9 Ball Pool - The 2016 Mosconi Cup
6th-9th December 2016 / Alexandra Palace, London, England
THE BIG 2016 MOSCONI CUP PREVIEW!
The 23rd annual edition of the Mosconi Cup is of particular importance as it offers Team Europe the opportunity to tie the all time score between themselves and their transatlantic colleagues.
Not since the result of 1995 have the historical scores been level. With that stat currently 11-10 (and 1 tie) in favour of the USA, the overall scale of power in this great competition could be shifting over to the Europeans very soon. It will be an ongoing theme throughout the next few Mosconis. After six consecutive losses, it is something the Americans are holding on to.
The luxurious Alexandra Palace in London will host the event for the first time. The venue is very familiar and comfortable staging big sporting events; immediately following this it will entertain the PDC World Darts Championship and World Snooker's prestigious Masters invitational. The building is big, clean and regal. Dubbed 'The People's Palace', everyone involved will hopefully appreciate it; a great choice in my opinion.
As a European fan, growing up watching this event was predominantly disappointment for me. I vividly remember us getting absolutely hammered 12-1 in 2001; an utter embarrassment. Pretty much since then, though, we've had it good...real good!
There almost seems to be two different eras to the history of the Mosconi Cup so far, with dramatic shifts in terms of who have dominated the event. The USA won 10 of the opening 12 editions, whilst Europe have chalked up 8 of the last 9.
With 2006 being a 12 all tie (although USA retained it), the Stars and Stripes have outright won just once in the last decade when they claimed honours on home soil in 2009. They have not achieved success overseas since 2004.
As I mentioned in my blog last year, I attribute this tectonic shift in fortunes down to the qualification structure Europe has put in place over recent times. Without sounding disrespectful, the early years of this great duel saw a number of wildcards - who weren't necessarily full time 9 Ball players, selected to boost the profile and recognition of it as it grew in stature. With various ranking and Order of Merit lists in place, it has been no secret that the Europeans have been more travelled to competitions abroad than their counterparts.
However, in an attempt to stop the rot, the Americans have upped their game. 2016 has seen them host a gruelling 28 event qualifying system across their country, with points on offer for a number of various tournaments.
Despite this though, the defending champions start as comfortable odds on favourites with the bookmakers to lift the trophy again in the capital city.
Team Europe boasts the current World Champion, two former World Champions, and 4 out of 5 of them have previous experience in lifting aloft the Mosconi silverware.
The only member who doesn't yet is their debutant Jayson Shaw; who himself is a former World Blackball Pool Champion. The Scot is in sizzling form, and is only getting hotter with wins at the Kuwait 9 Ball Open and the Accu-Stats Make it Happen invitational within the last few weeks.
Reigning World Champion Albin Ouschan of Austria sunk the winning 9 Ball on debut in Las Vegas last year, whilst Niels Feijen holds the record for the most number of MVP awards in history. The Dutchman has been the best performing individual for an amazing 4 of the last 5 years (including the last 3 on the bounce).
At home will be English pairing of Mark Gray and Darren Appleton, who you could say are Mosconi Cup specialists with 9 combined caps together but just 1 loss.
For the first time since 2013, Team USA doesn't feature a rookie. As well as that valuable experience, the side is fairly settled with a resurgent Rodney Morris (who replaces Corey Deuel) being the only change from their 2015 line-up.
Morris, along with American Number 1 Shane van Boening, will both be making their 10th appearance in the event, putting them only behind Johnny Archer (17) and Earl Strickland (14) in the all-time cap list for their country. They both know what it's like to win the Mosconi Cup, but have been on the losing side far more often than not.
In SVB they arguably have the best player on the planet this decade. It has been another sparking year for the 'South Dakota Kid', who claimed a record equalling fifth US Open 9 Ball Championship, as well as reaching the Final of the World 9 Ball Championship in Doha, Qatar for the second year running.
I felt Skyler Woodward gave himself a very good account on debut last year. He won his opening two Doubles matches, and only just lost out to Karl Boyes (3-5) and Ouschan (4-5) in Singles action.
Mike Dechaine (3 previous appearances) and Justin Bergman (2 previous appearances) are clearly very good and consistent within the USA ranks. New to the MC scene in the last few years, they will hope to settle down quickly at the 'Ally Pally' in what will be a fierce environment. In Singles and Doubles play so far, they have records of 3/13 and 3/9 respectively - they will certainly have to improve on those figures if their team have a chance of upsetting the odds.
Predictions? Well, as a Team Europe fan who will be attending the opening day (yayyyyyyyy, can't wait!) you probably won't be too surprised to know I'm going for a home win - 11-8 or 11-7.
I believe the match will be competitive, but USA have to get off to a good start - the last three years Europe have led after the opening day.
Written and published by Michael Day on the 2nd December 2016