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East vs. West in WPC Final: Alcano of Philippines to Face Germany’s Souquet
Nov 11, 2006, 10:36 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will have a chance to crown one of their own champion on Sunday when home-country hero Ronato Alcano faces off against Ralf Souquet of Germany in the final of the 2006 World Pool Championship.

After a topsy-turvy eight days that saw almost every major player fall by the wayside in favor of a passel of precocious Asian players, the final will boast two legitimate stars in Souquet and Alcano.

It will be Souquet’s third appearance in a WPC final. He won in 1996 in Sweden, beating Tom Storm, and he lost to Mika Immonen in Cardiff, Wales, in 2001. In the 10 years since his WPC title, 37-year-old Souquet has collected major championships on almost every continent in a career that seems destined for the Hall of Fame.

Although 34-year-old Alcano doesn’t have the same resume, he is considered one of the top players in the talent-rich Philippines, and beat two former world champions on his way to this year’s final. He knocked off odds-on favorite Efren Reyes, 10-7, in the round-of-32, and dumped defending champ Wu Chia-Ching, 11-6, in the quarterfinals.

“After I beat Efren, I thought, ‘I can do anything,’” Alcano said.

It makes sense then that Alcano will be carrying the flag for the host country in Sunday’s final, which starts at 4 p.m. local time at the Philippine International Convention Center. Local crowds have been squarely behind him since he knocked off Reyes, and openly rooting against his opponents.

“I know that the crowd will definitely be against me tomorrow,” Souquet said. “But I like being the underdog. As long as they don’t throw anything, I’ll be fine.”

To reach the final, Alcano knocked off the surprising Li He-Wen from China, 11-8, in a match filled with stunning play and crushing errors. At 10-8, Alcano scratched on his break for the third time in the match, giving the bespectacled Li hope for a comeback. Li almost ran out, but accidentally rolled up on the 9 ball after sinking the 8. His extreme cut missed the pocket as the cue ball scratched. The generous Li conceded the match.

Souquet had an even closer call in his 11-10 win against Taiwan’s unheralded Liu Cheng-Chuan. The neck-and-neck battle between the excessively deliberate foes went hill-hill, with Souquet breaking. The foes practically staged a 20-minute chess match in the middle of the rack, trading safeties on a 5-6 clump. Liu blinked first, leaving a tough cut on the 5, which Souquet speared.

“I thought for a second about a safety, but I just decided to go for it,” Souquet said.

Souquet is undefeated so far, going 3-0 in the group stage to easily qualify for the top-64, single-elimination stage. Strangely, Alcano was a hair’s breath from failing to make the top 64. In a statistical anomaly, Alcano lost his first two matches of the group stage, but only needed top win his last match to make the next stage, as long as he won by a score of 8-2. And that’s exactly what he did.

“Maybe this is his destiny,” said Verna Mariano of Bugsy Promotions, Alcano’s manager.