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The
World Mens Teams: Quarters Preview

Top
Half
   Bottom
Half
    

December
11,
2005: by Team Kneipp (kah-nipe)         

Top
Half – England, Wales, Canada & Australia
Twenty-two
countries entered this tournament with the hope of winning the title
of world’s greatest national team. We’re now down
to eight. Here’s our analysis of how well the teams have done to
reach this stage, what their prospects are from here and who should take
home the silverware.

[1] England, versus [8] Wales

England
entered this competition as raging favourites and although there’s
nothing to indicate they’re not on track to win this title, the
tournament hasn’t really begun yet for them, with the real challenge
yet to arrive. Unfortunately Wales probably won’t provide that
challenge.

beachill
Will England’s Beachill be rested
in the quarterfinals? (photo © Debra Tessier)

To
reach this stage England has had to get past South Africa, Kuwait and
Austria. They’ve only dropped one game beating
these countries and have done it so impressively (beating Kuwait to
a TOTAL of 29 points in 88 mins, South Africa to 27 points in 104 minutess
and Austria to 15 points in 76 minutes) that the figures look more like
the result of ONE match, not three.

Wales’ progress through this tournament reads: rest day, loss
to Canada then comfortable victory over Hong Kong. Starting the tournament
with a rest day is nice, but because they came second in their group
they had to face Germany in the knockout stage, while England had a bye,
meaning that going into tomorrow’s encounter Wales has been on
court for over 100 minutes more than England (364 minutes compared to
268 minutes).

England
has had the luxury of being able to shuffle their players around more
than any other team. No other team can bring in their fourth player
with no real reduction in the strength of their team (although an Australian
team with Palmer would go pretty close). So far they have rested Nicol
on day one, Willstrop on day 2 and Matthew on day 3. Presumably they’ll
rest Beachill for this encounter and then roll out their top team for
the semis.

The
last time England won this event was 1997, a long time ago considering
how strong a squash nation they are. Wales’ best
result was 2nd in 1999, and will have to win this encounter to better
their result in Vienna where they came fifth.

England and Wales have played each other recently in this event. In
1999 in Egypt they were in the same pool. England beat Wales 3-0, but
peaked too early as they met each other again in the semi finals and
Wales returned the favour with a 2-1 victory. England made amends for
this in 2001, beating Wales 2-1 in the last 16 knockout stage of the
tournament.

On
paper this is the most one-sided match in the quarterfinals. We’ve
been wrong before, we’ll be wrong again – but… Wales’ only
chance of victory is if one of the English players gets injured. Nick
Matthew, playing at #3 (if they rest Beachill like we predict), ranked
10 comes up against Gavin Jones who has a career high of 37 this month.
Those figures tell the story. If Jones plays well maybe he can squeeze
one of the early games (very unlikely with the 9 scoring), but he won’t
win. Which means the Welsh #1 and #2 must win. Gough plays Willstrop
at the #1 position and is the best chance of an upset, and even that
will be a mighty ask particularly as Willstrop has beaten Gough in all
four of their PSA encounters including a few weeks ago in Qatar.

Let’s just say hypothetically that Gough does win, it will come
down to David Evans getting past Peter Nicol – a Welshman trying to stop
a Scotsman help England progress further. Rule Britannia. Evans has been
off the pro circuit for a while and even in his heyday when he won the
British Open he still didn’t get a PSA victory over Nicol. Hence
bye-bye Wales. We’ll happily put the family farm on England comfortably
coming through to the semi finals.

Their opponent will be Australia or Canada.

[4] Australia versus [5] Canada

Australia and Canada will be annoyed with this draw. It could have been
easier for both countries. Neither country has lost a match reaching
this stage, but Canada has dropped games, spent more time on court (375
minutes compared to 272), and played today while Australia rested (although
they had a bye on the 3rd day).

beachill
Power is the best-rested man in Islamabad. (photo © Debra
Tessier)

Australia
cruised past the USA, Finland and the Netherlands comfortably, while
Canada did the same to Hong Kong and India but had to work against
Wales. An astute observer would have noticed peculiarities in the teams
that both countries have fielded over the past four days. Canada’s
hopes obviously hinge on a fit and fighting Power getting the job done
at #1, and that usually means stopping his flow of injuries. Simple plan
for that – keep him off court. He hasn’t played a ball in
this tournament so far and will be the freshest player in Pakistan when
he takes on Ricketts tomorrow.

Australia’s
team selection also looks puzzling. Against USA it was Ricketts, Boswell
and Kneipp. Again Finland it was Ricketts, Boswell and Kneipp.
Against the Netherlands it was Ricketts, Boswell and Kneipp. Either
they really respect the quality of their opponents, or something’s amiss.
Cameron Pilley is sick so they don’t have the luxury of rotating
their players. In the grand scheme of things this won’t make a
difference as the pool matches were always going to be a breeze as the
total of 45 points that Australia dropped in 269 minutes indicates (26
points less than England, but it took them six more minute to do it).
These figures don’t tell us anything more than how easy the top
teams cruise through the pool stages and how ludicrous some of the stats
that I come up with are.

We
discussed in the initial preview how similar the rankings of the Canadian
players are compared to the French players. France has been more successful
as a team, and as a result has a higher seeding and face Pakistan and
most likely Egypt to make the final. If Canada makes the final they’ll
have played an extra knockout match against India, then beaten Australia
and England. Pretty bloody tough draw.

Canada’s best result in the World Team Championships is 2nd and
came 6th last time, losing in the quarterfinals to England. Australia
is attempting to win this title for the third time in a row. Australia
and Pakistan have both done it four times in a row before so it won’t
be a record.

If
Canada is to win this encounter they’ll have to stop a long
losing streak. Australia has beaten them in ‘71, ‘77 (when
Canada hosted it), ’85,
’89 ’91 and ’99. Coupled with Rickett’s victory
over Power earlier in the year and Boswell and Kneipp having not lost
to Ryding and Razik in PSA before, these are the reasons that we’ll
predict an England versus Australia semi final encounter. If that happens
England will undoubtedly be favourites, but I’d happily sink a
wad of money on Australia if given good underdog odds. It’s a big call,
but I’ll put the winner of this semi final encounter down as the winner
of the tournament.

Bottom
Half – France, Pakistan, Malaysia & Egypt
[3] France versus [7] Pakistan

beachill
Thierry Lincou will march France
into the semis. (photo © Debra
Tessier)

France
have had a very cruisy run so far in this tournament. They go into
tomorrow’s quarter finals with only two days of squash asked
of them, compared to Pakistan’s four, thanks to a very fortunate
draw. They thrashed Ireland and India in their small pool, meaning they’ve
spent less than four hours on court for six matches.

This
is nearly half the time that Pakistan has been on court. Pakistan’s
opponents over the past four days haven’t been squash giants, but
certainly not national hackers either. Scotland, Spain, Malaysia and
the Netherlands have all got respectable teams with strong players leading
the charge. Pakistan was able to beat the Netherlands, Malaysia and Spain
all 3-0, but the matches at #1 all went to five and Scotland took a rubber
off them courtesy of White.

Pakistan
hasn’t made the quarterfinals for the past three events,
so this tournament is already the most successful one in eight years.
During the years that their national standard has slipped, France has
gone from strength to strength, finishing 13th, 7th, 5th and 2nd. The
last time Pakistan beat France in this event was in ’89 when Pakistan
went on to make the final while France came 12th. In 2001 when they met
again, France had turned the tide, beating them in the knockout stage
on the way to 5th place while Pakistan floundered at 11. Pakistan is
getting stronger slowly, but not enough to cause an upset here, even
with home ground advantage. France through to the semi finals.

[2] Egypt versus [6] Malaysia

Egypt
have really cruised so far in this tournament. France has been on court
for less than four hours in total, but they’ve only played
six matches. Egypt’s nine matches have taken 4 minutes less than
France and they’ve conceded half the points. Germany, New Zealand
and particularly Iran aren’t exactly powerhouses, but considering
Shabana has been rested for two of those encounters it indicates how
comfortable the victories have been.

beachill
Darwish will be a key component for
Egypt’s hopes
.
(photo ©Fritz Borchert )

Most
people are unaware that the major differences between PSA events (the
normal pro tournaments) and WSF events (Commonwealth Games, World Team
Champs, European Champs) isn’t just the scoring system (WSF
uses 9 and it sucks), but also the tin height. PSA changed the height
of the tin for the same reason they changed the scoring system. It is
designed to make a more dramatic game with more winners. The 19” tin
makes for longer rallies and less winners, which normally would be difficult
for a shot making team like Egypt, but 17” tins are in use in Islamabad.
I’d like to think the WSF have relaxed their rule, but it’s
more likely to do with the facilities available at Pakistan’s complex.

Egypt
has conceded the least amount of points and spent the shortest time
on court. Malaysia has conceded the most and been there the longest.
Spain, Scotland, Pakistan and South Africa have taken 255 points during
579 minutes of squash against Malaysia. That’s
going to make an enormous difference for a Malaysian team that already
has an uphill battle.

Malaysia
doesn’t have much depth in their 3rd team position, but
that isn’t so crucial if you’ve got guns at one and two.
Azlan and Bengy are certainly capable of beating Shabana and Darwish
tomorrow, but it’ll be very tough and quite unlikely. Both times
these two countries have met in the past (1979 and 1999) Egypt has won.

Egypt’s
best result was winning the title in 1999 as host country and lost
in the semi finals last time to Australia.

Malaysia
has only made the top 8 twice, coming 8th in ’97 and 7th in ’01. In
Austria in 2003 they lost to Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Switzerland
on their way to a disappointing 14th place finish. In 2005 they should
at least be able to at least replicate their best result of 7. Even
if they lose to Egypt tomorrow, they’ll have a chance to beat Pakistan
to go into the 5th or 6th playoff, and even if they lose that should
beat Wales to finish 7th. But I’m putting them down as losing to
Egypt, then beating Pakistan and losing to Canada to finish 6th.

Egypt will win this quarter final encounter and should squeeze past
France to make the final.

At
least that’s what we think.

I
just hope the team matches don’t seem boring when everyone knows
that Jansher and Jahangir are going to dust off their racquets to step
on court against each other one more time. It’s happening as a
curtain raiser for the final and is to raise money for the earthquake
fund. I can guarantee that every available player will be ringside.

Kneipp’s
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