Stage of this years European Under-21 European and Teams Snooker Championships, from the 20th of March until the 1st of April, and a country where this sport is almost a religion, Malta continues to surprise de Old Continent with the quality players from the Mediterranean island.
In five days of competition, their trio in Men’s competition added wins consecutively so far: eleven matches, eleven wins. Impressive.
Brian Cini, youngest star (18 years old), got four wins in Group G, won 16 frames and lost a single one. Cini, European Teams runner-up last April 1st, with Tony ‘Tornado’ Drago, got the best break at the Under-21 European Snooker Championships, and also his new record, with 133 points, and keeps developing.
Aaron Busuttil, 23, got a century (110) last Saturday and, besides the three wins, has a +8 frame scoring difference (12-4). But this Sunday, he faces Jamie Rhys Clarke (Wales), from 12.30 local time in Prague (11.30 a. m. in the UK), in the big match of round-robin stage in Group R.
Last but not least, the experienced Jason Peplow, on his comeback to snooker, aged 46 – he was a quarterfinalist in 1st European Snooker Championships, in Schevenningen (Netherlands), in 1988, and lost to the future champion that year, Stefan Mazrocis (England), who beat another maltese star, Paul Mifsud, in the final (11-7) – totalizes also four wins in the same number of matches, with +12 in frame difference (16-4).
Don’t underestimate Malta’s magic potion: besides Mifsud, Alex Borg was also runner-up in 1998 (lost to Kristján Helgason, 2-7) and 2004, when Mark Allen (Northern Ireland), beat him in the deciding frame (6-7).
But Alex Borg, an idol, as Tony Drago, in his country and abroad, had his revenge: he became European Champion twice in a row, 2005 and 2006, giving Kristján Helgason the same medicine (7-2) ten years ago, in Poland, and defeating Jeff Cundy (England) by 7-5 in Romania.
Nine years later, Malta can dream about having a player in the final, again, but it’s still very soon: knock-out stage, starting with Last 64, will allow to separate the men from the boys.