After several months of inactivity, I'm back, and as ever writing about sports that none of you know anything about!
This time, it's a Preview of the 2008 Speedway World Cup, which takes place in July. The two Semi Finals take place in Poland and Great Britain, with the Raceoff and Final held in Denmark.
Each meeting has four nations with five riders in each team. The meeting is composed of 25 heats, and each rider rides five times in the meeting, against one rider from each other nation in the meeting. First place gets 3 points, second place gets 2 points, third place gets 1 point, and last place scores 0 points.
The 14 nations are split into two groups, one of 6, and another of 8. The group of 6 are the nations that were involved in the raceoff and final from the previous season. The other 8 form two qualifying heats of 4, with the winner joining the other 6 nations in the main event.
Those 8 are split into two Semi Finals of 4. The winner of each Semi Final goes into the Final, and the second and third placed finishers from each Semi Final go into the Raceoff. The top two in the Raceoff join the other two finalists in the Final. It is there that the medals are decided.
- Template:Team Hungary 51 + 3
- Template:Team Germany 51 + 2
- Template:Team Latvia 36
- Template:Team United States 12
Hungary played host to the first qualifier, but the Germans were favourites, with three riders of British Elite League standard. The US were without Greg Hancock, ranked 6 in the world from 2007 and a former World Champion. However, home advantage is huge in Speedway! Hungary benefited from that, and Matej Ferjan's decision to ride for them (defecting from Slovenia) to set up an exciting climax.
Germany led by 5 points with 5 heats to go, but Tobias Kroner suffered an engine failure in Heat 23, and Germany trailed by 1 going into the final heat. However, Christan Hefenbrock won ahead of Josek Tabaka, meaning that Germany and Hungary were level after 25 heats. The runoff saw Matej Ferjan and Tobias Kroner battle for the win and a place in the World Cup, but Hungary were victorious, and advance to the first Semi Final.
Latvia did surprisingly well, and the US were apalling! The US were a one man team with Hancock it seems, and although they had decent riders in their team, they were terrible on the evening. It is the United States' worst finish in the World Cup (when they've entered) since the 1970s.
- Template:Team Czech Republic 59
- Template:Team Finland 40
- Template:Team Slovenia 35
- Template:Team Italy 16
Slovenia hosted the second qualifier, but this was much less exciting than the opening qualifier.
Czech Republic coasted to victory, with a team boasting a Grand Prix rider and a Grand Prix reserve, although many expected Slovenia to finish second with home advantage. Italy ended badly, they were in touch with Slovenia and Finland after 12 heats, but after that, it fell apart for them.
I shall preview the Semi Finals, including probable teams.
Semi Final 1
- Template:Team Australia (Leigh Adams c, Jason Crump, Chris Holder, Rory Schlein, Ryan Sullivan)
- Template:Team Poland (Tomasz Gollob c, Rune Holta, Jaroslaw Hampel, Krzystof Kasprzak, Damien Balinski)
- Template:Team Russia (Denis Gizatulin c, Emil Saifitudinov, Sergei Darkin, Roman Ivanov, Renat Gafurov)
- Template:Team Hungary (Norbert Magosi c, Matej Ferjan, Laszlo Szatmari, Josef Tabaka, Sandor Tihanyi)
This Semi Final will be held in Poland, and they are likely the favourites on home dirt.
The Poles have three Grand Prix riders, and Hampel arguably ought to be one. With home dirt, they ought to advance to the Final. Australia and Russia will advance to the Raceoff, with Australia possibly challenging the Poles. Crump and Adams are Grand Prix riders, and Holder is tipped as a future World Champion. Schlein is improving too, and Sullivan is a former Grand Prix rider. The Australian side has the best depth it's probably ever had.
Semi Final 2
- Template:Team Denmark (Hans Andersen c, Nicki Pedersen, Bjarne Pedersen, Niels-Kristian Iversen, Kenneth Bjerre)
- Template:Team Great Britain (Scott Nicholls c, Chris Harris, Edward Kennett, Lee Richardson, Simon Stead)
- Template:Team Sweden (Andreas Jonsson c, Fredrik Lindgren, Jonas Davidsson, Sebastien Alden, Peter Karlsson)
- Template:Team Czech Republic (Lukas Dryml c, Ales Dryml Jr., Lubos Tomicek Jr., Matej Kus, Adrian Rymel)
This Semi Final will be held in Great Britain, but the Danes will be the favourites to win it. They have four Grand Prix riders in their team, and Bjerre finished third as a wildcard in a Grand Prix earlier this season.
They should be joined by Great Britain and Sweden in the Raceoff. The Czechs will be no mugs though.
Russia will be the whipping boys as Sweden, Great Britain and Australia will likely battle for a place in the Final. The meeting will be held in Denmark, in Vojens, and I imagine that Australia and Great Britain will have no problem in getting into the Final.
Denmark are huge favourites in my opinion. The Poles will give them a run for their money, but with home track advantage, it should be easy for the Danes to win back the World title - Poland won last year.