MICHAEL VAN GERWEN overcame an injury scare as the Netherlands began their Betway World Cup of Darts campaign with a brilliant 5-1 defeat of the Czech Republic, as England, Germany and Brazil enjoyed wins in Frankfurt.
World Champion Van Gerwen had been in doubt on the afternoon of the game due to a foot injury, with Benito van de Pas on stand-by should the world number one be forced to miss the event.
However, Van Gerwen declared himself fit to play and was in sensational form alongside two-time World Cup winner Van Barneveld as they averaged an impressive 109.33 in the Doubles format.
Van Gerwen landed a 180 and finishes of 76 and 75 as the Dutch took a 3-0 lead before debutant Frantisek Humpula took out a superb 121 finish to get himself and partner Karel Sedlacek off the mark.
The Dutch responded immediately, with Van Gerwen's 180 and 149 and a 140 from Van Barneveld setting the latter up for a ten-dart finish, before the 50-year-old landed double ten to seal a superb win.
"I think we played fantastic darts," said Van Gerwen. "It wasn't certain that I was going to play but I made the decision and from that moment you want to give 100 percent, and that's what we both did.
"We had a couple of good finishes, there was good scoring from both of us and I think it was a great game. We showed character, and this is a good sign to everyone - they can all be afraid of us."
Van Barneveld added: "I have to thank Benito as well because he drove all the way down to Frankfurt to be a back-up today. If Michael couldn't play he was there for me and for his country.
"At the end I was happy that Michael was okay. He was amazing and hopefully tomorrow we have a good run and qualify for Sunday, and hopefully we can lift the trophy on Sunday night because that's what we dream about."
The Dutch pair will now face the United States of America in Saturday's second round, after the pairing of Darin Young and Larry Butler saw off Italy's Daniele Petri and Gabriel Rollo 5-1.
Butler showed the first moment of class by hitting the the USA's only maximum of the encounter before pinning tops to break the throw and move 3-1 ahead.
Young was next to show his class taking out 121 on the bull for a 4-1 lead, before eventually sealing the victory on tops.
With the World Series of Darts visiting Las Vegas in July, Butler believes now is the time to get American darts back on the map after they secured their first World Cup victory since 2014.
"Now is the time to strike," said the former World Matchplay champion. "We've seen stranger thing happen, who knows?
"We don't get opportunities like this in America, so this is great. We won't be nervous like that again in the second round."
Reigning Betway World Cup of Darts champions England eased past Gibraltar to set up a last 16 clash with South Africa on Saturday, as Dave Chisnall made a winning debut in the event alongside Adrian Lewis.
"I was very average there and I needed Dave to get me out of trouble, but in this format you work as a team," said Lewis. "We'll be better tomorrow, and I know we can do well here."
Two-time World Cup quarter-finalists South Africa sealed a hard-fought 5-3 victory over Sweden as they confirmed their place in the second round.
Devon Petersen and debutant Deon Oliver punished Magnus Caris and Daniel Larsson for missing 11 attempts at a double in the match as they progressed.
Germany and Northern Ireland played out arguably the game of the night as the host nation prevailed in a nine-leg thriller.
The match swung both ways and both sides will feel they deserved to prevail in a tense encounter, with maximums from Brendan Dolan and Max Hopp in successive throws in leg three followed by a superb 124 finish from Daryl Gurney.
Hopp later responded with a 123 finish as the Germans levelled, and the match moved into a decider where Gurney missed one match dart to allow 20-year-old debutant Martin Schindler in to land double ten for a crowd-pleasing win.
"We feel the pressure and we know the fans want us to succeed," admitted former World Youth Champion Hopp. "It's good playing with Martin and I'm working so hard at my game, and moments like this make it all worthwhile."
Germany will now face Brazil after Diogo Portela and Alexandre Sattin battled past fellow debutants Switzerland, needing a last-leg decider to progress.
"This means so much to us," said an emotional Portela, who is based in London as he makes his emergence on the professional circuit. "I gave up so much to chase my dream and I hope we have made our families proud today."
Forensics expert Sattin, who won a qualifier in Brazil to secure his spot alongside Portela, added: "I just wanted to help Diogo out today, he has worked so hard for these moments so I didn't want to let him down."
Austrian pair Mensur Suljovic and Rowby-John Rodriguez raced past China without giving Yuanjun Liu and Weihong Li a dart at a double, averaging 90.54 as they booked a last 16 clash with Canada.
The Canadian pair of three-time World Champion John Part and newcomer John Norman Jnr defeated Hungary's Janos Vegso and Zoltan Mester 5-2 as they moved into the second round.
Saturday's second round sees the remaining 16 nations in action across two sessions at the Eissporthalle, with the format including a mixture of Singles and Doubles matches.
Diogo Portela & Alexandre Sattin Video Interview
TEARS OF JOY FROM THE BRAZILIANS! The delighted duo make it a dream debut in Frankfurt, and cannot contain the emotion in our interview. pic.twitter.com/FLslE6OKmy— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) June 2, 2017
Betway World Cup of Darts
Friday June 2
United States of America 5-1 Italy
Canada 5-2 Hungary
Austria 5-0 China
South Africa 5-3 Sweden
Brazil 5-4 Switzerland
Northern Ireland 4-5 Germany
England 5-2 Gibraltar
Netherlands 5-1 Czech Republic
Saturday June 3
Afternoon Session (2pm local time, 1pm BST)
Belgium v Greece
Wales v Republic of Ireland
Australia v Russia
Singapore v Spain
Evening Session (8pm local time, 7pm BST)
Austria v Canada
Germany v Brazil
England v South Africa
Netherlands v United States of America