Darts tournaments continue to come thick and fast at this time of year as we build up to the World Championship in December, but there are still several valuable prizes to be played for before then. The next of them is the European Championship, which will be held in Belgium for the first time. The tournament gives the top players in Europe the opportunity to compete with the best from the PDC, and the 32-strong field will ensure an action-packed weekend of darts ensues.
Robert Thornton will come to the competition full of confidence after beating Michael van Gerwen in an incredible World Grand Prix final earlier in October. The world number one will be looking to bounce back from that disappointment though, and he’s often at his most dangerous after a setback. Phil Taylor has an amazing European Championship record, but he was knocked out of the World Grand Prix in the first round and form is still eluding him; while Kim Huybrechts will be playing in his home country and could be one to keep an eye on.
Mighty Mike looked imperious en route to the World Grand Prix final, and admitted he was “gutted” to lose. He looks worthy of a decent bet to come back fighting and add another trophy to his burgeoning collection.
The European Championship began in 2008 in Frankfurt and has been played in Germany ever since, bar the 2009 competition which was held in Holland. This year for the first time it will be held in Hasselt, Belgium, with an increased prize fund of £300,000.
Phil Taylor won the first four renewals of the competition from 2008 – 2011, twice beating countryman Adrian Lewis in finals. The following year Australian Simon Whitlock defeated Wes Newton to take the title, and he almost defended it a year later, but went down to new champion – the aforementioned Lewis. Michael van Gerwen beat Terry Jenkins to land his first European Championship last year, and he has every chance of retaining the trophy this time around.
Format and Draw
The draw has thrown up plenty of interesting first round matches, although MVG gets a relatively quiet opener against fellow Dutchman and debutant Jeffrey de Zwaan. Lat year’s beaten finalist Terry Jenkins takes on James Wade in a mouth-watering clash, while Gary Anderson will face Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan. The most intriguing tie of the round though, is the clash between Phil Taylor and Vincent van der Voort, who beat the multiple world champion when they met in the first round of the World Grand Prix just a few weeks ago.
The quick-fire first round is played over the best of 11 legs, with the second round and quarter finals the best of 19, and the semi finals and final played over the best of 21.
Michael van Gerwen is in great form coming into this competition, but tellingly he has an axe to grind after losing the World Grand Prix final to Robert Thornton in October. The Scotsman prevailed 5-4 in a gripping title bout in Dublin, denying MVG his third title in four years. Mighty Mike spoke afterwards about how disappointed he was, but vowed to return to the next tournament even stronger. His opponents should take note, as when he’s in the mood he can blow very good darts players away.
He’s already won the Masters, the UK Open and the World Matchplay in 2015, as well as finishing runner-up in the Premier League and the recent World Grand Prix. He’s effectively been a model of consistency at the big tournaments this year, and with the Players Championship and the Grand Slam of Darts to come he’ll want to add more silverware before the World Championship at the end of the year.
Phil Taylor comes next in the betting, as he has tended to do in recent competitions, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a case for the short odds. There is no doubt that he has been one of the best players to play the sport, and if he finds his form he could win any competition easily, but that form seems to have been very illusive for the Power this year.
The current World Champion also took the Premier League title in 2015, and it’s been a great year for Anderson. However, performances at other top ranking events have been indifferent to say the least. He’s exited at the second round of both the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix in his last two tournaments, although he did win the last ProTour event of the year in Coventry last week, defeating James Wade 6-2 in the Players Championship 20 final. The Scotsman offers a little bit of value in comparison to the odds being quoted on Taylor, but a bet is a leap of faith that he will carry that form into this tournament.
Kim Huybrechts – +4000 with Paddy Power
One outsider who will almost certainly have his supporters is Belgian Kim Huybrechts, who will be the country’s only representative at the tournament. He’s bound to have a bit of vocal backing during the games, and it would be no surprise to see him raise his game in front of a patriotic crowd. He faces a tough encounter against Mervyn King in the first round, and also finds himself in the same half of the draw as van Gerwen. That’s just about enough to put us off backing him, although he could go well at a big each way price.
Michael van Gerwen to win the European Championship
30th October – 1st November