Wales captain Gerwyn Price celebrates (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
The 2019 World Cup of Darts gets underway in Hamburg on Thursday with three former beaten finalists aiming to kick-start their latest title challenges.
The annual team event features 32 nations competing across four days for a record £350,000 in prize money, with the opening round comprised solely of pairs matches.
Only two nations – England and Netherlands – have ever managed to get their hands on this prestigious trophy, but a clutch of dangerous duos will be determined to break the mould this week.
Scotland, the number two seeds, fell short at the final hurdle in both 2015 and 2018 and start out as third favourites to be crowned champions.
The Tartan twosome is made up of World Matchplay champion Gary Anderson and World Grand Prix finalist Peter Wright as they pair up for the third consecutive year.
The decorated duo open up with a clash against Denmark’s Per Laursen, an ever-present in the competition, and debutant Niels Heinsøe.
Wales, the number three seeds, finished runner-up in 2010 and 2017, and are strongly fancied to appear at the business end of proceedings once again.
Gerwyn Price and Mark Webster made the final two years ago, and Grand Slam champion Price is partnered for the second successive year by former Austrian Open winner Jonny Clayton.
The Welsh pair start out against World Cup specialists Singapore – represented once again by Harith Lim and the legendary Paul Lim – who famously knocked out Scotland and Spain en route to the Quarter-Finals two years ago.
Northern Ireland, semi-finalists in 2016, aim to banish back-to-back early exits at the hands of Germany when they take on South Africa in Round One.
Players Champion Daryl Gurney is paired with World Championship quarter-finalist Brendan Dolan as they face World Cup stalwart Devon Petersen and newcomer Vernon Bouwers in a pairs show-down.
Belgium, runners-up in 2013, look to maintain their superb record in this competition by embarking on another run to the latter stages, starting with victory over soft-tip stars Hong Kong.
Kim Huybrechts, who reached the final alongside his brother Ronny, is joined by World Youth Champion Dimitri van den Bergh as they look to go one better than last year’s run to the Semi-Finals.
The Belgian pair, however, will be wary of a potential banana skin at the hands of Royden Lam and Kai Fan Leung – both of whom are well-equipped with World Cup and World Championship experience.
Hosts Germany look to raise the roof at the Barclaycard Arena by overcoming minnows Hungary, with back-to-back quarter-finalists Max Hopp and Martin Schindler, the youngest pairing in the field with a combined age of just 44, taking on Euro Tour qualifiers Pal Szekely and Janos Vegso.
Lithuania, the only newcomers to this year’s BetVictor World Cup, look to mark their debut with victory over New Zealand, as ProTour finalist Darius Labanauskas and Mindauskas Barauskas face Challenge Tour star Cody Harris and Haupai Puha.
Brazil, making their third appearance in the World Cup, aim to maintain their 100 per cent record in the First Round by dispatching Sweden – who have not reached Round Two since 2014.
This tournament represents a swansong for Magnus Caris, who will retire at the end of the season, and he will be hoping to go out in a blaze of glory alongside Dennis Nilsson as they face samba stars Diogo Portela and Artur Valle.
The opening match of the tournament sees Gibraltar bidding for their first win since 2015 when they come up against Japan.
Seigo Asada and Haruki Muramatsu, who have both featured in the PDC World Championship, aim to avert an upset at the hands of Dyson Parody and Antony Lopez.
The action gets underway from 6pm BST, with First Round matches to be contested over the best of nine legs (pairs).
World Cup of Darts 2019 Day One preview and order of play: Former finalists aim to avoid early exit
The 2019 World Cup of Darts gets underway in Hamburg on Thursday with three former beaten finalists aiming to kick-start…
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