In the first of a series of posts remembering past events, I take a look back at the Nations Cup (formerly the World Cup), and also consider how the teams would look if the tournament were to be staged today…
Following the first staging of the event back in 1979, the World/Nations Cup would run on and off for over 20 years and gave the players a chance to fight for their country, as well as the fans an opportunity to see a different style of snooker to what is seen in the individual events. In addition to the fact that there were doubles matches as part of the competition, there was always an interesting tactical element as the teams had to decide who they would play and when, something that could turn out to be the difference between winning and losing.
The most successful individual player in the competition was unsurprisingly Steve Davis who managed to win the tournament with England on four occasions, while the ‘All-Irish’ trio of Alex Higgins, Eugene Hughes and Dennis Taylor also enjoyed considerable success during the mid-1980’s, taking a hat-trick of titles.
Personally I can only really remember the more recent events as the tournament evolved into the Nations Cup, an event which would see the other nations attempt to topple the Scottish ‘dream team’ of Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Alan McManus. In 1999 it would be Wales as Matthew Stevens, Mark Williams, Darren Morgan and Dominic Dale caused an upset in the final and took the title with a 6-4 victory, while the following year it would be England who were victorious, defeating the Welsh by the same scoreline. John Higgins did however have the consolation of making the first 147 break of his career during the earlier rounds as you can see above.
In 2001 John and the other Scots were not to be denied and managed to secure a 6-2 win against Ken Doherty’s Irish team. The most memorable moment from this year came in the final when Fergal O’Brien was warned for slow play with referee Alan Chamberlain allegedly telling him to get the game finished because TV knocks off at 5pm, a remark which did not go down well with the team!
World Cup 2009?
So what if the tournament were held today? How would the respective countries shape up?
England would obviously be very strong, potentially being able to field a team of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Shaun Murphy and Ali Carter, with the likes of Mark Selby, Joe Perry and Peter Ebdon providing the back-up. Apart from Ronnie it is a squad entirely changed from the one successful in 2000 which is interesting when compared to the Scottish and Welsh ones which would actually be very similar. Both Hendy and Higgins for Scotland and Williams, Stevens and Dale for Wales could all legitimately expect to be involved, while younger players such as Stephen Maguire and Ryan Day would also be right in contention.
Similarly an Irish team would not be particularly different either as it is still hard to see past the likes of Ken Doherty, Michael Judge, and Fergal O’Brien as their three best players. Northern Ireland however would have the addition of Mark Allen, a player who would significantly improve their chances with Gerard Greene and Joe Swail.
How about outside the UK? A Chinese team would certainly be a force to be reckoned with, Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo joined by the likes of Jin Long, Xiao Guodong and Li Hang. A lack of depth and experience at the very top of the game would probably prove to be their undoing but there would no doubt be a few centuries made along the way too!
Thailand would also be an interesting mix, a real blend of youth and experience with Thepchaiya un-Nooh and James Wattana both involved, as well as Atthasit Mahitthi.
Finally there could also be a Rest of the World team, something like Neil Robertson, Marco Fu, Tony Drago and Bjorn Haneveer would certainly be competitive, though would probably lack the depth to beat some of the bigger teams.
In any case it is all just guesswork on my part, but it would make for a fascinating contest if the event were ever to be revived.
Do you have any memories of the competition? Do you miss it or was it something of a novelty to you? Feel free to leave a comment below…