World Snooker Championship 2023: Luca Brecel steps into ‘unknown’ in final against Mark Selby


Luca Brecel poses next to a list of previous World Championship winners
Luca Brecel had not won a match at the Crucible until this year
Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 15 April-1 May
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV and Red Button with uninterrupted coverage on BBC iPlayer, the BBC Sport website and the BBC Sport app

Luca Brecel says he is stepping into “unknown territory” in a clash of contrasting styles against four-time champion Mark Selby in the World Championship final.

Brecel, 28, is the first player from mainland Europe to feature in a Crucible final – and had not won a match at the famous venue until this year.

And while ‘the Belgian Bullet’ has won admirers for his prodigious talent and swashbuckling attacking play, Selby’s style is the polar opposite – grinding down opponents with his granite safety and superb match-play.

Brecel wrote himself into the history books with his stunning semi-final comeback win against Si Jiahui and, having successfully navigated a best-of-33 encounter for the first time in his career, he now faces another first when he takes on Selby over 35.

“Selby is a Crucible king, it’ll be a very difficult game for me and he will be the favourite,” said Brecel, who has spoken of needing to battle boredom over the longer format.

“It is unknown territory for me so it is going to be difficult but I am looking forward to the challenge. I will just play my stuff.

“If I try to play his game I will have no chance because he is so clever in the safety department.”

While Brecel became the youngest player ever to compete at the Crucible in 2012 aged 17 years and 45 days, it has taken him more than a decade and six visits to truly arrive on the sport’s biggest stage.

And his two ranking titles – the 2021 Scottish Open and 2022 Championship League – pale in comparison with Selby’s 22 and nine Triple Crown successes, while the Englishman has also won their three previous meetings – including this season’s English Open final.

“I have won before but this is different,” Brecel said.

“He has more experience than me. I’m going to tell myself to play every frame as though it is life and death because after this there will be no tournaments for a few months so I will try to put all my energy into this.

“I still struggle to cope [with long matches] but that is why I play my game in the way I do, free-flowing and going for everything, because if I played like Selby I would struggle to win such a long game.”

Unorthodox Brecel blazes trail

Tense victories over Ricky Walden and Mark Williams laid the platform for Brecel to stun seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals.

But away from the green baize he has hit the headlines for his unorthodox preparation, with just 15 minutes of practice under his belt and then getting “drunk as hell” midway through the tournament.

“Before the tournament I was just out partying, staying up late until six or seven in the morning, playing Fifa with my friends, having drinks and not practising,” Brecel told BBC Sport.

“After I beat Mark Williams I went home and got back at seven in the morning and then went out again that same day until five or six in the morning and was drunk as hell.”

Luca Brecel's route to the World Championship final
Luca Brecel’s route to the World Championship final

World number 10 Brecel is one of three Belgian players in the top 100 alongside Julien Leclercq and Ben Mertens.

However, Germany’s Lukas Kleckers is the only other player from mainland Europe on that list, after Alexander Ursenbacher’s relegation from the main tour, and Brecel is hopeful his run – and a potential world title – blazes a trail for more to follow.

“It would be crazy for snooker in Belgium and Europe,” he added. “It would be something I could not have dreamed especially this year, with no preparation [and] I had never won a game here. It is some story.

“I hope people are inspired. I just hope people want to get to know snooker better because it is such a great sport. I hear that it’s boring so many times but if you really get to know it, it is fantastic to watch.”

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