Monday December 2nd sees Europe and the USA go to battle where tempers run high, adrenaline is flowing and generally it’s those that can hold their nerve the longest will come out on top. We’re talking about The Mosconi Cup XX, pool’s answer to The Ryder Cup.
As the title suggests, we’re into our 20th year of this annual battle between the best of Europe and the best of USA. The Americans lead the way with 11 wins versus Europe’s 7, with a single draw in 2006.
Europe currently hold the advantage over USA having won the Mosconi Cup for the previous 3 years. Taking turns to host the tournament, this year sees the Mosconi Cup played in Las Vegas, and of the many attractions in Vegas, the return of a Mosconi Legend is one that dominates the pre game talk.
52 year old Earl ‘The Pearl’ Strickland returns to the USA Mosconi team after a 4 year absence to make his 14th appearance, and wherever Earl goes, controversy follows. Earl (who once won $1m for breaking and running 10 consecutive frames in 1996) is one of the most outspoken names on the pool circuit. He’ll argue with players, fans, referees and anyone that gets in his way.
He’s had notorious spats with Steve Davis, Michaela Tabb, Nick Van Den Berg and an extremely heated match with Daryl Peach where Peach described Earl as ‘The scum of the earth, and everyone knows that’. He is also the most successful player in Mosconi Cup history with 65% win rate from his 63 matches. One thing is for sure, that wherever Earl goes, drama and unpredictability follows.
Strickland is joined on the USA team by 4 other Mosconi Cup regulars Archer (16 appearances) Hatch (3) Morris (8) and Van Boening (6) making it 46 Mosconi appearances between the team.
Archer is a model of consistency while Morris is the opposite as you never know which one is going to turn up! Hatch can hold his own, but in Van Boening they have the player to watch. He looks capable of winning almost every tournament he enters and he’s regularly the biggest money winner on the circuit.
Their opponents Europe are made up from Souquet (15 appearances) Appleton (4) Feijen (8) Immonen (14) Boyes (1) making it 42 Mosconi appearances between the team.
There’s been a lot of talk about the European team, and some of the players that have been left at home and not selected for the Vegas trip, most notably Thorsten Hohmann who is the ranked Number 1, and is the current 9 ball and 14.1 ball champion.
Also missing from the team, is last years MVP Chris Melling. This significantly weakens the European Team in my opinion.
With Souqet and Immonen, they have the 2 most experienced European players at their disposal. Immonen has been haunted by a bad miss in 2006 where he allowed USA to snatch a last gasp draw, and has suffered from his nerves a little in more than one Mosconi outing.
He was awarded MVP in 2008 so he can have fantastic days along with the odd dodgy one. As a team, the Europeans seem more rounded and they can all bounce off each other. They’ll follow team orders and play well together and grind out some good results for team Europe.
USA’s biggest advantage this year will be the home crowd. The arena in the Mirage will be a hostile atmosphere for the Europeans and the Americans will hope this will unsettle their opponents. Combining that with the ticking time bomb that is Earl Strickland, this is going to one to watch.
Shane Van Boening to be top points scorer @ 11/2 with WilliamHill is my first bet. He’ll play as many games as possible, and he plays as well as part of a doubles team, as he does as a singles.
Darren Appleton to score more points than Johnny Archer @ 6/4 is my next bet. Archer will play well and be lifted by the crowd, but the Europeans will look to Appleton to be the man to march Europe towards the title so he’ll be fired up for the game.
Who will win overall? This is as good as a coinflip, but I’m taking Europe +1.5 @ 4/7 with Ladbrokes.