PDC World Cup of Darts Preview - Holland, Poland, Spain & Czech Republic.
So, summer is finally upon us, and as all darts fans know - that means it's almost time for the 2019 edition of the World Cup. 64 players representing 32 countries across 6 different continents. The field really is global in it's make-up, and it brings with it a mix of top-class quality, some legends of the game and a whole host of unknown talent looking to make their name one of the biggest stages darts has to offer. 

The 2019 edition of the tournament has an air of change about it - Rob Cross & Michael Smith represent a new, younger face of English darts, Raymond van Barneveld & John Part are notable absentees for The Netherlands & Canada respectively, and Lithuania are represented for the first time ever in the nine-year history of the tournament. 

There's also a notable strength in depth to the PDC player pool this year more so than ever, with the majority of countries featuring at least one top-class player, and a good chunk being made up of two, even amongst the unseeded nations, which is sure to make for a tournament filled with thrills, spills, and a whole load of quality tungsten. Here, I take a look at each of the 32 teams, and give my two cents on which countries you should be looking out for at the 2019 PDC World Cup. 

Netherlands - Michael van Gerwen & Jermaine Wattimena
Where better to start than with the reigning and four-time champions Netherlands? Netherlands are one of the most interesting teams at this year's edition of the World Cup, and for no bigger reason than the absence of the five-time World Champion, Raymond van Barneveld - who misses the tournament for the first time since it's inception. It's the first in a potential string of high-profile major absences for the soon-to-be retired RvB, whose slide down the rankings has seen him replaced in the Holland team by the improving Jermaine Wattimena. 

Van Barneveld's absence is not only notable because of his obvious star-power, but because it means that world no.1 Michael van Gerwen has a brand new partner to gel with as he looks to win his third successive World Cup with Holland, which could make Netherlands vulnerable should things not go as planned. Wattimena is a much quicker player than Michael is used to playing with, and it's yet to be seen whether the change in rhythm is a help or hindrance to the equally quick MvG. 

And it has to be said that Michael himself is not at peak form heading into the World Cup this year. Yes, that doesn't mean that Michael hasn't been dominant on the Euro Tour this year - he has. He's won four of the six events played in Europe this year, but it just doesn't feel like he's been as dominant as he has been in the past. Premier League stats in particular are interesting for the Green Machine, where he sits second bottom of the 180 pile (only RvB hit less, and he featured in 7 fewer games), and mid-table in the 140 count. Yet he comfortably tops the checkout percentage statistic, and is the only player to average over a hundred across the entire league. Strange. 

Wattimena himself has had an OK season so far in 2019, where he's so far reached the final of the first Players Championship event of the season, losing out to his Dutch team-mate MvG, and made three Euro Tour events. Solid, if unspectacular form heading into this event from the Machine Gun. 

In summary, this Holland team feels very up in the air. MvG and Jermaine could play off one-another and storm all the way to the title, or they could come un-stuck and be found out somewhere along the line. First-round opponents Spain could provide a very thorough examination in their first round encounter should they play to their potential.
Poland - Krzysztof Ratajski & Tytus Kanik
I like the look of this Polish team a lot. Poland are actually a very experienced nation when it comes to World Cup darts, playing in all but one of the previous tournaments. Ratajski & Kanik have both played with different partners previously, but this will be the third consecutive year that this particular pair have represented their country, having gone out in the first round for the previous two tournaments. 

However, there's one thing that I see in both of these players that makes me think that this year could be different - growth. Ratajski was one of the standout players in all of PDC darts last year, where he won three different tournaments despite not even having a Tour Card at the beginning of 2018. A disappointing defeat to Seigo Asada ended The Eagle's season at the World Championship, but that can't take away from the fact that The Eagle had landed in PDC darts for real. A quarter-finalist in a Players Championship event this year, Ratajski has also played in three tournaments on the Euro Tour, and just recently secured double qualification for another two events later in the year. 

For me, Tytus has shown really good progress so far in 2019. Never really threatening much in 2018, the big Pole has so far made it to two events on the Euro Tour, the most recent of which saw him embark on a run to the last sixteen - a run which included a win over Jonny Clayton. Add to that a run to the semi-finals of Players Championship 10 in Barnsley, and I think you have a six-month spell that Kanik can be proud of. Things are definitely looking up rather than down for this half of team Poland. 

Overall, Poland on paper look like a solid, progressive team. Do I think they can win it? I don't. But do I think they can beat Czech Republic and then give probable second round opponents The Netherlands a thorough examination? Yes. Poland are definitely a team to look out for at the 2019 World Cup. 
Spain - Cristo Reyes & Toni Alcinas
You just have to look at the names making up this pairing to know that Spain are a very capable team. Toni Alcinas has been in and around top-level professional darts for a number of years now, and Cristo Reyes is probably a better player than he is. Much like the Poland team, Spain are being represented by a couple of players capable of some very good things on any given darting day. 

The only concern with this team - and it's a relatively big one - is form. Neither player have much to write home about in a 2019 which has seen Cristo make just one event on the Euro Tour so far this year, and Players Championship form is probably just as bad where he's lost in the very first round in 6 of 14 events. A run to the last 16 of the UK Open shows some kind of something, but it's been a pretty poor year of competitive darts for The Spartan so far in 2019. Improvement is needed, and quick. 

And then there's Toni, who's actually in worse form than his Spain team-mate. Alcinas is yet to make a single event on the Euro Tour so far in 2019, he didn't perform at the UK Open, and he himself has lost in the first round in 8 of 14 Players Championship events so far to date. Maybe the hint of summer sun in the air is what Alcinas needs to shake him from whatever slumber he's been in so far this year, but it's fair to say that this has been a pretty dismal spell for the more experienced member of team Spain. 

Having looked more at the form of Spain in writing, it actually appears that the Netherlands may be in for an easier game than I expected. Reyes & Alcinas are two very capable, somewhat experienced players at this point, but much, much improvement is needed if they are to get anywhere near the winning line in their first-round encounter, but it would be silly to rule them out completely. Probable first-round losers here. 
Czech Republic - Karel Sedlacek & Pavel Jirkal
The sixth year that the Czech Republic have been represented at the PDC World Cup, and the sixth different pairing to wear the shirt. Czech Republic are one of those countries who don't really have a standout player, and so in a system that relies on ranking to make up the team, it's very easy for players to swap in and out of the side in reflection to sporadic form on tour. They are also the first team discussed to be made up two players who don't hold an active PDC Tour Card. 

Karel is arguably the better of the two players, and he did appear at the 2018 World Championship. He then attempted to gain a Tour Card via European Q-School at the beginning of 2019, but ultimately fell short despite a quarter-final appearance at the second event. Because of his lack of a Tour Card, PDC appearances have been sparse so far in 2019, where he has been limited to appearing in just a single Euro Tour event that he managed to qualify for via the Eastern Europe qualifier route. However - despite having the one appearance to his name - Sedlacek produced some very good darts at the German Darts Grand Prix, where he saw off Diogo Portela, Ian White & Darren Webster before losing a very tight game 6-5 to Max Hopp. Relatively impressive form, there's just been too little of it to know where he's really at with his game so far in 2019. 

Jirkal is another player who entered European Q-School at the start of the year, where he actually showed better form than his Czech Republic team-mate - reaching a final where he lost out 5-2 to Christian Bunse. However, defeats in the last 256 & 128 rounds in events 1 & 4 meant that he missed out on receiving a Tour Card via the Order of Merit. Since then, Jirkal has entered three Euro Tour qualifying events, and has won two of them, making the semi-final of the other. Jirkal defeated William Borland in the first round of the European Darts Open, before going down to Darren Webster in round two. He was then outplayed by a very good Luke Humphries in the other event, losing 6-0. Still, it's a relatively impressive strike rate in terms of qualification for these events. 

Whilst Poland vs Czech Republic may not be a tie that gets the pulses of most darts fans racing, it does appear to be a battle of two very solid teams that should prove to be a tense, quality affair. I still think Poland will be the team to go through from this tie, if only because the Polish pair are the ones playing regular darts on the PDC circuit. That match sharpness could be the difference here. Czech Republic are a capable team this year, and at the very least should represent themselves and their country well even in defeat. 
So, there it is. My thoughts on the first four teams being featured at this year's World Cup of Darts. Netherlands, Poland, Spain & Czech Republic down, 28 teams to go. Let me know your thoughts on my thoughts, and what you expect from these and any other teams competing at the World Cup this year. Second part up in the next couple of days!
As a Czech I must admit you summed it up pretty well.
Very well written, thanks!

Looking forward to the rest of your summaries Smile
B: 22g   S: Short   F: Shape   180s: 4/25
(05-19-2019, 01:20 PM)elevendarter Wrote: As a Czech I must admit you summed it up pretty well.

I tried my best. How do you feel about the team this year? One of the better sides you've fielded?

(05-19-2019, 02:13 PM)jt4527 Wrote: Very well written, thanks!

Looking forward to the rest of your summaries Smile

Thanks, man! Next one should be up by Wednesday. Smile
(05-19-2019, 11:09 PM)leon0677 Wrote:
(05-19-2019, 01:20 PM)elevendarter Wrote: As a Czech I must admit you summed it up pretty well.

I tried my best. How do you feel about the team this year? One of the better sides you've fielded?
No doubts about them. You are right that we don't have stand out players, however Karel is a stand out player in our small Czech pond. And Pavel has proven throughout the years that he is a very good player too. The issue is that as they haven't played repeatedly at big events like this they can't be mentally that strong like Ratajski is atm. I know for sure that both Pavel and Karel are able to beat both Polish players. The question is whether they'll be able to do that at such a big event. To do that at the right time in the right place. No much room for the error here. I hope they'll be stronger if they know they can rely on each other.
Anyway, betting against Czechs would be a win win for me :-)

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