By Ted Lerner
(Beijing, China) Team Japan, who have laughed and smiled their way through this entire event, had the last laugh tonight as they stunned a shell shocked China 2 team via a sudden death shootout in front of hundreds of vocal Chinese partisans at Tongzhou Luhe High School, to move into the finals of the 2012 World Pool Team Championship here in Beijing.
Japan will now go on to play in Friday’s final against the white-hot Chinese-Taipei team, which earlier in the day breezed past Great Britain, 4-1. The final will begin at 2pm Beijing time(GMT +8 hours).
It was the second straight win by the Japanese squad via the dramatic shootout rule, which comes into play when the two teams end their six match set tied at 3 all. Last night the Japanese, with Yukio Akagariyama, Toru Kuribayashi, Naoyuki Oi, and female player Chihiro Kawahara, held off the Philippines in the shootout, potting seven of the difficult spot shots to the Philippines’ five.
The loss by the China 2 team represented a decisive death blow to the hopes and fortunes of the home side as China fielded two squads in the 24 team tournament. The sport of pool is massively popular throughout China and the game’s tens of millions of fans were surely certain that at least one of their sides would advance to the final of this $300,000 team event.
But after last night’s bitter defeat in a shootout by Great Briatin of a very strong China 1, led by Li He Wen, Fu Jianbo, Liu Haitao, Fu Xiaofang, the superstar females Pan Xiao Ting, and former Women’s World 9-ball Champion Fu Xiaofang, all the pressure was placed on China 2 today to bring home the gold.
The weight of expectation did seem to play on the China 2 side today as they played tight, while Japan just kept joking, smiling and playing what amounted to freewheeling pool.
The China 2 team which featured, Dang Jinhu, Dai Yong, Han Haoxiang, and female starts Liu Shasha and Chen Siming, won the first two matches, the 8-ball singles and doubles, to move in front 2-0. Japan then applied serious pressure by winning the next three matches, the 9-ball singles in women’s and men’s, and the 10 ball singles, to lead 3-2. China would need to win the 10 ball mixed doubles to take the match to a shootout.
That they did, 7-4, but not before some nervy moments and missed opportunities that nearly allowed Japan back in the match.
In the shootout, Japan jumped out to a 3-0 lead. China sent the crowd into a tizzy by cutting the score to 3-2. Japan, though, seemed impervious to the crushing pressure and answered right back, to go up 4-2, then did it again in the next round to make the score 5-3. China potted the next spot shot to get within one. Japan, however, kept it loose and when Akakagariyama sank the very next shot for the 6-4 shootout win, the Japanese danced and shouted as they had ousted China 2 to move into the finals.
Japan is going to have to keep freewheeling it on Friday as they will be up against a Chinese-Taipei side that has played far above the field all week here in Beijing. The team of Chang Jung Lin, Fu Che Wei, Ko Pin Yi, and female player Chieh Yu Chou have left a trail of smoke in their wake, winning 28 individual matches in this event, and losing just three. Out of 175 racks played in the group stages, they have won 124 and given up a mere 51.
The Chinese-Taipei express continued barreling down the tracks today in the first semi-final against Great Britain. Everything went Taiwan’s way, while Great Britain stumbled badly from the opening singles 8-ball match. When the Brits literally gave away a hill-hill doubles 8-ball match to drop to a 2-0 deficit, the handwriting was on the wall. Chieh then handily defeated Kelly Fisher in 9-ball and Ko finished off the beating by easily taking down a demoralized Darren Appleton in 9-ball. Chinese-Taipei cruised into the final, 4-0.
Based on their results so far, Chinese-Taipei has to be the favorite for the finals against Japan in the pool world’s biggest team tournament. The players have all the ingredients that make a great team in a sport that normally revolves around individual efforts. The Chinese Taipei players all know each other well, all live in Taipei and they play and practice together for hours on end, even when they are preparing for singles tournaments.
Japan has certainly got the bottle to pull off the win, but they’ll have to keep things loose and light, which is the very thing that has gotten them to this point so far.
*The World Pool and Billiard Association(WPA) is the international governing body for the sport of pocket billiards.
Chinese-Taipei 4 – 0 Great Britain
Japan 3 – 3 China 2(Japan wins shootout, 6-4)
Chinese-Taipei vs. Japan
Friday, July 6, 2012
Winning Team: $80,000
Runner Up: $40,000
Each match between countries will feature the teams playing 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 will be men’s scotch doubles, race to 6. The other 8-ball match will be a men’s singles, race to 6.
*In 9-ball, the teams will compete in a women’s singles, race to 8, and a men’s singles race to 8.
*In 10-ball, the teams will 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.