Strong Start For Holders England In World Cup Of Darts
England's Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis made a superb start to the defence of their Betfair World Cup of Darts title with a whitewash of Japan on Friday night, as Australia and the Netherlands enjoyed strong opening wins in Hamburg.
Taylor and Lewis, who overcame Australians Simon Whitlock and Paul Nicholson in a sudden-death leg to win the 24-nation event 12 months ago, made easier work of their opening group game in this year's tournament. Japan's Haruki Muramatsu and Sho Katsumi had defeated Austria 5-4 earlier in the day, but were no match for the world's top two as Taylor and Lewis romped to victory without dropping a leg.
The margin of victory ensures England's place in the knockout last 16, with Austria's Mensur Suljovic and Maik Langendorf needing to defeat Taylor and Lewis in Saturday afternoon's final group game if they are to knock out Japan and progress.
"It was a good way to start the event because we were very relaxed and we got a fantastic reception from the crowd, and we enjoyed it," said Taylor. "The Japanese played very well but we're the defending champions and the other teams know they have to come out and beat us, so we can relax a little. Although we're through we'll still be taking it seriously on Saturday afternoon because the pressure's on Austria and we want to go into the knockout stage unbeaten and playing well."
Taylor added: "It's still a massive honour to represent England and it's extra special to play with Adrian because we've known each other for so many years and we enjoy playing alongside each other."
Last year's beaten finalists Australia also secured qualification for the knockout stages with a 5-1 victory over Croatian pair Robert Marijanovic and Tonci Restovic.
The Croatians had defeated New Zealand 5-3 earlier in the day, but will have to hope that the Kiwis lose to Australia in their trans-Tasman clash on Saturday afternoon if they are to reach the Last 16.
Whitlock and Nicholson hit an 11-dart finish during their impressive win, as they came from a leg down to take five in a row to seal their place in the Last 16.
"They came out firing and took the first leg but we came back well and it was a solid performance," said Whitlock. "It's great to be through because we can relax and enjoy the game with New Zealand - there's always a great rivalry between the countries in any sport. It's good to be back playing with Paul, though, and we believe we're a great team together. We thrive off each other and we know we can win this tournament if we play well."
The Republic of Ireland's William O'Connor and Connie Finnan ensure that they will be in the Last 16 with a superb 5-0 defeat of Denmark's Per Laursen and Jann Hoffmann, who had overcome South Africa's Charl Pietersen and Shawn Hogan earlier on Friday.
The South Africans had endured a disrupted preparation when Pietersen's luggage failed to arrive in Hamburg following their flight from Johannesburg, but they can still qualify for the Last 16 with a win over Ireland on Saturday.
Belgium - represented by brothers Kim and Ronny Huybrechts - were the day's other nation to seal a place in the knockout stage, as they whitewashed Hungary's Nandor Bezzeg and Meszaros Zsolt in the day's opening game to mean that they will progress despite losing 5-2 to Northern Ireland in the evening
Northern Ireland's Brendan Dolan and Michael Mansell only need to win two legs in their final Group H game on Saturday afternoon against Hungary to progress.
The other four groups still have plenty to play for, with the Netherlands - the 2010 champions - opening their challenge for a second World Cup of Darts title with a 5-3 win over Poland.
Poland's Krzysztof Kciuk and Krzysztof Ratajski had punished missed doubles from Gibraltar with a 5-2 win earlier in the day and battled gamely against the Netherlands before Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen prevailed.
Scotland's Gary Anderson and Robert Thornton impressed in their 5-3 win over Canada in the day's best game, with the Scots setting up a potential nine-dart finish at one stage during a high-scoring contest.
Canadian pair John Part and Jeff Smith had edged out Sweden's Magnus Caris and Par Riihonen in their opener, but need the Scots to win Saturday's final Group C game if they are to progress.
Welsh pair Mark Webster and Richie Burnett, semi-finalists 12 months ago, put one foot into the second round with a 5-2 defeat of Spain's Antonio Alcinas and Carlos Rodriguez.
The Spanish duo had defeated Italian debutants Daniele Petri and Matteo Dal Monte 5-3 in their Group D opener, with the newcomers now playing Wales on Saturday afternoon knowing that a shock win could see them progress.
Germany and Finland took wins in Group F as the host nation took command in Group F with a 5-3 triumph in their clash between the countries in Friday's final fixture, with Andree Welge and Jyhan Artut starring in front of a capacity crowd in Hamburg.
Finland's Jarkko Komula and Jani Haavisto showed flashes of their quality in that contest and their earlier 5-4 win over the USA's Darin Young and Larry Butler, who now need to defeat Germany to progress to the Last 16.
Following Saturday afternoon's final Group Stage games, the top two nations from each group progress to the knockout Last 16, which will be held in Saturday's evening session at the Alsterdorfer Sporthalle in Hamburg.
World Cup of Darts
Friday February 1
Belgium 5-0 Hungary (H)
Denmark 5-4 South Africa (B)
Spain 5-3 Italy (D)
Croatia 5-3 New Zealand (G)
Canada 5-4 Sweden (C)
Austria 4-5 Japan (A)
Gibraltar 2-5 Poland (E)
Finland 5-4 USA (F)
Seeded Nations v Friday Afternoon Winners
Northern Ireland 5-2 Belgium (H)
Republic of Ireland 5-0 Denmark (B)
Wales 5-2 Spain (D)
Australia 5-1 Croatia (G)
Scotland 5-3 Canada (C)
England 5-0 Japan (A)
Netherlands 5-3 Poland (E)
Germany 5-3 Finland (F)
Saturday February 2
Seeded Nations v Friday Afternoon Losers
2pm-6pm Local Time (1pm-5pm UK Time)
Northern Ireland v Hungary (H)
Republic of Ireland v South Africa (B)
Wales v Italy (D)
Australia v New Zealand (G)
Scotland v Sweden (C)
England v Austria (A)
Netherlands v Gibraltar (E)
Germany v USA (F)
Best of nine legs of 501 Doubles
8pm-12am Local Time (7pm-11pm UK Time)
8x Second Round Matches
Best of nine legs of 501 Doubles