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WPC Round of 32 Overview: Some Matches to Track, as World’s Elite Diversifies
Nov 8, 2007, 2:23 AM

MANILA, Philippines – In a convincing argument for the growing parity in international pool, players from no fewer than 17 countries populate the brackets in the round-of-32 of the 2007 World Pool Championship, continuing Thursday at the Araneta Coliseum.

As it has in recent years, Taiwan leads the pack, placing seven shooters in the round-of-32, including former world champions Chia-Ching Wu and Fong-Pang Chao. The host country is next on the depth chart with five players remaining, including 2004 champion Alex Pagulayan.

The rest of the remaining field reads like the roll call at the U.N., albeit heavy on attendance from Europe and Asia: England, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Serbia, Canada, Finland, Malta, Russia, Hungary, Viet Nam, Japan and Korea.

With that in mind, here are a few matches to watch as the field winnows to 16 on Thursday (for complete brackets and live video pay-per-view, go to worldpoolchampionship.com):

Shane Van Boening (USA) vs. Vilmos Foldes (Hungary): Recent U.S. Open champ Van Boening has been struggling to find his rhythm here in Manila, but has had the fortitude to stage a couple gutty comebacks and stay in it. Foldes, a recent juniors champ from Hungary, is also a young talent on the rise, and is looking to break through the pack after several respectable finishes at the WPC.

Francisco Bustamante (Philippines) vs. Nick Van den Berg (Netherlands): With both Ronnie Alcano and Efren Reyes out of the tournament, veteran Bustamante is a popular pick here in his home country. But Van den Berg is as tenacious as they come and has a wide array of international experiences, including rousing victories at the Mosconi Cup. He won’t be intimidated by the crowd or Bustamante mystique.

Konstantin Stepanov (Russia) vs. Jeff De Luna (Philippines): This will be a barn-burner between two young superstars – the top player in Europe vs. the cocky rack-smasher from the Philippines. De Luna has gone on record saying that he will annihilate all his opponents, but Stepanov isn’t easily intimidated, as seen in his defeat of Filipino legend Efren Reyes in the round-of-64.

Ralf Souquet (Germany) vs. Niels Feijen (Netherlands): Both of these veterans are known quantities and playing near the height of their powers. Souquet has something to prove after finishing runner-up to Alcano last year in Manila, but Feijen has added some sophisticated safety play to his arsenal in the last year and won’t go down without a drag-out fight.