Would a return to group stage format make the World Cup less predictable?



It was the PDC’s turn to hog the darts television space at the weekend, as England’s Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis won the World Cup for the fourth time, beating Dutch pair Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld in Sunday’s final.

There was some great darts on display and some decent tussles, but once more I was left feeling that it was all too predictable.

Those two finalists are the only two teams to have lifted the trophy and like each of the last two years only one unseeded team made it through to the quarter-finals.

In fact, according to the seeding system there was only two notable shocks throughout the tournament – Canada beating Wales and Belgium beating Scotland.

Thus it is arguable that unlike other televised tournaments, the World Cup isn’t really worth watching until the final day, when these seeded teams begin to face off with each other.

An improvement which is often suggested by fans via social media is the introduction of B teams for the stronger nations, where the likes of England, Netherlands and Scotland have a team consisting of their third and fourth ranked players.

While this would unquestionably make the tournament more competitive, PDC chairman Barry Hearn is actively opposed to the concept, calling it a backward step in the global growth of the game.

My suggestion would be to return to a group stage format.

This would probably require an extension in the duration of the tournament, but you only need to look at the last group stage version of the World Cup to see the possible benefits it could have on the overall competitiveness of the 32 teams.

In 2013 eight groups of three teams faced off in a best of nine legs pairs format. The top two advanced to the last 16, where the same pairs format was utilised. From the quarter-finals onwards singles games were introduced.

‘In 2013 giants like Netherlands and Scotland went out at the last 16 stage’

Incredibly, five unseeded nations made the quarter-finals, while the emerging Huybrechts brothers went all the way to the final where they were beaten by England.

Giants like Netherlands and Scotland were dumped out at the last 16 stage by minnows Finland and Spain, while Japan and Croatia also made it to the last eight.

Had the same format been in place this year, who knows what teams may have emerged? We saw a glimpse of New Zealand’s talented Cody Harris, while Spain’s Cristo Reyes and Antonio Alcinas arguably gave England their toughest test in the first round.

Had they played three group games, before tackling one of the seeded nations, they may have gathered enough momentum to beat them and go far in the event.

To go back to Barry Hearn’s argument, seeing a country play one pair’s game in a best of nine format isn’t going to encourage a growth in that country.

However, seeing them play at least three games and giving the tournament a real go may well just do that.


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