Dutch delight in World Cup
Reece Killworth previews the Betfair World Cup of Darts and he's backing the Dutch duo to prevail.
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It's not even been a month since Phil Taylor hit that winning double to secure his 16th world title but the lack of PDC action since has made it feel much longer.
That's not to decry the standard of the BDO but there's certainly less of a buzz about the Lakeside event and it's good to have the PDC's big guns back on the oche, with the Betfair World Cup of Darts getting under way on Friday.
That's not to say all of the big guns will be in Hamburg, of course, as only the top-two ranked players from each country qualify, meaning the likes of James Wade, Andy Hamilton and Wes Newton - all of whom are in the top eight in the world rankings - don't make the England team.
But let there be no doubt there is plenty of quality on offer.
Just look at the top two seeds (and unsurprisingly two market leaders).
England are represented by Taylor and Adrian Lewis, who won the event last year in dramatic fashion with a sudden-death-leg victory over Australia.
So as well as being the defending champions at this event, you've also got the last five world titles sitting in their respective trophy cabinets.
Second seeds Holland field Raymond van Barneveld for the third straight year but whereas previously he's been paired with Co Stompe and Vincent van der Voort, this year he has one Michael van Gerwen alongside him.
There's no doubt the young Dutch tyro was the story of the year on the PDC circuit in 2012 and it took something approaching Taylor's best to stop him crowning a brilliant 12 months with a maiden world title on New Year's Day.
Van Gerwen did, of course, beat Lewis en route to the final and van Barneveld was only ousted by Taylor in the last four in a match marred by the eventual champion's reaction to what he felt was too firm a congratulatory handshake.
Lewis was well short of his best in reaching the last eight at Ally Pally - he averaged less than 88 in the opening two rounds and while he upped that as the tournament went on, he's been on something of a lull for a while.
Taylor, as well as he played, isn't the all-conquering force he once was either.
Without ultimately getting over the line, Van Barneveld and van Gerwen both really impressed at Ally Pally - and it's not as if the Dutch team don't have a decent record in this competition either.
As good as Stompe and van der Voort are, Van Gerwen's level at the moment is a good deal higher making this Holland's strongest ever World Cup team.
And when you consider they won the event two years ago (Barney and Stompe) and reached the semi-finals last year (Barney and van der Voort) they've certainly got the pedigree you'd want to be basing a bet on.
Yes, England won it last time out but two years ago they didn't even make the group stages as they suffered a shock second-round defeat by Spain.
The format has since been changed and it's hard to see England exiting early this time, with Austria and Japan in what looks far from a taxing Group A.
But South Africa (Charl Pietersen and Shawn Hogan are no mugs) are possible second-round opponents, with the potential for a Scotland team of Gary Anderson and Robert Thornton on the cards down the line.
For Holland, meanwhile, the big threat in their half looks to come from Australia, but Simon Whitlock has been patchy and Paul Nicholson certainly isn't playing as well as he did 12 months ago when they reached the final.
It's hard to see past the England v Holland final (21/20 with Sky Bet) but I don't think the defending champions are bankers given Lewis' form in particular.
That said, if they did meet in my view it's more likely Van Gerwen beats Taylor than Lewis beats either Dutchman - and that's decisive.
With the short races also favouring them - no game is played over longer than a best-of-seven legs format - Holland at 7/4 is the call.