Luca Brecel's Best Long Pots | 2023 Cazoo World Championship

Story Of The 2023 Cazoo World Championship

The annual pilgrimage to snooker’s Theatre of Dreams saw moments of history, despair and brilliance.

In the end, a 28-year-old from Belgium became his country’s first King of the Crucible and achieved his life’s ambition.

Round One

Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan got his quest to claim a record eighth world crown underway with a hard fought 10-7 win over debutant Pang Junxu.

After the match, he teed up a second round showdown with Hossein Vafaei by stating that players shouldn’t ‘rattle his cage’. That related to comments made by the Iranian about O’Sullivan during last year’s World Championship.

Vafaei earned his second round spot with a dazzling 10-6 win over 14-time ranking event winner Ding Junhui. The former Shoot Out champion made further comments which added spice to the clash with O’Sullivan.

“Ronnie O’Sullivan is such a legend, such a good player when he’s on the table,” said Vafaei. “He’s just such a nice person…when he’s asleep.”

Kyren Wilson achieved a landmark moment by firing in his first ever Crucible 147 break on the way to beating Ryan Day 10-5 in their opening round encounter. It wouldn’t be the last piece of maximum magic in the event.

Luca Brecel came into the championship having never won a match in his first five visits to the Crucible. He broke that hoodoo with a 10-9 round one win over Ricky Walden. Although there was more to come from the Belgian, he was hugely relieved to be through.

Brecel said: “I just didn’t want to lose. I knew it was going to hurt so much. I needed this win, because if I didn’t win today maybe I would never have won a game here.”

Round Two

There was a significant amount of pre-match hype surrounding the showdown between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Hossein Vafaei, akin to that of a boxing superfight, but in the end it was the Rocket who scored an early knockout.

In the second frame, Vafaei smashed the pack when breaking off, recreating what O’Sullivan did to him during German Masters Qualifying earlier in the season. O’Sullivan duly stepped up and fired in 78 to take the frame.

From that moment on a pumped-up World Champion completely dominated proceedings and romped to a 13-2 victory.

After a difficult season, Scotland’s four-time World Champion John Higgins laid down his title credentials with a thumping 13-2 defeat of 2020 runner-up Kyren Wilson.

Luca Brecel carried the momentum gained from his first ever Crucible victory by clinching an impressive 13-11 defeat of three-time World Champion Mark Williams.

With the scores locked at 11-11 the 28-year-old showed his steel with two amazing breaks to get over the line. His illustrious opponent was impressed.

Williams said: “I put the pressure on him at 11-11 and I was feeling strong. But he made two breaks the last two frames, as good as I’ve seen.”

Neil Robertson’s 13-year wait for a second world title continued when he was stunned 13-7 by Welsh qualifier Jak Jones.


Mark Selby and John Higgins headlined the last eight, as they clashed at the Crucible for the sixth time.

It was Selby who prevailed 13-7 to equal the head-to-head standings against Higgins in Sheffield at 3-3. After the match the Glaswegian described Selby as an “animal”.

“It is a massive accolade from someone like John (to be praised). I have so much respect for John as a player and a person. From start to finish I felt I played as good as I can. My safety was as good as it can be, it needed to be. When I got my chances I scored more times than not. It’s a tough combination,” said 39-year-old Selby.

Mark Allen came through his quarter-final to earn a showdown with Selby in the semi-finals. The Pistol ended Jak Jones’ valiant Crucible debut by a 13-10 scoreline.

Luca Brecel scored a momentous victory, dumping out defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan 13-10. The Belgian Bullet stunned the Rocket with seven frames in a row from 10-6 down.

At just 20 years old, Chinese debutant Si Jiahui became the youngest player to make the semi-finals since O’Sullivan in 1996. The Chinese sensation edged out Scotland’s Anthony McGill 13-12 to book a semi-final with Brecel.


The hallowed single table setup didn’t disappoint, with a feast of snooker which showcased every facet of the sport.

One semi-final was packed with exhilarating attacking play from two of snooker’s brightest young talents, the other featured a late-night showdown between two top stars who battled across every inch of the table.

Luca Brecel and Si Jiahui went toe to toe in the break building department with both players producing fearless performances in their respective maiden semi-final appearances.

It was Si who had looked to be easing to the final, leading 14-5. The prodigious young star crafted 13 breaks over 50, including four centuries, on the way to establishing that advantage. Whilst in the Eurosport studio, Ronnie O’Sullivan admitted he was hugely impressed by the young star.

O’Sullivan said: “He is very attacking, but very clinical. He has an amazing temperament and composure like I haven’t seen for a long, long time in a young player. He reminds me of when Stephen Hendry came along.”

Despite blitzing into that seemingly unassailable advantage, Si fell foul to the greatest comeback in Crucible history. No player has ever recovered from nine frames behind at the event, but Luca Brecel did just that to win 17-15 and move one win from glory.

“It was incredible. At 14-5 down I was thinking I could lose with a session to spare,” said then three-time ranking event winner Brecel. “Today I was at my best and I got a bit of luck. I was really feeling pressure at 16-15 but I played a good frame.”

The other semi-final saw 22-time ranking event winner Mark Selby collide with one of the players of the season, Mark Allen.

A marathon final session saw the pair slog it out until 12:45am on the day of the final. Northern Ireland’s Allen battled back from 16-10 down to make it 16-15. However, Selby showed his mettle with a break of 64 to win 17-15 and get into his sixth world final.

The Final

Luca Brecel’s fortnight of swashbuckling snooker ended in triumph, as he became continental Europe’s first World Champion.

The title match with Mark Selby was undoubtedly one of the greatest world finals ever contested, with the underdog emerging an 18-15 victor. The first session went the way of Brecel, as Selby showed signs of fatigue in the face of his late night exertions in the semi-finals. Play ended with Brecel holding a healthy 6-2 advantage.

A simply incredible Sunday evening of snooker saw a revitalised Selby storm back into contention and write his name in the history books. The Englishman has always saved his best for snooker’s showpiece event and he sent the Sheffield crowd into raptures with the first ever 147 to be made in a world final. He ended the day 9-8 behind to set up a grandstand finish.

On day two Brecel pulled clear ahead in the afternoon, leaving himself three frames from glory heading into the evening at 15-10. He extended his lead to 16-10, before Selby mounted another comeback charge. The Leicester cueman clawed his way back to 16-15 and appeared to have the momentum, but he stalled and breaks of 51 and a stunning 112 saw Brecel run out an 18-15 victor and climb to the top of the snooker world.

“It’s a dream come true, the best moment of my life,” said Brecel, “I didn’t expect to win, then all of a sudden I was clearing the table to become World Champion. The only thing in my head was that I wanted to share the moment with my family. It’s going to take a couple of weeks to sink in.

“The interest in snooker has been exploding in Belgium for the last couple of days so I don’t know what’s going to happen now but I can’t wait to see it. There is no reason for me to feel any pressure any more, I have achieved the ultimate dream, it is life changing and I’m sure it will set me up for many more things to come.”

The Numbers…

Tournament Centuries: 90

Most Centuries: 12- Mark Selby and Luca Brecel

Highest break: 147 – Mark Selby and Kyren Wilson

140+ Breaks: 6

Most Centuries by one player in a match: 5 – Luca Brecel

Longest Frame: 61 minutes 11 seconds – Gary Wilson vs Elliot Slessor

Deciding frames: Luca Brecel 10-9 Ricky Walden (R1), Robert Milkins 10-9 Joe Perry (R1), Si Jiahui 10-9 Shaun Murphy (R1), Si Jiahui 13-12 Anthony McGill (QF)

Crucible Debutants: 5 – Pang Junxu, Si Jiahui, Fan Zhengyi, Wu Yize, Jak Jones