DUBAI // The Emirati duo of Mohammed Shehab and Mohammed Al Joker will be grateful Noppon Saengkham will not be representing Thailand at the World Cup in Bangkok next month.
Seven up for fizzing UAE rugby hopefuls
The Rugby Association is placing huge importance on the format and using the carrot of an Emirati squad at the Olympics as incentive.
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The 18 year old, who won the Emirates International Championship last night in tandem with Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon, overcame Shehab and Al Joker 4-0 in the final, compiling breaks of 50-plus in each of the matches.
The UAE are in Group B at the World Cup, which begins on July 17, with the Thailand A team, Malta and Australia, but Saengkham will not be appearing for his national side.
Instead he will be going to Canada for the International Billiards and Snooker Federation World (IBSF) Under 21 Championship.
However, last night the Thai player gave the Emirati pair his vote of confidence for the tournament after seeing them in action.
The teenage Thai pair put up their best performance of the tournament to beat Shehab and Al Joker and take home the winners' cheque of US$5,000 (Dh18,364), but the Emirate duo have as good a chance as any at the World Cup.
"I think anybody can beat anybody at the World Cup because they play just one frame and the doubles," Saengkham said. "So maybe Shehab and Joker can beat any of the top players there. They have to work hard and believe in themselves, and they should also want to win desperately."
Thirapongpaiboon, the youngest player competing on the professional tour at 17, gave Thailand a winning start with a 69-19 victory over Shehab in the opening frame.
The Thai, who is also the youngest to score a maximum break of 147, cleaned up with a visit of 53. Saengkham, the 2009 IBSF World U21 champion, made it 2-0 with a 63-18 win over Al Joker.
The Thai team then took the doubles 92-12 to leave the UAE with the onerous task of winning all the remaining matches.
They had won their quarter-final against Hong Kong from an identical situation, but Saengkham made sure of an early finish in the best-of-seven final with a 78-39 win over Shehab, racking up a break of 63 after the Emirati had compiled 39 in one visit.
"I cannot say the final was one-sided," said Shehab. "They just played better in the moments. I believe this was their best performance of this tournament. I have watched them over the last three days and they were not so sharp. They did not perform like this. They had a break of 50 in each frame and this is enough to knock anybody, even if you play your best match."
This tournament was organised to prepare Shehab and Al Joker for the World Cup. The Bangkok-bound teams from Pakistan and Afghanistan took part in the tournament, and one of the Hong Kong players was also in attendance.
"It was a good preparation, not just for the UAE but everyone else who is going to the World Cup," said Shehab. "I have spoken to Hong Kong, Pakistan and Afghanistan [team] and they were very happy. They said this was a successful tournament for all of them.
"Like us, they will be heading home to work on their games, learn from the mistakes they made here and build on the positives."
"Against Hong Kong we were 0-3 down, but we came back to win that match [4-3]," said Al Joker. "That gives us really good confidence. We also did well to beat Afghanistan [in the semi-finals]. In the final, Thailand played really well. We did not get any chance, but we are happy with what we achieved."
The UAE will now be helped by three visiting professionals - Michael Holt, David Roe and Adam Duffy - before they leave for Bangkok on July 9.
"The World Cup is going to be a lot tougher than this," Shehab said. "We lost the final not because we missed a lot of chances. In the last frame, I missed the pink and Joker missed the yellow in one game. That's it and we lost 0-4.
"So it's not just about the potting. It's also about safety and I believe they played better than us in that department. So maybe we have to work on our safety game and make it more precise, because we are going to be playing against really experienced professionals."
James Wattana and Dechawat Poonjang will represent Thailand A next month.