The pool stage ended last night at Modern Squash, and we are now getting into the heart of the competition. The knockout stage starts today, with the top 3 seeds moving to Salle Vallier – which can accomodate more than 1000 people. Here is a preview of the eight ties of the round of 16, some of them being particularly enticing ...
By Jérôme Elhaïk
Pictures by Nathalie Goossens and Philippe Rochais
 ENGLAND v  SWITZERLAND
Nick Matthew and Nicolas Mueller
Does Nick Matthew remember that his first ever match with the national team was against Switzerland? England's win in 2003 is also their only encounter in the MWTC. The two nations have also met at this year's European Team Championship, and England also won 4-0. Odds will be hugely in their favour today for the opening tie at Salle Vallier.
 EGYPT v  FINLAND
Olli Tuominen and Karim Abdel Gawad
The two countries have already met eight times in the event. The H2H is 6-2 to Egypt but the Finns had clinched their only medal when they won on home soil in Helsinki in 1991 in the ¾ playoff match. Repeating this result seems like Mission Impossible for Olli Tuominen and his young teammates, and although they will surely give everything they have on court, they might be already focusing on their next tie.
 FRANCE v  WALES
Grégory Gaultier and Joel Makin
The Salle Vallier should be full for the first outing of the home favourites. France are expected to win comfortably, but no doubt that the Welsh players will fight until the bitter end, like they did on Tuesday against Australia. “This type of occasion is what you play for, and the boys will be able to show what they are capable of against top players.” their coach David Evans said to us yesterday. The former world number 3 is from the same generation than Renan Lavigne and they met numerous times in their days, including three times in the European Team Championship. “I remember David had a very good hold and sent me the wrong way a few times,” were the words of France's coach when asked if he had any specific memories of their encounters … France and Wales have met twice in the MWTC (1993 and 1995, one win each).
 AUSTRALIA v  CANADA
Cameron Pilley and Shawn Delierre
Australia have featured in every single edition of the MWTC, and one of the only two times they didn't reach the semis was in 2005 when they were beaten by Canada and their charismatic leader Jonathon Power. Interestingly, their other two meetings - both won by the Aussies - were also in the quarters. Pilley and Delierre played each other in the last one in 2007, and they could meet again tomorrow. History apart, Australia are widely expected to win, especially since their top 2 players Cuskelly and Pilley have much more experience on the glass court.
 NEW ZEALAND v  SPAIN
Borja Golan and Paul Coll
The Kiwis have won their three meetings with Spain in the MWTC, the latest being in 2009. New Zealand are seeded much higher than their opponents and will be favourites, but the Spaniards believe they have a chance to upset the cards. “It's a tough encounter but we are ready to be competitive and give everything to try and get the win,” said Bernat Jaume. Both him and Carlos Cornes – potential number 3s for Spain – have already beaten NZ's number 3 Evan Williams, and the clash between Campbell Grayson and fast-rising Iker Pajares should be worth watching. But the highlight of this fixture will surely be the match between Borja Golan and Paul Coll.
 GERMANY v  INDIA
Simon Roesner and Saurav Ghosal
This is our pick of this round. Four years ago, Germany had won 2-0 in the 5/8 playoff match, but Simon Roesner and Raphael Kandra each had to battle for an hour and a half to overcome the two players they are likely to face tomorrow: Saurav Ghosal and Harinder Pal Sandhu. Roesner and Ghosal have almost always been going to five games, and their clash is one of the most – if not the most – anticipated matches of Thursday.
 HONG KONG CHINA v  USA
Leo Au and Chris Gordon
The United States are 4-1 in the MWTC's head-to-head but Hong Kong are seeded to finish in their best ever position, and rightly so. They were very solid in the pool stage against Spain, and their strength in depth (three players in the top 30) will be a major hurdle for the Americans.
 MALAYSIA v  SCOTLAND
Nafiizwan Adnan and Alan Clyne
A very close encounter on paper. Scotland are 2-0 in the MWTC's H2H but they haven't met since 2001. Number 1s Alan Clyne and Nafiizwan Adnan have met numerous times and their matches are usually very close, but the Malaysian won the last four. These two teams certainly feel like they have a good opportunity to reach the top 8 and it should be a fierce battle.