We’re only one day in at the PDC World Cup of Darts, and there’s already been drama.

Once again, Paul and Harith Lim are the architects of a World Cup of Darts shock. They sent home Wales, a side many picked as possible winners. Northern Ireland were fancied too, but they’ve also been sent packing. South Africa did the damage there. Belgium, hosts Germany and an impressive Scotland live to fight another day. With half the first round completed, Friday will round off the process of separating the best from the rest.

18:00 China vs USA

First up is a tie that’s unlikely to have the same simmering tension that the nations share on a geopolitical level. China were thrashed last year by Switzerland, a team so bad that they haven’t been invited back this time. Xiaochen Zong and Yuanjun Liu need to protect Chinese interests in this tournament, or the weakest Asian nation involved might get the chop. America’s burly buddies, Darin Young and debutant Chuck Puleo, are the favourites to progress.

18:30 Italy vs Canada

This is the sole tie in the first round that was also played last year. Just one player who featured in Canada’s 5-1 crushing of Italy returns; Dawson Murschell has gone from rookie to team captain. He’s joined by Jim Long, and they make a team that could trouble Australia or Finland in round two. Perhaps we’re not giving enough credit to Italy here – after all, the team is changed entirely, with Andrea Micheletti and Stefano Tomassetti making their first appearance. Perhaps we are, though. Italy just aren’t good in this tournament.

19:00 Poland vs Czech Republic

Poland and the Czech Republic are in a similar boat here; both decent Eastern European teams with two good players, simultaneously aware that they can do well and that they’re not likely to, as the Netherlands or Spain await in round two. It’s all about winning this first. Krzysztof Ratajski and Tytus Kanik have the edge on paper; Karl Sedlacek and Pavel Jirkal definitely shouldn’t be ruled out.

19:30 Republic of Ireland vs Greece

William O’Connor leads the Republic of Ireland into battle in Hamburg, keeping up his ever-present record in the process. He reprises his 2018 partnership with Steve Lennon. They were within an inch of beating Belgium in the first round last year, and go into this one as clear favourites. We all know about John Michael and his hypnotic wobbly darts. It’s Veniamin Symeonidis who’s the real wildcard in the pack.

Kelly Deckers/PDC

Photo: Kelly Deckers/PDC

You can keep up with all the live scores and stats from the PDC World Cup of Darts 2019, right here.

20:00 England vs Philippines

Unlike on Thursday, you won’t see any seeds until after the halfway stage. That’s where England come in. They’re the top seeds, and one of the only two nations ever to win the title. That puts a massive target on the backs of Rob Cross and Michael Smith. The first round is the time to take out a big seed, and the Philippines are the sort of team who can manage it. There isn’t a weak link between Lourence Ilagan and Noel Malicdem. This could be a nervy evening for the English duo.

20:30 Austria vs Russia

Austria are the eighth and last seeds, and have a history for their World Cup of Darts campaigns ending prematurely. Last year, Japan sent them packing immediately. Mensur Suljovic and Zoran Lerchbacher will need to be stoic to see off the Russian challenge. Boris Koltsov isn’t joined by the inscrutable Aleksandr Oreshkin, a massive loss to the game. Instead, it’s a return for Aleksei Kadochinikov, who appeared back in 2015.

21:00 Australia vs Finland

The Aussies are yet to unlock the secret to winning the World Cup of Darts. They’ve come oh-so-close. There have been moments of magic. But for some reason, it hasn’t stuck. Could they change that during what seems to be the most open World Cup ever? The issue with it being so open is the number of banana skins has increased. Finland – Marko Kantele and Kim Viljanen – definitely counts as one. Six years ago, the Fins caused an almighty shock by dumping out the Netherlands. Perhaps now comes a surprising second act.

21:30 Netherlands vs Spain

The defending champions have undergone a bit of a change. Out goes five-time world champion (albeit a waning star) Raymond van Barneveld. In comes one of the PDC’s hottest properties, Jermaine Wattimena. Between him and Michael van Gerwen, the Dutch are going to spend little time on the stage, and not just because the pair throw incredibly quickly. Standing between them and the second round are Antonio Alcinas and Cristo Reyes of Spain. The Spanish, of course, know how to upset a big name. To do so here would send shockwaves through the tournament, especially if the Philippines account for England earlier in the evening.

Click here to check out the PDC World Cup of Darts 2019 tournament centre.

Friday schedule (play starts 1800 BST)
China v USA
Italy v Canada
Poland v Czech Republic
Republic of Ireland v Greece
England v Philippines
Austria v Russia
Australia v Finland
Netherlands v Spain

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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Author: Ed McCosh