Following a few weeks break the PDC boys are back for the Betfair World Cup of Darts, Jaymes Monte previews the event...
"This will be the third successive World Cup in which Simon Whitlock and Paul Nicholson have been paired together for Australia."
12 months ago England justified favouritism by winning the PDC World Cup of Darts with relatively few dramas along the way, a year on from suffering an embarrassing early exit at the hands of Spain.
Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis are made the [2.42] favourites to defend their title, but only just. Netherlands, represented by Raymond van Barneveld and, for the first time, Michael van Gerwen are only marginally bigger at [2.54]. It's hardly surprising that these two nations should dominate the betting given that the four players constituted the semi-final line-up at Alexandra Palace just weeks ago. Seeded 1 and 2, there's every chance that they could meet in the final.
But that isn't to say that they necessarily offer the value bet here. In fact I'd argue to the contrary and say that neither should be backed at such short odds. This format has a habit of throwing up shock results.
Instead, it may be worth siding with third favourites Australia at odds of [8.4]. This will be the third successive World Cup in which Simon Whitlock and Paul Nicholson have been paired together - something that no other top nation can boast - and they seem to have a good camaraderie going between them; an important asset in this format of the game.
In the last two tournaments they've lost in sudden death legs at the business end of proceedings - in the semi-finals to Wales in 2010 and in the final against England last year. While they've also been handed a comfortable draw in both the group stages and potential quarter-finals.
Australia are my outright pick to win this year's Betfair World Cup of Darts.
Naturally you'd expect the seeded nations to be made favourites to top their groups. And they are in all but Group H, where Belgian brothers Kim and Ronny Huybrechts are fancied to topple Northern Ireland (number 6 seed) and Hungary.
We know all bout Kim's qualities as a darts player, and Ronny has just recently won a two-year PDC tour card at Q-School, so will come here in buoyant mood. Nevertheless, I'm not sure they should be as short as [1.66] to topple seasoned pros such as Brendan Dolan and Michael Mansell and they have to be worth a tentative lay at the odds.
One unseeded nation who are worth having on side is South Africa. Their team won't include the familiar face of Devon Petersen after he was forced to take some time out of the game due to an arm injury, but the more-than-able Charl Pietersen will replace him. Pietersen recently won his tour card thanks in no small part to a nine-darter in his final against Kevin McDine on day one of Q-school.
Last year South Africa beat Scotland and Spain to reach the quarter-finals, in what was their debut in the event. This time around they've been pitted against probably the weakest of the seeds in Ireland's Willie O'Connor and Connie Finnan, and at odds of [2.64] to progress to the knockout stages I fancy their chances.