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England Suffer Thailand Shock


Poomjaeng (left) and Un-Nooh outplayed favourites England

England face an uphill battle to qualify from the group stages of the Nongfu Spring World Cup in China after a surprise 4-1 defeat against Thailand on the opening day.

England may boast the top two players in the world rankings in Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham, but they were no match for Thai duo Dechawat Poomjaeng and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

Selby said: “I didn’t perform anywhere near what I’m capable of, and let Stuart down a bit.”

Bingham added: “It’s going to be tough now to get to the knock-out stages. It’s a difficult group so we have to raise our game.”

Next up for England is China’s B team of Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao, who opened with a 4-1 win over the Republic of Ireland. Irish duo Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien were forced to play with borrowed cues after theirs went missing in transit.

Malta’s Tony Drago and Alex Borg stormed to a 5-0 win over Austria to top Group A. Norway’s husband-and-wife team Kurt and Anita Maflin edged out Singapore 3-2.

Home favourites and defending champions China – Ding Junhui and Xiao Guodong – beat India 3-2.

Ding said: “The first match is always tough and we haven’t got any rhythm yet. India is a strong team in our group so turning it around to win is crucial.” And Xiao added: “I don’t want to be the weak link. I practised at home for several weeks before this tournament so I can play somewhere near Ding’s class to make a better team.”

Scottish pair John Higgins and Stephen Maguire lead Group B after a 4-1 victory over Iran.

“We’re really pleased to win the first match,” said Higgins. “Stephen and I are very good friends on the tour so we’re probably one of the closest teams. We feel as if we have a good chance.”

Wales and Northern Ireland surged ahead in Group C with 5-0 wins over Pakistan and Poland respectively. In the other match, Australia beat Qatar 3-2.

The top two in each group of six teams goes through to the quarter-finals.


Marital Bliss: the Maflins got off to a winning start


Home heroes Ding and Xiao survived a tough challenge from India


The evening session was preceded by a breath-taking opening ceremony featuring displays of local culture.