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Team Europe Gunning for USA at Mosconi Cup

One of the strongest European teams in years believes that it can dethrone Team USA at the 2005 Mosconi Cup, set to kick off Thursday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.

The four-day international pool tilt will pit Americans Johnny Archer, Rodney Morris, Shawn Putnam, Jeremy Jones, Earl Strickland and Charlie Williams against a stacked European squad, featuring Mika Immonen, Niels Feijen, Thorsten Hohmann, Raj Hundal, Marcus Chamat and Alex Lely.

The Americans have won nine of the 11 previous Cups, including a 12-9 victory in 2004.

BD Publisher Mike Panozzo notes that, in previous years, Team Europe has been somewhat handicapped by the inclusion of snooker stars and unproven United Kingdom 9-ballers, often included to boost interest and television ratings in the U.K., home of tournament producer Matchroom Sports and primary TV partner Sky Sports. Team Europe has no such hindrances in 2005, and has, in fact, pieced together its most talented squad ever.

However, Panozzo has still picked the USA to win the event this year (and in the process has set off a firestorm of controversy in online chat rooms), based on its overall talent, experience and sense of entitlement.

For up-to-the-minute updates on Mosconi Cup action, go to the event’s Web site at www.mosconicup.com.

U.S. Retains Mosconi Cup

In past years, it was the heavyweights who carried Team USA to victory in the annual Mosconi Cup. But on Sunday night it was the “support” squad that pushed the Americans to their ninth Cup title in the 11-year history of the tournament.

Wins by Cup rookie Gabe Owen and previously snakebitten Charlie Williams gave Team USA the wins it needed to seal the 2004 title, 11-9, over a game European squad.

Leading 10-8 entering the final session at the Grand Hall of the Hotel Zuiderduin in the Dutch seaside village of Egmond aan Zee, Owen, the 26-year-old winner of the U.S. Open, scored a critical 5-2 win over Germany’s Thomas Engert. The win pushed the U.S. to the hill in the race-to-12 Ryder Cup-style team tournament.

But fiery Euro captain Oliver Ortmann staved off elimination with a nearly flawless performance in a 5-1 drubbing of Earl Strickland.

With a capacity crowd of partisan European fans screaming for more, snooker legend Steve Davis squared off against Williams. The 27-year-old Floridian had ended his streak of six consecutive Cup match losses on Saturday, but was still considered an underdog against the seasoned six-time world snooker champion and Mosconi veteran.

Playing loose and smart, Williams took advantage of several Davis missteps to forge a 3-0 lead. Davis fought back to 3-2, but scratched on a kick attempt following a Williams safety. Williams ran out to put the Yanks a single game from ultimate victory. In the final game, Williams once again buried the Brit with a safety, and Davis’ miss on a 3-9 combination attempt gave Williams an open table. Williams eased his way to a dead-on 4-9 combination and whacked it in to seal the Cup for the defending champions.

“I’ve had nightmares about the final 9,” joke Williams when asked if he had dreams of pocketing the winner. “I had a chance to be the last player last year and blew it. And I knew then that I might never get that opportunity again.”

“I’m so proud of these guys,” gushed U.S. captain Johnny Archer. “Earl and I didn’t play well this week, and everyone else just picked us up and carried us home.”

Leading the way for the Americans were MVP Rodney Morris, who was unbeaten in five matches, and Owen, who won four of five attempts.

The Mosconi Cup will return to America in 2005, assured Matchroom Sport promoter Barry Hearn. Hearn said that the likely site would be the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Far From Over

Once again it looked as if the Americans were poised to shut the door on the 2004 Mosconi Cup, and once again Team Europe wedged its collective foot in the way.

As was the case Saturday night in the ballroom of the Hotel Zuiderduin in Egmond aan Zee, Holland, Team USA posted a critical win in the opening match of the session to extend their advantage, then watched the Euros storm back with consecutive match wins. In what was then viewed as the most important match of the tournament, Rodney Morris continued his MVP play for the Americans, topping Euro ace Mika Immonen, 5-3, to give Team USA a 10-6 lead in the race-to-12 team tournament.

But Dutch national treasure Niels Feijen revived Team Europe’s hopes with a 5-2 win over mistake-prone Johnny Archer. And in a repeat of his Saturday night heroics, pint-sized Swede Marcus Chamat came through in the clutch, beating Tony Robles, 5-3, to pull the Euros to within two points at 10-8.

The Americans still have Earl Strickland, Gabe Owen and Charlie Williams for Sunday night’s session, with the Euros banking on Steve Davis, Thomas Engert and Oliver Ortmann. If the match reaches a 22nd and/or 23rd match, the teams will be allowed “Captain’s Choice” selections.

Team Europe Refuses To Surrender

Marcus Chamat

Marcus Chamat

Facing the stark reality of an early trip home, Team Europe sent a message to their American combatants by winning the final two matches of the night Saturday, and trimming Team USA’s lead to 9-6 at the Mosconi Cup in Egmond aan Zee, Holland.

Having swept the three double matches Saturday afternoon, the U.S. squad entered the evening’s singles matches leading 8-4. The defending champions extended their advantage to five matches when firecracker-hot Rodney Morris drilled Germany’s Thomas Engert, 5-1, in a sporty 30 minutes.

But Team Europe captain Oliver Ortmann stemmed the U.S. onslaught with a 5-1 win over struggling Tony Robles. Sweden’s Marcus Chamat then pulled off a stunningly easy 5-2 win over Earl Strickland, sending the packed partisan house into near hysteria and his Euro teammates to bed with visions of a comeback dancing in their heads.

The 11th running of the transatlantic Ryder Cup-styled team event will conclude with a maximum of eight singles matches on Sunday.

U.S. Triples Its Pleasure in Doubles

Thomas Engert and Oliver Ortmann

Thomas Engert and Oliver Ortmann

Team USA unleashed a lethal barrage of run-out doubles play on its European counterparts Saturday afternoon at the Mosconi Cup in Egmond aan Zee, Holland, sweeping all three matches to take a commanding 8-4 lead in the annual transatlantic team 9-ball tournament. The first team to 12 match wins will claim the 11th edition of the event.

Hoping to recapture some of the magic that spurred Team Europe to the 2002 Mosconi title, German captain Oliver Ortmann called his own number in the opening match Saturday, tabbing himself and countryman Thomas Engert to face the American duo of Johnny Archer and first-timer Gabe Owen. After playing poorly the night before in 2002, Ortmann sent himself out first in the next session, and his spirited effort was a turning point in the Euros’ surprise win.

But the magic was missing in 2004, and the German duo dropped a heart-wrenching 5-4 decision in a match that saw some brilliant pool. The American squad received a bonus when Charlie Williams and Tony Robles, winless in two team matches this year, surprised the previously unbeaten team of Dutchman Niels Feijen and Brit Steve Davis, 5-3.

With two wins already in the bag, the Americans got to sit back and enjoy its top squad, Earl Strickland and Rodney Morris, who performed a virtual clinic in a 5-0 thrashing of Mika Immonen and Marcus Chamat. The humbling loss left the European team four matches down, with the action shifting to singles play for the duration of the event.

Things will get no easier for the Euros Saturday night, with Morris and Strickland on tap for the Americans.

Unlikely Heroes Bouy U.S.

Backed by the solid play of Charlie Williams and Gabe Owen, Team U.S.A. took a 5-4 lead after Day Two of the 11th Mosconi Cup in Egmond aan Zee, Holland, Friday night.

With the race-to-12 transatlantic team 9-ball tilt tied 3-3 going into singles play, the U.S. took a calculated risk, opening with captain Johnny Archer and following with Williams and Owen. Williams had lost his previous six Mosconi Cup matches, and Owen is a Mosconi debutante. And when Archer fell, 5-3, to Team Europe’s Mika Immonen in the Friday night opener, with Dutch hero Neils Fiejen and unflappable Cup veteran Steve Davis on deck, the Euros appeared poised to take control.

But Williams played superbly in a 5-1 thrashing of Feijen and Owen looked anything but a Mosconi Cup rookie in edging Davis, 5-4, to put the Yanks in front, 5-4, entering Saturday’s matches.

Things looked grim for Owen when an unfortunate scratch off the 5 ball allowed Davis to take a 4-3 lead. But Owen broke Davis’ serve in the alternating break format after the snooker legend missed a touchy 3-6 combination to knot the match. Facing a tricky opening shot in the case rack, Owen eschewed a safety and fired his way to the win.

“Sure, I thought about the safety in the last rack,” said Owen. “But I got here playing my game. And my game told me to shoot that shot. I’d rather sell out shooting than sell out ducking. So I shot.”

The happy ending put the U.S. ahead, with the final three doubles matches slated for Saturday afternoon, followed by a trio of singles matches Saturday night.

Rodney “Freud” Rescues U.S.

Rodney and Earl Strickland

Rodney and Earl Strickland

Playing the role of psychologist to near perfection, Rodney Morris kept teammate Earl Strickland under control and helped prevent a European sweep of the Friday afternoon matches at the 2004 Mosconi Cup in Egmond aan Zee, Holland.

Having lost the opening two matches on the second day of the four-day, race-to-12 team tournament, the U.S. trailed Team Europe, 3-2, heading into the match pitting Morris and Strickland against the German duo of Oliver Ortmann and Thomas Engert. Making amends for subpar performances on the first day, the Germans played nearly perfect pool, and held a 3-2 lead in the race-to-five match. With the crowd influence growing, and annoyed by the slow playing Germans, Strickland began to grumble, drawing a warning from referee Michaela Tabb. Sensing the importance of the situation, Morris joked
about the slow play and wisecracked about the match. Having successfully reeled Strickland back in, Morris led the U.S. comeback and a 5-4 win, leaving the contest knotted at 3-3 heading into Friday night’s singles action.

“That’s me,” joked Morris. “Sigmund Freud. Keeping volatile situations under control.”

Earlier, birthday boy Mika Immonen and Swedish teammate Marcus Chamat whitewashed Charlie Williams and Tony Robles, 5-0. Williams has failed to win a Mosconi Cup match in his last six attempts.

Feeding off of the first-match win, which tied the overall score at 2-2, Steve Davis and Neils Feijen put the Euros ahead with a 5-3 win over Johnny Archer and Gabe Owen.

U.S. Takes Early Lead

On the heels of near perfection from the duo of Earl Strickland and Rodney Morris, and the cool play of Gabe Owen, Team USA took a 2-1 lead over Team Europe on the opening day of play at the 2004 Mosconi Cup at the Hotel Zuiderduin in the Dutch seaside resort village of Egmond aan Zee.

For the first time in the 11-year history of the Matchroom Sport produced event, the European squad was installed as a slight betting favorite by Gibraltar-based betting service Stan James. And the Europeans scored the opening salvo when Dutch hero Niels Feijen and Matchroom-managed snooker star Steve Davis squeaked past luckless Charlie Williams and Tony Robles, 5-4. The loss marked the sixth consecutive Cup loss for Williams, who took the collar in four matches in 2003, and his last match in the 2002 Cup.

But Owen, the 26-year-old surprise U.S. Open winner making his Cup debut, proved to be the steady hand with captain/partner Johnny Archer in a 5-3 win over the German duo of Oliver Ortmann and Thomas Engert. Owen rescued Archer on several occasions after the world’s No.1 player botched a pair of easy shots to allow the Europeans to stay in the match. “I wasn’t nervous at all,” said Owen. “I was a wreck in my television matches at the U.S. Open. But here we’re the underdog, and I love being the underdog. Always have.”

The Americans seized the lead in the final match on the first day when Strickland and Morris stomped Mika Immonen and Marcus Chamat, 5-1. The U.S. pair played flawlessly throughout the match.

The best-of-12 event continues Friday with three doubles matches in the afternoon, followed by three singles matches Friday evening.

Mosconi Cup Kicks Off

Matchroom Press Release:

16th December
D Day has arrived. Tonight at the Hotel Zuiderduin, Egmond aan Zee, Holland the two six-man teams representing the United States and Europe will enter the packed arena to contest the 12th annual Mosconi Cup.

Played out over four days, it features a series of singles and scotch doubles matches with the first team to reach 12 points lifting pool’s most prestigious trophy.

Team captains Johnny Archer and Oliver Ortmann are the men responsible for who plays and when and tonight’s order of play for the three doubles matches is:

Niels Feijen & Steve Davis v Charlie Williams & Tony Robles

Oliver Ortmann & Thomas Engert v Johnny Archer & Gabe Owen

Mika Immonen & Marcus Chamat v Earl Strickland & Rodney Morris

With the doubles pairings critical, both captains explained the reasoning behind their decisions:
“Earl and Rodney have both got that loose kind of style and I believe that they will mix well, said Archer.

“I think Gabe Owen needed to go out with one of the older more experienced players to settle him down early and Tony Robles and Charlie Williams are real good friends and have a similar style. If it doesn’t work we’ll change it but we’re all really excited!”

For Ortmann the pairings more or less picked themselves. “Myself and Thomas Engert know each very well; we’ve been playing together since we were juniors so that was the first decision, he said.

“Mika and Marcus have been friends for a long time so that was an easy choice. Steve Davis and Niels Feijen felt comfortable together on the practice table and we’ve put them out first because Niels can’t wait to get out there and it will be good for the Dutch crowd.”

Let battle commence!

For more information and match updates, visit www.mosconicup.com

Mosconi Cup Teams Announced

Promoters Matchroom Sport have announced the teams for this year’s Mosconi Cup. Johnny Archer captains the American team; he is joined by Rodney Morris, Gabe Owen, Tony Robles, Earl Strickland and Charlie Williams. Germany’s Oliver Ortmann heads up the European team, which also includes Marcus Chamat, Steve Davis, Thomas Engert, Niels Feijen and Mika Immonen.

The Mosconi Cup takes place December 16-19 at the Hotel Zuiderduin in Egmond aan Zee, Holland.