THURSDAY NIGHT RUNDOWN
As we peek into matchups coming up for quarters and semis let's remember that there's been a fair amount of close games and the parity and spirit here is a pleasure to experience.
Where once it looked like USA might run away with all six divisions the results from yesterday have upset that prediction and placed USA in a weaker position heading towards the finals.
The biggest upset may have been in the Open division as Italy overtook and outplayed the United States in a showcase match at the Beach Arena. Playing loose, relaxed and connecting on wild scoobers and long hucks, the Italians seemed to get in the heads of the tight Americans whose number of unforced errors was remarkably high.
It may have been a good thing for the Americans to knock them down a notch early enough in the tournament to not suffer any real loss of positioning. The next game after the loss the American offense that looked quite shoddy in the showcase match went 8-8 against the Germans to put away a tough opponent.
The upset placed Italy atop the pool, followed by United States, Philippines and Germany and all four teams looked solid on the beach with tight games against each other. The strength of this "pool of death" will strongly test Pool A in quarters as what appears to be a weaker side with Switzerland at the top (but let's not forget they have more than a few Paga all-stars on the team) followed by Canada, Spain -- unexpectedly, in my book -- and Austria.
It's interesting to note that the teams that are closest to Venice -- Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Spain—have been the biggest surprises of the tournament so perhaps a regional advantage exists.
The news is already out that Great Britain squeaked by USA on double game point yesterday sending the Americans to their first loss and propelling GB atop the leader board. It didn't last long however. By the end of the day today the American women re-adjusted their cuts to orient less on massive deeps and unders and more on shorter more economical maneuvering appropriate for the beach. It must've worked as they put up enough points on Canada in a 10-6 win to virtually lock up first place as Canada had earlier defeated Great Britain 9-7.
Fighting to make semis are Germany and Finland, both at 6-3 and both playing 8-1 teams tomorrow (Great Britain and Canada). Germany has the edge with a win and tiebreaker over Finland and Finland is rumored to be losing some of their players tomorrow meaning semis should look like this:
USA (1) versus Germany (4). Pool play result was a USA win 11-8.
Great Britain (2) vs. Canada (3). Pool play was a Canada win 9-7.
These four teams are evenly matched and the GB-Canada game is expected to be quite a battle.
Estonia's Sexy Legs, despite their thrilling come-from-behind win over a top-loaded Australian squad, are out of the running for quarterfinals. At 4-4 they appear to have a shot with one more game tomorrow to close at 5-3 and tie Poland if Poland falls to the Netherlands. However, head-to-head Poland wins a tie so they are locked into the fourth seed in pool B meaning Poland—coming out of an initial #17 seeding—will cross over to play the British tomorrow in quarters.
Rounding out pool B will be Switzerland in the second spot presuming they take care of business with Italy. Riding high with an impressive showing and the pedigree is Germany, defending silver medalists and frequent beach tournament winners. Tonight they play Australia under the lights in the highlight match which will certainly be their strongest test yet but one they are expected to overcome.
What it looks like at the moment is this:
USA (1) versus Australia (3)
Germany (1) versus Portugal (3)
Great Britain (2) versus Poland (4)
Switzerland (2) versus Austria (4)
Some note here: Poland's team is based on the club team Grandmaster Flash and their run to success here is somewhat of a surprise and a great thing for growing ultimate in the country.
If my guess at the snake is correct (its what Open is doing) then Australia's mixed team, the one expected to medal, could be relegated to a fight for 5th pretty quickly.
Switzerland's success caught me off guard, I was not privy to knowing what kind of team they put together and have not seen a Swiss mixed team to my knowledge at Paganello in recent years.
Great Britain's resurgence behind the Forth twins is for real and the do have every mean of defending their title.
Germany, you just have a sense, could be the team whose year has arrived. Led by international jet-setter playboy Ruë and his merry band of Munich-stein raisers, they will have a lot of mojo on their side.