PDC World Cup of Darts 2021: Darts experts make their predictions

Who will win the final? Who will be the team to watch? Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the first round? A host of darts journalists, pundits and commentators tackle these and other questions on the eve of the 2021 PDC World Cup of Darts.

Who will reach the final – and who will win it?

Dan Dawson: I quite fancy Big Dirk to help MvG get over the line and win his first tournament all year. It’s not an easy route they’ve got, but I think the Dutch can do it – beating either Belgium or Northern Ireland in the final.

Chris Murphy: I’m going to go with my heart and pick Australia to win the World Cup. I think it will be a surprise final between the Aussies and Northern Ireland.

FDI: Wales will beat England in the final. Clayton and Price are just too good for the rest of the field and if they do not lose to Holland in the semi’s they’ll win the whole thing.

Christopher Kempf: Final will be contested by England and Wales, with Wales winning 3-1.

Jay Shaw: Over the past decade since the World Cup of Darts was introduced, the cream has generally risen to the top and I don’t expect to see a fifth different winner of the event this year. Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton tore through the field last year and look to be the perfect partnership. Having dominated on TV since, they’ll take some stopping again. The top half looks a lot more open but I fancy Belgium to stake a claim again, they have a very solid record. This tournament seems to bring out the best in Kim Huybrechts and alongside Dimitri van den Bergh they make a formidable duo.

Andrew Sinclair: I’m often a man unduly influenced by sentiment and emotion. Given the tragically sad recent loss of Kyle Anderson, nothing would put a bigger smile on my face than seeing Simon Whitlock and Damon Heta hoist up the trophy on Sunday evening. And, if we’re being honest, they’ve got a pretty decent shot. If that’s what the heart says, my head is rather boringly looking at the top three seeds. Scotland would have factored in my thoughts too but the late team change makes it hard to pick them outright but with Peter Wright, you never know. I think Wade and Chisnall are an interesting pairing, and probably favourites to come through the top half ahead of either Canada or Belgium. Even if they do, I can’t see them winning the whole thing. Looking at the bottom half, I think whoever comes through the projected meeting between Wales and the Netherlands goes all the way. Wales should be favourites but I’ll go out on a limb and say this is where MvG finally wins his first title of the year.

Dylan Williams (Darts Cymru): It’ll be a Wales v Belgium Final – with Gerwyn and Jonny defending the title. Huybrechts loves this format and relishes representing his country. Dimi has matured as a player in the last 18 months and I see them progressing to the final from the top half. Wales are a stronger more confident pair this year which is frightening for the rest of the field. Having only lost two singles rubbers in 2020 (Clayton against Thornton and Heta), whenever they were called upon as a pair they always came up with an answer. And for that reason I don’t see anybody threatening their defence in Jena.

Pim Huberts: With Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton in form, Wales will win the tournament. I don’t expect Dave Chisnall and James Wade to work well as a team so I’m going for the controversial choice of Northern Ireland to reach the final, since Gurney and Dolan has showed some high recent level on the Euro Tour.

Merel (Asian Darts): Wales and Belgium. I think Wales will win it again. But I sometimes join these prediction competitions and I never end high, so…

Bryn Jones (Darts Class): It’s really difficult to look past either Wales or the Netherlands as the eventual winner. Over the course of the week the key will be who plays better out of Clayton and van Duijvenbode. I think it’s a flip of a coin between those teams.

Who will be the team to watch?

Dan Dawson: Whether they win it or not, I think the Dutch team looks really exciting. MvG and Dirk are a new pairing, they’re good mates, and I think they’ll gel really well together.

Chris Murphy: There are loads of seemingly unbalanced teams in terms of gulf in experience and ranking between teammates so there will be some very intriguing pairings. In terms of a ‘dark horse’ though, I’d keep a beady eye on Canada.

FDI: I have to say Portugal. Jose Marques is a player who has done bits on Q-School and the Development Tour and the other Jose isn’t too bad either! I think the draw against Ireland is in their favour because of the fact they can manouvre themselves into the underdog position, whilst being (imho) the favourites to win the tie.

Christopher Kempf: Team to watch is Canada, they are fielding the strongest team overall in their history in the competition but will have to endure some very vocal, partisan opposition from the crowd to win their first match.

Jay Shaw: I think Canada are massively underestimated coming into this. The bookies have them as big as 150/1 which seems staggering when you consider they’re in the opposite half of the draw to Wales and the Netherlands. Jeff Smith is ultra-consistent in all aspects of his game and Matt Campbell is coming into it having dominated the European Challenge Tour to earn his tour card. They made the quarter-finals last year and were just edged out by Belgium, but I have a feeling they could go even further this time around.

Andrew Sinclair: There are a couple of potential dark horses in the draw but the team to watch for me are Canada. We all know what Jeff Smith can do, while Matt Campbell will be buzzing after claiming the European Challenge Tour title last weekend. If they beat Germany in the opening round, they could go very deep indeed. Outside the teams, there are a couple of players I always enjoy watching – the ageless Paul Lim and the affable John Henderson.

Dylan Williams (Darts Cymru): I’ll be keeping tabs on the Canadians who will no doubt look to build on their quarter final finish last year. Matt Campbell will be brimming with confidence having topped the European Challenge Tour Order of Merit and on his day Jeff Smith can compete with the elite – which makes them a formidable pairing. The Germans will not be relishing coming up against them in the first round.

Pim Huberts: Obviously it’s amazing to see the darts Twitter legend Veniamin Symeonidis back on stage for Greece, but I’m mostly looking forward to see Team Canada playing their best darts. If they win from Germany they have a good chance to continue their winning streak further in the tournament. Poland could surprise in the tournament as well.

Merel (Asian Darts): Man Lok Leung from Hong Kong is a really good, young player. From Japan, Jun Matsuda is also great and a new face to many. I’m not sure if both teams will get a win, but it is nice to see some new faces from both countries. I also think the Netherlands and Czech Republic can do well.

Bryn Jones (Darts Class):  From the seeded teams, Northern Ireland. Dolan has really hit his straps again in the last 18 months, and we know on his day that Gurney is capable of beating anyone if he gets his power scoring in a good place. Canada are the other side that look like they have a chance as an outsider. Everyone knows what Jeff Smith can do, but Matt Campbell is on a huge upward trajectory, and having just won his tour card on the European Challenge Tour, his confidence will be sky high.

How far will England go?

Dan Dawson: I think England might have trouble with Canada in the quarter-finals, but if they do get past them, I still expect either the Belgians or Northern Ireland to pip them in the semis.

Chris Murphy: England are number one seeds. James Wade and Dave Chisnall are top quality operators, but I just can’t see them clicking as a duo. Quarter-finals at best.

FDI: Final. It’s an interesting pair but I think Brazil is nowhere near being a threat to them right now and their quality in the singles should get them through!!

Christopher Kempf: England will lose in the final, but won’t lose a point to any other opponent en route to the final.

Jay Shaw: Wade and Chizzy make for quite an intriguing partnership and one we haven’t seen before so it’ll be interesting to see how that dynamic works out. Chizzy’s power-scoring coupled with Wade’s clutch finishing looks to make the perfect combination on paper, but they need to be on their game in the short format singles ties, assuming they can get past Brazil. I think they make the quarter-finals – where Canada could just spring an upset.

Andrew Sinclair: In my projected bracket, I have got England in the final. But I’m not confident in that at all. Germany or Canada will probably pose their first real test in the quarters, while Belgium or one of the Irish sides will be tricky semi-final opponents. I’m confident England will make the quarters; from there it’s anyone’s guess and that’s part of the fun.

Dylan Williams (Darts Cymru): Semi final – Belgium will get their revenge for losing at the same stage in 2020. I don’t see Wade and Chizzy gelling as a pair which is vital for success in this format.

Pim Huberts: England will win two rounds but will eventually lose from Canada.

Merel (Asian Darts): Haha I’m so bad at this. Quarter-finals. 

Bryn Jones (Darts Class): A team of Wade and Chisnall always has the potential of winning it. They are a solid pair. They should have no problem reaching the semi finals with their wealth of big match experience. I predict they’ll make steady progress until they run into one of Wales or Netherlands.

Which first round match are you most looking forward to?

Dan Dawson: Germany versus Canada is the standout one to me, but Lourence Ilagan’s Philippines side will always get me excited – their game with Austria could be a belter. Poland v the Czech Republic should be very competitive too.

Chris Murphy: Austria v Philippines is the first round match that I think could be the most fun to watch. There are four very different characters and personalities in that one and all of them on stage at the same time could make for some very entertaining viewing.

FDI: Germany v Canada. I don’t think Hopp is in the best form as of late and Matt Campbell has just won the European Challenge Tour. I secretly hope that Canada can make a good run this tournament because I’m a fan of Smith and Campbell.

Christopher Kempf: Looking forward to Czech Republic v Poland, a showcase of the rapid development of talent in Eastern Europe.

Jay Shaw: Poland vs Czech Republic is probably the one that stands out most for me, you’ve got four tour card holders going head-to-head, two of which in fantastic form of late. Adam Gawlas will be riding high after reaching the quarter-finals in Budapest last weekend, while Ratajski looks to be edging ever-closer to that first TV title after making the semis at the Matchplay. The onus will be on those two to make most of the running, but Karel Sedlacek and Krzysztof Kciuk are both very capable on their day.

Andrew Sinclair: Germany against Canada has all the makings of a classic; on paper, they’re two evenly matched sides. Matt Campbell comes into the game bang in form, but we all know what those German crowds can be like when their boys are in action. Also a word for the Czech Republic against Poland, which strikes me as very close and difficult to predict.

Dylan Williams (Darts Cymru): If we’re looking for a competitive contest, the pick of the first round has to be Germany v Canada. I’m also looking forward to seeing the Czech pairing of Sedlacek & Gawlas. I fancy them to upset the Poles.

Pim Huberts: Germany v Canada and Russia v Japan will be close games, but the game that I’m mostly looking forward to is the derby of the Eastern block between Poland and Czech Republic. Two teams with two tour card holders; Poland with a top 16 player in Ratajski and Czech Republic with Gawlas who finally showed his class on the Euro Tour recently.

Merel (Asian Darts): Philippines vs Austria and Gibraltar vs Singapore. I was at the World Cup two years ago when Japan beat Gibraltar in a very close match, so I hope Singapore does the same now.

Bryn Jones (Darts Class): Germany vs Canada stands out for me. I like the look of the Canadian team, and the pairing of Clemens and Hopp have had a stuttering 18 months at best. All four of the players involved will be confident of their ability to beat one another.

Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the first round?

Dan Dawson: I genuinely only see one seeded team failing to win in round one: I think Germany will go out to Canada.

Chris Murphy: I think Germany could be in trouble against Canada.

FDI: Germany has a 44.1% chance of being eliminated in round one. The next seed to be most in danger is Belgium at 23.6% (v Croatia).

Christopher Kempf: I don’t think any of the seeds – apart from Germany – are terribly vulnerable to a first-round exit.

Jay Shaw: For the reasons I mentioned above, Germany are going to have it very tough against Canada and have the added pressure of being the host nation. Max Hopp is in no form whatsoever of late and Gabriel Clemens has just gone off the boil a bit over the past few months, so both will need to raise their game. Germany aside, I don’t envisage too many problems for any of the other seeds.

Andrew Sinclair: Based on my answer to the previous question, it’s got to be the German duo of Clemens and Hopp. Canada will prove a real challenge but I think the other seven seeded teams should progress to the last 16 without too many issues.

Dylan Williams (Darts Cymru): It has to be eighth seeds Germany against Canada. I can’t see anybody else being seriously tested.

Pim Huberts: Germany is the most in danger to go out in the first round. Gabriel Clemens and Max Hopp have had better times in their career, while Matt Campbell’s confidence is prime high by winning the Challenge Tour. Australia should be careful as well not to be surprised by a strong Italian team.

Merel (Asian Darts): Germany and Northern Ireland.

Bryn Jones (Darts Class): Germany – I really can’t see any of the other seeded teams having any first round issues. It might be a short format, but the gulf in class should be far too much for any of the other unseeded opponents to overcome.

Two changes to last year’s line up, with China and Singapore in for Latvia and New Zealand. Do you think its time to increase the number of teams?

Dan Dawson: Not really, to be honest. I think an improved strength in depth has seen the event become stronger and stronger in recent years, but I don’t think we’re at the stage where it should be expanded. It’s already spread over four days, and widening the field further means you either have to turn it into a week-long tournament, or hack down the already-very-short-format matches. There are other, more effective ways of growing the game in different territories that can be pursued before we start dishing out 48 or 64 invites. I think we would have some pretty ropey first/second round encounters right now if we did that, which wouldn’t do anyone any favours.

Chris Murphy: I don’t think this year would’ve been a time to consider increasing teams. The World Cup must be a logistical nightmare in settled times, so to run this event at all in the last couple of years is some achievement. I am a member of the former ‘more pairs please’ now ‘all pairs please’ club though, maybe this format change could lead to more teams in the field in the future.

FDI: The format at the moment is just too weird for me. Is it a singles comp or a pairs comp? Maybe I’m saying something weird, but I would like to see the field expanded to 40 teams where eight seeds would enter in the last 16. The other 32 would play in eight groups of four and one KO round before qualifying for the last 16. The last 16 onwards should be KO in a longer format (best of 19 or longer). And pairs all the way of course.

Christopher Kempf: I don’t think the number of teams should be increased, given that some teams have to be filled out with unknown entities on the international stage. I would rather see a smaller field with fixed and consistent qualifying procedures, longer best-of-x-legs doubles matches and a total abolition of the singles matches.

Jay Shaw: Similarly to what’s happening in football, I think the more teams you have in a competition, the more danger there is of diluting the overall quality, and in such case, the event would probably need to be extended by another day to accommodate the extra games, so I can’t see it happening. I like the size of the field as it is, the only change I would make is all games to be pairs from start to finish, that would give it a real unique edge and the pairs matches are where we tend to see most of the drama. It’s harsh on New Zealand with the travel restrictions and I can only imagine how tough it has been logistically to get everyone in one place from all corners of the world in the current climate, so full credit to everyone involved.

Andrew Sinclair: If we’re making any structural changes to the PDC World Cup of Darts, it should be to make it a pairs-only competition. We all know it makes the most sense. Once that’s sorted, we can talk about making it up to 40 teams!

Dylan Williams (Darts Cymru): Not having the likes of Cody Harris and Madars Razma involved this year is a loss to the tournament in my view. Given the growth of the game globally in recent years, I think it’s only a matter of time before the competition won’t have any choice but to expand the number of teams in order to accommodate new darting nations. I’m a firm believer though that any expansion to the current 32 team format must enhance the competition and not affect the quality of the product for us the fans.

Pim Huberts: Yes. The 2021 edition of the World Cup was probably the edition most difficult to decide which countries could join and which countries couldn’t. The fact that countries without tour card holders such as Gibraltar, Italy, Hungary or Finland do participate and countries with tour card holders such as Croatia and Latvia were left out or withdrew, already gives a big argument to add more countries to the tournament. Switzerland, France and even Slovenia could make great additions as well. The World Cup of Darts is one of the best ways to globalize the darts sport and the PDC should definitely use that opportunity!

Merel (Asian Darts): I think if the situation is somewhat back to normal again, the amount of teams could be increased. China and Singapore weren’t there last year because of Covid, so it’s great to see them back this year. I’m not a big fan of China personally, I’d rather see Thailand, South Korea or Malaysia in the tournament. I think it would be nice for the growth of darts in more countries if the number would be increased.

Bryn Jones (Darts Class): Not necessarily. I do understand that it’s a great platform to grow the game internationally, but it can’t be overly detrimental to the standard of darts. I would like to see the early stages take place in a group format with top teams progressing to knockout rounds. It would give some of the less experienced players more exposure to the stage, and you may find a diamond in the rough. The current short format doesn’t always allow these players to showcase their abilities enough, give them more of a chance to settle in, and show us how well they can play!

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