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Finland Ices World Cup of Pool
Sep 10, 2012, 10:51 AM

It was an upset-filled week that ended with two Cinderella stories in the final of the World Cup of Pool. Matchroom Sport’s 32-team doubles event has traditionally been dominated by likely teams from the Philippines, China and Germany. But this year, the 16th-ranked Finns and 10th ranked Poles turned the event into a coming out party for three of Northern Europe’s best players. In the end, 24-year-old Petri Makkonen, along with established superstar Mika Immonen, outlasted Karol Skowerski and Wojciech Szewcyk for a 10-8 victory in the final.

The victory, which capped an amazing run through an incredibly tough bracket, netted the Finns a total payday of $60,000. The title is yet another for Immonen’s impressive resume, while Makkonen was left in awe of his first major win.

"It feels absolutely great. It hasn't sunk in yet, it will later," said Makkonen. “I can't describe it. Every match before, Mika shot the last 9 ball. But this game I shot the last 9 and that was great. That was the greatest moment of my career.”

On their way to the final, the Finns faced a number of tough challenges. They first erased a 4-0 deficit in the opening round set with Korea, only to rally for an 8-6 win. They then ousted reigning champion Germany, represented by Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann. They then dominated former champs Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante, 9-5, for a spot in the semifinal round. There, they faced the U.S. team of Shane Van Boening and Rodney Morris, yet another tandem that had previously won the event. The Finns erased a 5-2 deficit en route to a 9-7 win.

The spot in the final meant a chance at redemption for Finland, who lost a heartbreaking 2007 final to the Chinese, 13-12. But against the upstart Poland tandem, Finland could not get much breathing room in the race to 10. The two teams met even at 3-3, 5-5 and finally 8-8. In the 17th rack, Makkonen scratched playing a difficult jump shot and the Poles cleared to the 6 ball. But poor position forced Szewczyk into a difficult shot down the rail. The 6 hit the pocket point and the Finns cleared to move within one of the title.

Finland was breaking for the match but the Polish pair made it back to the table after Immonen missed a tricky 2 ball. Poland got down to four balls before Szewczyk missed a makeable cut in the side pocket to hand the table to Finland. From there, it was Makkonen nailed the winning 9 ball.

"I'm completely spent right now,” Immonen said, after the final 9 ball. “We put everything we had into this match. It was a high quality final and it was the toughest match we had. We were hanging by the skin of our teeth."

During the march to the title, 39-year-old Immonen worked to keep his younger teammate calm at the table. The dynamic clearly worked.

“I told Petri if I tell you something just trust it, and that can take the pressure off you,” Immonen said. “He's a great shot-maker and he took the pressure so well. Now he can say that he's been there and done that."