NATIONS SET FOR BETWAY WORLD CUP OF DARTS AS DUTCH DEFEND TITLE
THE 2018 Betway World Cup of Darts begins on Thursday, with the Netherlands bidding to retain their title in the 32-nation Pairs tournament which is being held across four days at the Eissporthalle in Frankfurt.
The 300,000 pound tournament will see a combination of Doubles and Singles matches played as nations do battle for the title, which was won by the Netherlands' Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld last June.
That win was the Netherlands' third in seven stagings of the event, with four-time winners England the only other champions so far.
Van Gerwen and Van Barneveld will team up again in Germany as they bid to retain the title, with sponsors Betway making the number three seeds Evens favourites to lift the trophy ahead of their first round clash with Gibraltar's Dyson Parody and Justin Broton on Friday.
"It would be very nice to win this title again and give the Dutch fans something to cheer about," said Van Gerwen.
"It's different for us and I always enjoy playing with Raymond, and we're aiming to win again. I live for winning trophies and that's my goal this week.
"We have had some great performances and done quite well over the years but we really want to improve our record by defending our title."
England will be represented by a new-look line-up of World Champion Rob Cross and Dave Chisnall, and enter the tournament as 5/1 third favourites with Betway ahead of their round one tie with Czech Republic on Friday.
"It's a massive honour and I can't wait to represent my country - it's not something you get to do very often so it means a lot," said Cross.
"It's a completely different tournament for me too with it being a pairs format, but I'm excited about teaming up with Dave.
"England have done well in the past so there's something to live up to, but we'll do our best this weekend. I'm buzzing."
Scotland, who were finalists in 2015, will be represented by Gary Anderson and Peter Wright, and come into the tournament as 11/4 second favourites with Betway.
However, having been knocked out by Singapore in the first round 12 months ago, the Scots are wary ahead of their first round match against the United States of America in Thursday's opening night.
"It means the world to me to represent my country," said Wright.
"It's a totally different kind of pressure, it's intense because you're not just playing for yourself.
"We need to make sure we've got our heads switched on for the first round against the USA, then hopefully we can win that and go a long way in the tournament."
Thursday's opening night also sees 2012 finalists Australia, represented by Simon Whitlock and Kyle Anderson, face Hong Kong.
Last year's runners-up Wales will be represented by Gerwyn Price and World Cup debutant Jonny Clayton, and they will take on Thailand on the opening night.
Momo Zhou will become the first woman to represent China on a PDC stage as she partners Xiaochen Zong in their opening round game with Switzerland.
The tournament's opening match will see Canada's World Cup ever-present John Part team up with debutant Dawson Murschell as they take on Italy.
Three-time World Champion Part is hoping to continue his renaissance having reached the quarter-finals of the UK Open earlier in the year.
"Every time I represent my country I want to give it my very best shot," said Part.
"Dawson and myself are at opposite ends of our careers but we have similar styles and if we're both firing we're capable of upsetting anybody.
"I would like to play as well as I did a couple of years ago when we reached the quarter-finals, I'm 100% now and feel like I can rise to the occasion again."
Host nation Germany will once again be made up of exciting young duo Max Hopp and Martin Schindler, and they will meet Sweden as the first round concludes on Friday night.
German Darts Masters finalist and World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh will also be making his World Cup debut for Belgium alongside Kim Huybrechts, who will be represent his country for the sixth time at the event in their opening game against the Republic of Ireland.