World Championship final preview: Mark Selby v Luca Brecel

It all comes down to this.

After 15 days of enthralling action in Sheffield, here we are with the usual shootout to become snooker world champion and, as always, we have a final which tells its own unique story.

It’s Mark Selby against Luca Brecel.

Selby as favourite is back on a familiar stage. Through to his sixth World Championship final and fighting it out for a fifth title to cement his status as one of the sport’s true all-time greats.
For Brecel, this is new territory in every sense of the word. As we’ve heard so many times in this tournament, he’d never won a single match at the Crucible before this year and here he is through to the final. The biggest match of his life and the first time Belgium has been represented in the biggest match in snooker.

In terms of narrative, the scene is certainly set, but when it comes down to pure snooker, it’s unlikely this match will disappoint either. It is perhaps easy to simply say that the final will represent a clash in styles not least because Selby is about more than just the great match play he has built his reputation on. Of all of Selby’s attributes, it is his tenacity and determination to fight until the death which help to set him apart as the great champion he is. Tactically he is one of the best we’ve ever seen and this is what makes him such a force in the biggest of matches and why beating him will take such an epic effort.

But while you cannot deny the Jester holds all the cards when it comes down to experience and nous on this stage, Brecel makes up for it in heart, bravery and fearlessness. He is a cool customer and has put together a run here built on his philosophy of attacking with intent and going for the kill when it comes to the crunch. This has won him plenty of his fans and now that the stakes are at their highest, he won’t change how he does things and neither will Selby which ultimately makes this final such an intriguing one.

There’s a feeling here that while the strengths of either player are so distinct, it is these exact strengths which have the potential to expose the vulnerability of the other.
This promises to be a blockbuster final and like every one we have had before it is as much about what will unfold on the table as it is about the journey they’ve had to even reach this far.
If we ask how did they get here, they both have a story to tell and that’s just in the semi-finals alone. In short, neither have done so without an almighty fight.

Brecel became the first man to recover from nine frames behind to win a match at the Crucible. Staring down the barrel trailing Si Jiahui 14-5, he produced an inspiring comeback to win 12 of the next 13 frames to emerge to the final 17-15.

Selby on the other hand was almost the hunted. After he established a commanding 16-10 lead in a gruelling contest against Mark Allen, he saw his opponent win five frames on the spin before getting over the line 17-15.

Both these matches go to show why the long format at the World Championship is so special and why this tournament continues to captivate audiences globally. Each match had its own plot and its own contrasting style yet left us guessing about who would emerge through until the end.

The final now is a new match and a fresh start with the scores reset and play all level once more. A race to 18 frames to claim snooker’s greatest prize.

Settle down, relax and get ready for another chapter in snooker’s fine history to be written in this tiny yet iconic Crucible theatre.

Prediction: Expect the unexpected. Even if you managed to correctly predict the winners of the semi-finals, it’s unlikely anyone could quite have an envisaged exactly how they’d have unfolded. There will be twists and turns and surprises along the way again in this one, we’re sure. Brecel is likely to excite and show us again what an exciting talent he is but Selby has done it before and is the master when it matters. Selby 18-14

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