Defending champions Spain have been knocked out of the 2023 World Cup of Pool in the opening session of the tournament by the Philippines 7-5 at Pazo de Feiras e Congresos de Lugo, Spain in partnership with The Asociación Gallega de Billar Pool (AGP), Xunta de Galicia and EIDF Solar live on Sky Sports in the UK and Ireland, DAZN in Spain, the USA, Italy, and Brazil, Viaplay in Scandinavia, the Baltics and Poland and broadcasters worldwide.
Francisco Sanchez Ruiz and David Alcaide set out as 9/2 bookies’ favourites but with the tallest order of them all to make the second stage. The Philippines are unseeded for the first time but some would say it wasn’t a true reflection of the talent in their ranks with James Aranas and Johann Chua bringing the heat to the hosts who were buoyed by a strong Spanish crowd.
Spain got the better of the opening racks to lead 2-0 and it looked to be the start of a routine performance for the 2022 champions but Aranas and Chua were there to crash the party. The Philippines took the following three racks and the contest was turned on its head with the best exchange of the match to come in the sixth. A brilliant hook was left by the Philippines to hide the cue ball from the two but Alcaide proceeded to nail a jump shot to clean up and allow Spain back for three apiece and then a lead at 5-3 and be two away from the finish line.
The young duo of Aranas and Chua held firm despite some shaky moments and seized upon an uncharacteristic error from Sanchez Ruiz on the two ball when looking to find position for a 3-9 combination. Spain didn’t have a look in when the Pinoy boys got going from there, with the scores level at 5-5. Errors were the downfall of Spain’s efforts and it allowed the Philippines back in to settle up 7-5 and set up a tie with either Spain or Saudi Arabia in the second round.
Greece were next up against last year’s finalists Singapore who had a new pairing with Aloysius Yapp joined by Sharik Sayed for the first time since 2019. Alexander Kazakis and Nikos Economopoulos meanwhile were looking to do better than their first-round exit 12 months ago in Brentwood, England. Singapore led early on 2-1 and continued to apply the pressure to take a 4-1 lead and look to be the team to beat in the contest. Greece came back though at 6-6 and the first hill-hill of the tournament was about to unfold.
Economopoulos’ break was solid enough but it came up dry with the balls left in an awkward table layout, from there an awkward safety battle ensued for Singapore to pull through and secure the win.
Sayed said: “I think there’s mutual respect for each other. I have a lot of respect for Aloysius’ game. I respect him, whatever he says, I take it to heart and I do what he tells me to do!”
Yapp added: “We will practice from here and work hard to improve in the next match.”
The session was closed out with Canada’s Alex Pagulayan and John Morra up against debutants Myanmar who was fresh off the back of SEA Games glory in 9-ball doubles in May. Phone Myint Kyaw and partner Thaw Zin Htet looked at home early on to lead 2-1 after taking the opening rack but from there Morra especially found a different gear and it left Myanmar reeling in their hopes to make it out the first round. Pagulayan looked out of sorts but Morra’s ability to jump well and lay key safeties helped the initial comeback as they went on to win six racks in a row to secure victory.
The 2023 World Cup of Pool continues from 7pm local time live on Sky Sports Main Event in the UK and Ireland with those in Spain, Italy, and the USA able to watch on DAZN. Fans in Scandinavia, Baltics, Netherlands, and Poland can watch on Viaplay with further broadcasters around the world. See where to watch in your country here with more broadcasters to be announced. Action will also be live on Matchroom.Live.
Great Britain will open against Qatar before Albania take on Peru and two-time champions Austria meet Australia to close out the session.
The 2023 World Cup of Pool will be played alongside the 31st Galician Team Pool Billiards Championship, which will bring together more than 1,000 players in the Pazo de Ferias y Congresos de Lugo, where more than 40 tables will be in action. The participants in this tournament considered the biggest in Europe, will compete for the regional titles and the prizes arranged by the Galician Association of Pool Billiards.