Aussies can shock the World Cup favourites
After the lull in the darting calendar after the World Championships we are back in action with some style as the World Cup of Darts begins in Hamburg on Friday. It is the only time of the year that we are all treated to pairs action and being played out in front of the passionate German crowd it makes for a unique atmosphere in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
The way the tournament works that sees the two highest ranked players from each country competing means there are a number of the highest ranked performers not involved but there are still a few really high quality pairs in action and the way the teams have worked out this time we could be set for the best edition yet.
The favourites are the defending champions England who boast the top two players on the planet in terms of world rankings in Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis. They defeated Australia in a nail-biting final last year and that experience as a pair my well give them the edge in what should be another tight tournament. Taylor is never short of confidence but will be especially upbeat after winning back his world title on New Year's Day.
Their biggest rivals are not the beaten finalists from 2012 but the Dutch team of Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen. Barney looks back to something like his best and MVG has a strong argument to be the second best player on the planet having won the Grand Prix and reaching the finals of the Grand Slam and World Championships, beating Lewis twice along the way. Whilst England are at 13/8 with Ladbrokes, Netherlands are only just behind them at 7/4 with a few bookmakers and it will take some doing by another pair to avoid an Anglo-Dutch final.
It is the Aussie's that have the best chance of spoiling the party with the team of Simon Whitlock and Paul Nicholson who were within a darts width of winning the competition 12 months ago. The Wizard has been in good form for the last six months and despite only being an adopted Aussie, Nicholson is a furious competitor in this event and is desperate to win it as he showed with his strop on stage in 2012. They are on course for a clash with the Dutch in the semis and if the Europeans are on top form they will prosper, but anything short of that and they could be in trouble against one of the few pairs that have remained constant since the first event in 2010.
The only other pair that the bookies give much of a chance are the Scots and on their day Robert Thornton and Gary Anderson are certainly a force to be reckoned with. Both major winners in the last two years they have to be considered, but both are also annoyingly inconsistent and unless they have built up a real head of steam you would not feel overly confident in backing them against one of the other favourites.
Scotland could well face 2010 finalists Wales in the quarter-finals and that is exactly the kind of game the Scots should win but could come unstuck in. Mark Webster and Richie Burnett may not have shown much form of late but they are both former world champions and on their day can beat the best. Even at 40/1 they aren't worth backing for the title but they may prove to be good value at some stage in the tournament.
The likes of Belgium with the Huybrechts brothers and Spain who performed so well three years ago in knocking out England are potential banana skins for the big nations but have little chance of reaching the final and after them it really is a case of no-hopers.
Of the favourites I would slightly be leaning towards the Netherlands because they might just be a bit more hungry for success than their English counterparts. However, by this same notion Australia, who are possibly more up for winning this event than any other nation look a great bet at 15/2 with Sky Bet. They have the most experienced pair in this format and can each beat anyone on their day, the country also needs to get its sporting success out of the way before the Ashes so it may as well be in Hamburg.
Recommended Bet: Australia to win @ 15/2 with Sky Bet