ade, he likes playing for his country and I’m sure they will draw each other on to do well in Germany.
Netherlands (Michael van Gerwen & Raymond van Barneveld)
I think you’ve got to put these two down as favourites because they have won the last two tournaments with Barney winning the Premier League and Van Gerwen winning the Dubai Masters. They didn’t gel last year and there will always be a bit of animosity because you always want to be the number one player from your country. However, Barney will feel pretty good about himself after winning the Premier League (but he undid some of that by going out to Lewis in the first round in Dubai) and I think they should gel better this year.
Scotland (Peter Wright & Robert Thornton)
Scotland are going to be a threat without a doubt. With the way Gary Anderson was playing in the last few weeks of the Premier League I would rather have seen him in the team, but I don’t know who you’d take out because Robert Thornton is a great player and World Finalist Peter Wright has proved time and time again he’s not a one-hit wonder. They will be a threat to take this title.
Australia (Simon Whitlock & Paul Nicholson)
Australia (the true Aussie and the Aussie Geordie) are another threat to the title and could have won two years ago when they got to the final. They get on well together and Simon Whitlock needs a bit more luck because he has been playing well. Paul Nicholson needs to forget all the talking and just play darts – he makes a simple game complicated sometimes. From a business side of things, it would be a great result if a country like Australia – outside the mainstay of darts-playing countries – could win the World Cup.
Wales (Mark Webster & Richie Burnett)
Mark Webster reached the World Cup Final with Barrie Bates in 2010 and it clearly meant a lot to him to put on the Wales shirt because he played possibly the best darts of his life. You could see the emotion in him when he was hitting doubles, which is no surprise because the Welsh are passionate about everything they do. Richie Burnett has been playing well, they should gel and you know they will spur each other on. That’s a strong team and you can’t take them lightly.
Northern Ireland (Brendan Dolan & Michael Mansell)
A bit like Peter Wright, Brendan Dolan is probably one of the most underestimated players in the world. He has won several tour events in the last 12 months and has done some good work in European and TV events. Sometimes putting your national shirt on can make you nervous, but I don’t think these two will feel that way because they are old stalwarts of the game. Mickey has been throwing good darts and we’ve seen how good Dolan has become only a few years after he seemed ready to pack up the game!
Belgium (Kim Huybrechts & Ronny Huybrechts)
You know the Huybrechts brothers are going to work well together, but Kim has not played as well in the last six to eight months as he was before that. Ronny, however, is playing better than when he first joined the PDC and so if Kim can raise his level a bit then anything can happen. Remember, Ronny has beaten Taylor in a big Euro event before and isn’t scared of anybody and you will have to be serious against this side.
USA (Darin Young & Larry Butler)
The Americans keep threatening to perform well in this tournament. Larry Butler was the first winner of the World Matchplay in Blackpool many years ago and this pairing could upset a few people. I think they would prefer it to be played as a straight doubles match and I’d be seriously looking at them to do some damage if that was the case because they play the doubles game so well in America.
ROD’S VERDICT: Let’s just say that Holland are the favourites with England close to them – but Wales, Scotland and Australia are really dangerous and it would not surprise me at all if any of those teams wins it.