PDC World Cup of Darts 2020: team-by-team guide to all 32 countries (Part Two: Italy to Wales)

With the this year’s PDC World Cup of Darts starting in Austria on Friday, here is part two of our guide to all you need to know about the teams, from past records to tournament odds and the ones to watch.

ITALY

World Cup appearances (including this year) Eight Best World Cup Last 24 Group Stage 2013 Player to watch Andrea Micheletti First round vs Spain Tournament odds 1000-1

Will this be the year that Italy record their first PDC World Cup win? Four-time winners of the FIFA World Cup, Italy’s success in global tournaments has not quite translated to the dartboard yet. The Italians have played eight games in PDC World Cups and lost all eight, but last year Andrea Micheletti and Stefano Tomassetti put in an impressive performance, averaging 95 in a 5-3 defeat to Canada in the first round. Micheletti is back for a second appearance and is joined by a familiar face in Danielle Petri, who represented Italy in five consecutive World Cups from 2013 to 2017.

JAPAN

World Cup appearances (including this year) Ten Best World Cup Semi-Finals 2019 Player to watch Seigo Asada First round vs Scotland Tournament odds 100-1

Japan went into 2019 as the most successful Asian country in the history of the PDC World Cup, and they showcased why with a best-ever run to the semi-finals in Hamburg. After edging past Gibraltar in a deciding leg in the first round, Seigo Asada and Haruki Muramatsu impressed in straight singles wins over Singapore and New Zealand to reach the last four for the first time. Scotland ended their weekend and went on to win the title, and it is the Scots, albeit not Peter Wright and Gary Anderson, who Asada and Yuki Yamada face on Friday. Muramatsu, an ever present in the World Cup from its inception in 2010 misses out for the first time.

LATVIA

World Cup appearances (including this year) One Best World Cup Debut Player to watch Madars Razma First round vs Hong Kong Tournament odds 500-1

Latvia come into the field as a late replacement after the news yesterday evening that China would not make it to Salzburg in time. Di Zhuang and Zizhao Zheng were due to fly via Amsterdam to Austria and arrive today, ahead of facing Hong Kong in the first round. However, an administrative technicality relating to their flight connection meant they were denied boarding for their flight. In their place steps Latvia, who along with fellow debutants Portugal, will be the 42nd and 43rd nations to play in the tournament. Madras Razma, currently ranked just outside the top 64, is joined by the unknown quantity that is Janis Mustafejevs, the next-ranked Latvian from the PDC Nordic & Baltic rankings.

LITHUANIA

World Cup appearances (including this year) Two Best World Cup Last 32 2019 Player to watch Darius Labanauskas First round vs Gibraltar Tournament odds 100-1

Lithuania were a late replacement in last year’s World Cup, as they took the place of Switzerland to make their debut. A 5-1 defeat to New Zealand in round one ended their first appearance rather abruptly, but Darius Labanauskas and Mindaugas Barauskas are back for a second bite of the cherry, and with a little more time to prepare. Now in his second year on the PDC tour, Labanauskas made the quarter-finals on his PDC World Championship debut last December and has broken into the top 50. That experience could be the difference against Gibraltar on Friday.

NETHERLANDS

World Cup appearances (including this year) Ten Best World Cup Winners 2010, 2014, 2017, 2018 Player to watch Danny Noppert First round vs Brazil Tournament odds 5-2

The Netherlands’ bid for a third World Cup title in a row, and a record fifth, ended at the semi-final stage last year. World number one Michael van Gerwen and debutant Jermaine Wattimena lost out to Ireland in a doubles decider, and this time round MVG is joined by another newbie, in the shape of Danny Noppert. Regarded by many as one of the most underrated players in the PDC, Noppert is closing in on the world’s top 16. His ability is unquestioned, but how will van Gerwen and Noppert perform as a team? They will be big favourites to at least make the quarter-finals, and by then this new Dutch line up could well have clicked together.

NORTHERN IRELAND

World Cup appearances (including this year) Ten Best World Cup Semi-Finals 2014, 2016 Player to watch Daryl Gurney First round vs Canada Tournament odds 16-1

Tipped by my co-host Burton DeWitt on this week’s podcast as a team to watch out for, Northern Ireland, as the fourth seeds, should on paper at least be one of the top contenders to go all the way. Last year, Daryl Gurney and Brendan Dolan, then as the sixth seeds, were one of only two of the eight seeds to fall at the first hurdle, losing to South Africa in a last-leg decider. Third seeds Wales, also in the same quarter, lost in round one, which blew that bottom quarter wide open and led to a New Zealand v Japan quarter-final. It’s fair to say Gurney and Dolan do not come into this weekend in the best of form, but they are more than capable of going on a run, similar to their first year together in 2016 when they made the semi-finals.

NEW ZEALAND

World Cup appearances (including this year) Ten Best World Cup Quarter-Finals 2019 Player to watch Cody Harris First round vs Denmark Tournament odds 150-1

One of last year’s surprise packages, Cody Harris and Haupai Puha teamed up for the first time and reached the final day to take New Zealand into their first World Cup quarter-final. After impressive wins against Lithuania and South Africa, inconsistency proved to be New Zealand’s downfall, as Harris and Puha were knocked out by Japan in straight singles. Germany-based Harris will not have spent much time travelling into Austria for this weekend, but not many of the 64 players will have put in more air miles than Puha, travelling from New Zealand to represent his country for a second year. At odds of 150-1, they are among the outsiders who represent real value.

PHILIPPINES

World Cup appearances (including this year) Five Best World Cup Last 16 2016 Player to watch Noel Malicdem First round vs England Tournament odds 100-1

When Noel Malicdem and Lourence Ilagan take to the stage in Austria on Friday, it will be after jumping through plenty of hoops to ensure their place in the tournament. Bem Noel, the head honcho of the National Darts Federation of the Philippines, was a guest on our podcast last month and spoke of the challenges his two representatives face in getting to and from Austria in the midst of a global pandemic. Malicdem came so close to knocking out the eventual world champion Peter Wright in the second round at Alexandra Palace, last December, missing a match dart at the bull and watching on as Wright took out a 140 finish to stay in the game. In a repeat of last year’s draw, the Philippines take on England and, although in 2019 it finished 5-1 to the seeds, Malicdem and Ilagan will once again be hopeful of causing an upset.

POLAND

World Cup appearances (including this year) Nine Best World Cup Last 16 2013, 2014, 2019 Player to watch Krzysztof Ratajski First round vs South Africa Tournament odds 33-1

When Poland and South Africa were paired together in the first-round draw, thoughts immediately turned to a showdown between Krzysztof Ratajski and Devon Petersen. Two of the most in-form players in the world right now, Ratajski is now up to 14th in the rankings and on the cusp of a breakthrough run in a PDC major. Petersen has been outstanding in 2020, and one of the stories of the season as his continued progress saw him win a European Tour title in Germany recently. The first round is the only round that is pairs only, and Ratajski’s partner, Krzysztof Kcuik, a fellow tour-card holder with more stage experience, could just be what swings this tie in their favour.

PORTUGAL

World Cup appearances (including this year) One Best World Cup Debut Player to watch Jose De Sousa First round vs Hungary Tournament odds 33-1

Following the unfortunate withdrawal of Singapore on Monday, Portugal will become the 42nd country to play in the PDC World Cup. When the participation of the Philippines came into question last month, talk turned to who would come in as a replacement and the name on most darts fans’ lips was Portugal. And with good reason too. Jose De Sousa, the Portuguese number one, is in excellent form and only last Friday hit a nine-dart finish in the European Championship. The world number 37 is joined by Jose Marques, who makes his TV debut, and will be the question mark surrounding how far Portugal can go this weekend.

RUSSIA

World Cup appearances (including this year) Eight Best World Cup Quarter-Finals 2017 Player to watch Boris Koltsov First round vs Wales Tournament odds 750-1

Boris Koltsov and Aleksei Kadochnikov team up for Russia for the second year in a row and the draw has not been favourable to them. The Russians go up against second seeds Wales and two players in Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton that are in good form right now. Despite that, Koltsov and Kadochnikov averaged 95 together in their first-round defeat to Austria last year and, if they can replicate that level, you would think they will have a shot at handing the Welsh an early exit like last year, when they were dumped out by Singapore in round one.

SCOTLAND

World Cup appearances (including this year) Ten Best World Cup Winners 2020 Player to watch Robert Thornton First round vs Japan Tournament odds 80-1

For the first time since the inaugural champions Raymond van Barneveld and Co Stompe in 2010, the reigning World Cup champions are not back to defend their title. Stompe was overtaken in the rankings by Vincent van der Voort when the second World Cup took place in 2012, but Peter Wright and Gary Anderson, last year’s winners, have both pulled out due to concerns over travelling during the current climate. When Wright and Anderson won in Hamburg in 2019, you felt like this could potentially be the start of a run of dominance for Scotland in the World Cup, as this world class line up had finally gelled together. Up steps John Henderson and Robert Thornton, two Scots that will revel in the opportunity to represent their country, and for Henderson it will be for the first time in a PDC setting.

SOUTH AFRICA

World Cup appearances (including this year) Nine Best World Cup Quarter-Finals 2012, 2014 Player to watch Devon Petersen First round vs Poland Tournament odds 100-1

Devon Petersen has put South Africa firmly on the darting map this year. The most improved player of 2020 is a statement that few would argue with, as Petersen has rocketed up to 33rd in the world, won his first PDC ranking title on the European Tour, and last weekend made his first major semi-final appearance. Carl Gabriel, his partner this year, comes in with a lot less pedigree, but Petersen is a man on a mission in 2020 and will have every confidence in leading South Africa to a big run. A first-round meeting with Krzysztof Ratajski’s Poland would then be followed by either Ireland or Australia, so a first quarter-final for South Africa since 2014 is going to have to be achieved the hard way.  

SPAIN

World Cup appearances (including this year) Ten Best World Cup Semi-Finals 2010 Player to watch Jesus Noguera First round vs Italy Tournament odds 100-1

A change to Spain’s team at the start of this week saw Cristo Reyes, Spain’s number one, replaced by Jesus Noguera. It will be a World Cup debut for Noguera, who won his tour card through the Challenge Tour last year, while Toni Alcinas is one of only six ever presents and makes his 10th appearance in this tournament. Alcinas will have fond memories of Spain’s run in the first World Cup, back in 2010, knocking out England and reaching the semi-finals. Spain, with two tour-card holders representing them, against Italy, who have two players not on the tour stepping up, appears to be a simpler game to call the outcome of. But Italy’s 95 average in the first round last year means this new Spain line-up will need to have their wits about them.

SWEDEN

World Cup appearances (including this year) Ten Best World Cup Last 16 2010, 2012, 2014, 2019 Player to watch Daniel Larsson First round vs Greece Tournament odds 400-1

Last year saw Magnus Caris, Sweden’s most famous player, play in his last competitive tournament, the World Cup, before retiring. Caris and his partner Dennis Nilsson marked the occasion by ending Sweden’s four-year losing run in the first round by defeating Brazil, before bowing out to the eventual champions Scotland in the last 16. Daniel Larsson, who was present for all of those four consecutive early exits, is back this year to partner up with Nilsson, and will be keen to grab a first win in the competition. Larsson won a tour card at Q-School in January and recently hit a nine darter on the PDC’s online Home Tour tournament.

UNITED STATES

World Cup appearances (including this year) Ten Best World Cup Quarter-Finals 2012 Player to watch Chuck Puleo First round vs Austria Tournament odds 500-1

Last year I backed the Americans to go the furthest out of all the non-European nations. As it turned out, Canada and New Zealand made the quarter-finals and Japan the semi-finals, while the United States went out in the last 16. In fairness, when your opponent, Mensur Suljovic, throws in a 113 average, it does not help your cause. World Cup ever present Darin Young was in line for a 10th appearance, after finishing top of the CDC’s World Cup Chase standings, but has withdrawn and in comes Danny Lauby Jr for his debut. Young made plenty of headlines last December by beating Raymond van Barneveld in his last World Championship, but Lauby Jr, 27, who has qualified for his first PDC World Championship at the end of this year, will be keen to impress.

WALES

World Cup appearances (including this year) Ten Best World Cup Runners-up 2010, 2017 Player to watch Gerwyn Price First round vs Russia Tournament odds 11-4

Last year I started my Wales preview with the sentence: ‘If Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton click this week, we could well be about to see Wales become the third nation to win the PDC World Cup.’ The same still applies, although it would be a fourth new country to win it, as we head into this weekend and few teams will arrive in better combined form than the two Welshmen. Price has won two titles on TV recently, taking home the World Series of Darts Finals and World Grand Prix titles, while Clayton just made the final session of the European Championship last weekend. After losing to Singapore in the first round in 2019, Wales will be desperate to go on a big run and possibly all the way to becoming now the fourth nation to be World Cup champions.

Who do you think will win the 2020 PDC World Cup of Darts? Who are your dark horses and your players to watch this week? Leave a comment below.

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