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China Takes World Cup No. 2
Sep 14, 2010, 9:25 AM

Fu (left) and Li raise the World Cup for the second time in four years. (Photo by Matchroom Sport)
Say what you will about the single-elimination bracket. Or the alternate-shot format. Or short races.

What’s now an indisputable fact is that China is a powerhouse in the World Cup of Pool, Matchroom Sport’s $250,000 event collecting 32 two-player teams from across the globe.

Capping an impressive run through five rounds of play, the duo of Fu Jianbo and Li Hewen trounced the Filipino pairing of Dennis Orcollo and Roberto Gomez in a surprisingly sloppy final, 10-5. With the win, Fu and Li collected their second World Cup (the two won their 2007 debut), joining the Philippines as two-time winners of the 5-year-old tournament.

Despite China’s past success, though, Fu and Li were seeded eighth among 16 seeded teams at this year’s Cup — held Sept. 7-12 in Robinsons Place in Manila, Philippines. Facing the unseeded Belgians in the opening round, the Chinese quickly erased any thoughts of an upset with an 8-2 victory.

True to form, 15 of 16 seeded teams advanced, though the second-seeded pairing of Americans Rodney Morris and Johnny Archer were pushed to the limit by Sweden, 8-7. But the U.S. wouldn’t stick around much longer. Facing the deceptively dangerous 15th ranked Polish tandem of Mariusz Skoneczny and Radoslaw Babica in the next round, the U.S. watched the Poles climb on the hill, 7-4. The Americans rallied to force a case came, but Archer couldn’t escape a safety and Poland advanced, 8-7.

The Americans were joined on the sidelines by reigning champions Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante. The top-seeded Philippine A team (as host, the nation received two entries in the field), succumbed to Indonesia, 8-6.

In the quarterfinals, China again jumped out to an early lead, stringing racks together against the Indonesians en route to a 9-3 victory. The Germans (Ralf Souquet and Oliver Ortmann) struggled to put away France, 9-7, while the Philippines B squad thumped Finland, 9-1. The well-armed twosome from Taiwan (Ko Pin-Yi and Chang Jung-Lin) then ended Poland’s Cinderella run to round out the final four.

And what a pair of semifinals. Both sets were absolute barnburners, with Germany-China kicking off the action. Fu and Li looked to be in complete control early on, racing to a 6-1 lead against the well-accomplished German team. But Li mishandled a 4 ball in the next game, giving Ortmann and Souquet an open door. The two went on to collect the next six racks to take a 7-6 lead in the race to 9. Souquet then missed a difficult try on the 1 ball, allowing the Chinese to tie it. Fu and Li then cleared the next two racks from the break to advance to their second World Cup, 9-7.

Next up was the Philippine-Taiwanese tilt. The center of 2,000-plus onlookers’ attention, Orcollo and Gomez couldn’t get settled with the pressure of the home crowd. Still, they managed to keep even with Taiwan until the two sides were square at 8-8. In the case game, Ko smashed open the deciding rack and dropped three balls. But Chang missed the 2 ball, giving the Filipinos a ticket to the final.

While the semifinals were both memorable, the final was equally forgettable, at least for the quality of play. After the teams split the first two racks, Gomez erred on a 9 ball in the side pocket to give the Chinese an advantage. Extending its lead to 4-1, Fu then misplayed the 9 ball in the next rack. But Gomez played a loose safety, giving Li an angle on the game-winner to push the advantage to four games.

The Chinese continued to collect racks, finally reaching the hill, 9-1. The Philippines took four straight games to breathe some life into the crowd, but China closed out the set, 10-5.

“They made a few mistakes and we took advantage of that,” Fu said. “The Philippines literally gave us the match because they made a lot more mistakes than we did.”