PHILIPPINES TO DUEL CHINA 2 FOR WORLD POOL TEAM SUPREMACY
By Ted Lerner
WPA Press Officer
Photos Courtesy of Tai Chengzhe
(Beijing)–One team took the easy road. The other had to claw tooth and nail and barely made it through. But when they meet tomorrow in the finals of the 2014 World Pool Team Championship in Beijing, the Philippines and China 2 are sure to engage in a knockdown, drag out struggle for team supremacy in professional pool.
After six days of non-stop 8-ball, 9-ball and 10 ball, featuring 25 teams from across the globe, fans and organizers really couldn’t have asked for a better final. On the one hand you have the Philippines, arguably the finest pool playing country the world over. The Philippine team, comprised of pool heavyweights Dennis Orcollo, Lee Vann Corteza, Carlo Biado and Rubilen Amit, have been literally on fire this week and are playing without a care in the world.
On the other hand there’s China 2, representing the world’s most populous nation and whose government backed sports program has one goal firmly in mind; to be the best. The fact that the final will be held in the very heart of China’s capital probably puts much of the onus and pressure for victory on the shoulders of the Chinese players. But the way they won their semi-final battle against Japan today may have provided China with just the battle hardening gut check they needed to see them through on the last day.
The final, which will take place Saturday at the Tongzhou Luhe high school, will begin at 2PM Beijing time(GMT +8).
Based on performances in Friday’s two semi-final matches, the Philippines will have to be considered the favorite coming into Saturday’s final. The Pinoys were coming into their semis match with China 1 today brimming with confidence after pulling out a dramatic win in their quarterfinal match the day before against Chinese-Taipei. China 1 was loaded top talent. But no matter where they looked, they were met with stiff resistance from the Pinoys. And they quickly wilted under the heat.
To get things going, Orcollo squared off with Wu Jiaqing in the 8-ball singles, in a fine pairing of two former World 8-ball Champions. With the score tied 3-3 in a short race to 6, Wu made one fatal mistake when he missed with one ball left on the table. Orcollo stood up and punished Wu from there on in, and streaked to a convincing 6-3 victory.
On the adjacent table Biado and Corteza took on Li He Wen and youngster Chu Bing Chia in 8-ball doubles. The Chinese pair never even got into the match as the Filipinos cruised to a massive 6-1 win.
Up 2-0 and needing just two more to win, the Philippines decided to press the advantage. Corteza matched up with Li He Wen in 9-ball and proceeded to crush the Chinese, winning going away, 8-3.
Amit was on the adjacent table doing battle with Women’s World 9-ball Champion Han Yu in 9-ball. This seemed to be China’s best chance to get back in the match but Amit, who has played some of the best pool of her career this week in Beijing, quickly put a stranglehold on the proceedings. Han had no answer and went down in flames as Amit won 8-3.
Overall, the performance put in by the Pinoys was simply breathtaking. Afterward, Orcollo talked about how the team discussed strategy before coming to the arena. Clearly the friendly Filipinos were in no mood to make nice on the table.
“Last night we struggled just to survive,” Orcollo said. “So we felt good out there today. We were talking about it today, how to prepare. I told the team we need to play better, play aggressive , don’t be scared, don’t show weakness, don’t give them a chance. If we have the chances, we have to go for the kill, for the finish.”
Orcollo also had praises for Amit.
“She’s doing good. We are behind her all the way. If she makes a mistake, we are there to help her. I think having us here helps give her more confidence.”
Orcollo also had an interesting answer when asked what winning the World Team Championship would mean for himself and his teammates. Normally the Filipinos will state they want to win to bring honor to their country. Orcollo was hoping a win in the final would help revive the pro game in the Philippines, which has nearly died over the last three years, leaving players like himself and his teammates little chance of earning a living at home.
“I hope we can win this tournament so that the sport of pool can rise again in the Philippines,” Orcollo said. “As of now, our sport doesn’t have the support of any big companies in the Philippines. The Filipino people still love pool but no big companies want to sponsor any tournaments. I hope the big companies can see the great things we are doing and recognise us and bring a big tournament to the Philippines. Winning this event could be a window for us to get back to what it was like when Efren(Reyes) was world champion.”
If the Philippines semi-final win was a waltz, China 2’s win was a hard core mash up. Japan came into the match under zero pressure, while China now had the burden of having to carry the hopes and expectations of their nation.
China 2, with Liu Haitao, Dang Ching Hu, Wang Can, Fu Xiaofang and Liu Shasha came sprinting out as the youngsters Dang and Wang cruised to a 6-1 win in doubles 8-ball over Naoyuki Oi and Hayato Hijikata. But Japan stayed focused and loose and the match was soon tied 1-1 as Sasaaki Tanaka grinded out a 6-5 win in 8-ball.
The fabulous Fu brought China 2 back up with a gutty come from behind 8-5 in 9-ball over Chichiro Kawahara. But Oi kept the pressure on the Chinese with an 8-4 win over Dang in 9-ball to tie the score at 2-2.
The pressure was starting to slowly build but Liu Haitao and Liu Shasha brought some relief with a strong performance in 10-ball doubles, winning 7-2. Now, the match and the tournament came down to the 10-ball singles between Wang and Hijikata, which was happening at the same time on the next table. With the Japanese up 5-3 in a race to 7, it looked like the two teams were headed for a shootout, exactly where the Chinese didn’t want to go.
The 20 year old Wang, however, proved he is older and wiser than his years as he battled back to tie the match at 5. He again tied it at six and the pair went to a thrilling one rack decider with everything– the game, the match, the tournament– in the balance. After a nervy safety battle, Wang got an opening and cashed in as the crowd roared its approval and the Chinese players celebrated.
Wang’s reaction afterward about his thrilling match seemed to represent just the demeanor that the Chinese will need if they are to defeat the Philippines in the final on Saturday; play with a laser like focus on the task at hand, and always remember that you are not alone.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Wang said of his match with Hijikata. “I was just focused on my job.
“In a team competition the atmosphere is different. We have to cooperate and work together to be successful. At this point both teams have come a long way so it’s really 50-50. Our coaches haven’t put any burden on us to win. They always tell us to just play our best. So that’s what we’ll so on Saturday.”
The winner of the 2014 World Pool Team Championship will take home $80,000 while the runner up will take home $40,000. The total prize fund is $300,000.
Saturday at 2PM(GMT +8)
Philippines vs. China 2
Philippines 4 – 0 China 1
China II, 4 – 2 Japan
*The WPA is on hand in Beijing to bring fans around the world full updated coverage of the 2014 World Pool Team Championship.
You can follow the World Pool Team Championship on our Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/worldpoolteamchampionship.
The WPA is also on Twitter @poolwpa.
Or visit our website at www.wpapool.com
*The World Pool and Billiard Association(WPA) is the governing body of the sport of pocket billiards.
The Liado U Valley World Pool Team Championship is sanctioned by the WPA, The Multi-Ball Games Administrative Center of General Administration of Sport, Chinese Billiard and Snooker Federation, Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sport, Beijing Sports Federation.
FORMAT: In each match between two countries, the two teams play each other in a set of six matches, all alternate break; two races in 8 ball, two in 9-ball and two in 10-ball. One 8-ball match is men’s scotch doubles, race to 6. The other 8-ball match is a men’s singles, race to 6. In 9-ball, the teams compete in a women’s singles, race to 8, and a men’s singles race to 8. In 10-ball, the teams play one mixed doubles match(scotch doubles), race to 7, and one men’s singles match race to 7. The female player must play in the 10-ball mixed doubles match, and a 9-ball match. No player is permitted to play more than two matches per session.
SHOOTOUT: If a match ends up 3-3 in the knockout stage, the winner will be decided by a shootout. In a shootout the 8 ball is placed in the middle of the table down near the short rail, level with the first diamond, while the cue ball is placed way down at the head string. The three men and one woman on each team take turns trying to pot the 8-ball in either far corner. All players play in sequence and the team to score six hits first with a margin of two or more(6-4, 7-5, etc.) wins the match and advances to the next round.
Philippines–Dennis Orcollo, Lee Vann Corteza, Carlo Biado, Rubilen Amit
China 2—Liu Haitao, Dang Ching Hu, Wang Can, Fu Xiaofang, Liu Shasha