Bickering Belgians boom on World Cup opening night

By Jethro Bremner-Allison

DIMITRI Van Den Bergh was left to celebrate Belgium’s whitewash of Finland alone as there was little love lost between him and team mate Kim Huybrechts. 

As Dimi put on a show for the crowd his playing partner appeared to be completely unmoved by his greatness. 

In a far cry from the time they danced together on stage, they refused to even acknowledge one another this time around. 

Looking out of sync with all the other teams, there was no taps, high fives or congratulations from the bickering Belgians as they looked as though they’d rather be anywhere else than in each other’s


It did raise a question of whether you need your team to be mates as they clinically dispatched Finland 4-0 with the highest average of the night. 

It remains to be seen if this frosty relationship can see them continue in this rich vein of form.

Elsewhere, Marco Tardelli is still remembered for his World Cup celebration 40 years ago and whilst not quite up to that standard, the Italian pairing of Turetta and Dante celebrated their opening win

over 16th seed Switzerland like they’d won their own World Cup. 

Visibly fired up from dart one, they took an early break in leg 1 and held onto it until the Swiss clutched to make it 3-3. 

As soon as disaster looked to have been averted, Swiss pair Walpen and Bellmont noticeably wilted in Leg 7.

The handlebar moustached Dante led out the last leg with a 180 and wrapped it up with a D12 to get the Tifosi off to a flying start.

We had familiar faces in Krzysztof Ratajski and Jose De Sousa matching up as Poland faced Portugal.

However, this was unlike any version of Ratajski we had seen before though as he swapped his normally ice cool demenour, replacing it with the energy of Gerwyn Price. 

Throwing the winning dart in the deciding leg after De Sousa missed bull for the match his roar could have been heard in Warsaw. 

If De Sousa is known sometimes for some erratic counting, he’s not a patch on Portugal’s number 2 Ameixa who went from sublime to ridiculous. One leg he weighed in with 180 and 170 visits,

whilst at other times he was miscounting and trying to leave the oche in the wrong direction.

Meanwhile, Poland’s number 2 Kcuik weighed in with a few heavy visits but had Ratajski dropping to his knees at one stage landing a single one instead of the intended tops. It was a hugely entertaining

fixture with the 11th seeds shading it 4-3.

Match 3 marked the start of a campaign for evergreen Paul Lim. 

Nearly 70 now and 33 years after his famous 9 darter, the remarkable Lim still is an automatic selection for Singapore. 

Alongside the Singapore Slinger was the left handed Harith Lim as they matched up against 13 th seeds Czech Republic of Adam Gawlas and Karel Sedlacek. 

After sharing the first 4 legs, an error from the veteran, switching away to 19s from 200 left the Czechs an unexpected opening which Gawlas

greedily snapped up. The confidence gained from the leg, pushed them to close out the match 4-2.

The smile was back on Devon Peterson’s face in match 4 as South Africa missed 8 darts for a whitewash before seeing out the game 4-2 versus a disappointing Spain. 

After a torrid year the African Warrior revelled taking the captain’s armband to lead his country to the win. 

There was stress shown throughout the game, at one point Peterson stretching his arm to relieve the obvious tension. 

However along with Vernon Bouwers they dominated a Spain team of Justicia and Martinez who looked dangerous on paper but this didn’t translate to any danger on the stage as they meekly surrendered.

The strong looking Republic of Ireland of Willie O’Connor and Keane Barry saw off Thailand 4-1 in a match of relatively little drama for the Irish. 

The main talking point was the flamboyant Thai

Gaweenuntavong favoured stepping back to compose himself and admire his work between darts and with 4 players on the stage there wasn’t really any space for his wandering. 

On a number of occasions he walked into visibly irritated Magpie, with O’Connor shaking his head and remonstrating with the referee, perhaps asking for a VAR check?

The Northern Ireland team of Dolan and Gurney at one time may have been a match for anyone but coming into this tie, there was plenty of experts predicting a French upset in this match. WDF world

runner up Tricole and soft tip expert Jacques Labre looked fresh and energised, the body language

clearly more positive than their Northern Irish counterparts. This was only exacerbated as the French

raced into a 2-0 lead. A world class tops/tops from Dolan gave a lifeline to their chances but the

French were totally unruffled, taking the next 2 legs comfortably, Tricole nailing a 114 to complete a

4-1 win.

12 th seeds Canada with Jeff Smith, fresh off a date in the US Darts Masters final with MVG at the

MSG, and Matt Campbell are another pairing being talked up. Up first was India with Jiwa and

Gilitwala representing and they were not to be overlooked. Whilst Canada looked in reasonable

control throughout, the “Apache” Jiwa pinned a couple of 2 dart finishes to keep them competitive.

Campbell didn’t repeat the miss of Leg 6, confidently taking out D16 to get them up and running

with an encouraging 4-2 win. Speaking to Sky Sports afterwards Jeff Smith bullishly declared “there

ain’t a team in this competition we can’t beat”.

Despite being 10 th seed, Rowby John Rodriguez’s dwindling recent form and Mensur Sulovjic’s

decline has meant few have noted them as credible candidates to be troubling the podium come

Sunday. Facing Denmark, they dropped the first leg on throw but immediately hit back. However,

the unheralded Reus then took over the match with his relentless pounding of the treble 20. Looking

stunned at his own form as he pinned the double to take the match 4-2, his team mate Anderson

joined the crowd in applauding the debutant.

Home favourites and 6 th seeds Germany certainly look the real deal this year. Clemens and Schindler

are both full of confidence and roared on lustily by the Frankfurt crowd they whitewashed hapless

Hong Kong. “We are a good team and we know it, tomorrow is a new day but hopefully the same”

said Clemens speaking to Sky Sports afterwards, with Schindler adding “today was just the first

step”. Unlike Belgium this pair appear best friends, warmly embracing one another after their

impressive win.

The World Cup holders Australia, Damon Heta and Simon Whitlock replete with cork hats for the

walk on, took on largely unknown debutants Guyana. Sudesh Fitzgerald showed his nerves before a

dart was thrown, leaving the oche in the wrong direction after collecting his darts. However, along

with team mate Norman Madhoo, they came through six games in a qualifying tournament in Costa

Rica just to be here. The title defence got underway in great style though as the Heat and the Wizard

brushed aside the debutants expertly. A 4-0 win puts them already in a formidable position in their


The final game of a marathon session was an intriguing one as Latvia took on New Zealand. Ben

Robb and veteran Warren Parry taking on Madars Razma and Dimitri Zhukov. Ahead of the game,

Razma had said on Twitter “I want to go back to home.. After my wife car accident last Friday I’m out

of darts.” He later qualified this stating “I’m going to the World Cup of course! I was waiting for this

tournament for 365 days and still one of my favourite tournament in darts. Just wanted to say that it

will be very difficult to focus for darts like the last two days in Hildesheim.”

Despite this he showed himself to be the class act of this foursome, imposing his will on the match and securing Latvia a 4-2 win after they fell 2-0 behind.