Brecel backed as future champ
Luca Brecel will become the youngest player to appear in a World Championship on Sunday but the Belgian insists he can handle the spotlight.
At the age of 17 years and 43 days, Brecel will tackle Scotland's 31-year-old world number seven Stephen Maguire.
But after seeing off four experienced players to survive the qualifying competition, Brecel heads to the Crucible with soaring confidence.
And he said: "The bigger the occasion, the better I seem to handle it."
Brecel, who left school at 14 to be home-tutored, has never previously qualified for a major ranking event but he beat four established names in Ian McCulloch, Barry Pinches, Michael Holt and Mark King to earn his place in Sheffield.
His calm nature played a key role in seeing off King last Sunday, and although Maguire represents altogether tougher opposition, snooker's new boy wonder will relish what will surely be the first of many visits to the World Championship.
There were hugs on the balcony between his parents, Carlo and Mirella, and the teenager's English coach Chris Henry after the win over King.
"They've put their life into my career," Brecel said. "I give massive consideration to my parents for their help - all the time they've spent to bring me to the UK for qualifiers and all their financial investment as well."
He joked of the Crucible visit: "They'll watch this one from home."
Interest in Belgium has soared, rising beyond a fascination with the teenager who was filmed making a nine-minute maximum break as a 12-year-old to belief the country has bred a future Crucible winner.
Brecel himself has no doubt, saying after his victory over King: "I believe I can be a future world champion."
Henry, who hails originally from Accrington, is a coach who steered Peter Ebdon towards the 2002 world title and has in recent years been working closely with Stephen Hendry.
Hendry was quick to contact Henry on Sunday, keen to know if Brecel had broken his Crucible age record. In 1986, Hendry was 17 years and three months old when he made his debut, losing to Willie Thorne.
Ronnie O'Sullivan has even suggested in the past Brecel is a player who could threaten Hendry's record of seven world titles.
Being a fluent Flemish speaker is a benefit to Brugge-based Henry as he nurtures Brecel's talent.
Henry never doubted the youngster would fulfil his potential, having spotted the basis on which to develop a champion when they first met.
"I've been working with Luca on and off for six or seven years," Henry said.
"He loves the big crowds. His temperament for snooker is perfect.
"We organised an exhibition with Stephen Hendry in Brugge. Stephen said afterwards, 'I have never seen anybody walk into a room of 700, 800 people all shouting, looking like he was just at home in his living room'.
"Stephen said that he has something very special."
That match was played in January 2010 and Brecel, 14 at the time and the European Under-19 champion, won it 4-1.
"I first saw him when he was 10," Henry said.
"You could tell immediately that he had something very special. He just shone. He just stood out.
"And it's proved to be the case."
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