08.07.2021 - Vienna, Austria
The beach volleyball pools for the Tokyo Olympics are set! The drawing of lots was concluded on Monday in Moscow and we’ve already brought you all the relevant info about it.
Now it’s time to dive a little deeper and get some insights on what to be looking for when the Olympics come in a few weeks. We started with the women and now it’s time to look at the men.
Teams: Anders Mol/Christian Sørum (Norway), Konstantin Semenov/Ilya Leshukov (Russian Olympic Committee), Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera (Spain), Christopher McHugh/Damien Schumann (Australia)
What to Expect: If the Norwegians get back to their form of two years ago, it will be difficult to stop them from winning the pool. Russians and Spanish are strong in their own ways and have every reason to think about winning medals but will need to play their best to handle the Australians, who are not constant presences in the World Tour but play a crafty and entertaining style of beach volleyball.
Key Match: Semenov/Leshukov vs. Herrera/Gavira. Finishing second or third in the pool might make a big difference as it could potentially avoid an always dangerous extra elimination match and that’s what could be at stake here. It will also be interesting to see what the Russians do to stop the Spanish, who are a real side out machine.
Did You Know? With his appearance in Tokyo, Herrera will become just the third beach volleyball player to compete in five different editions of the Games, joining Olympic champions Emanuel Rego of Brazil and Natalie Cook of Australia. USA’s Kerri Walsh Jennings was in four Olympics as a beach volleyball player and in another one playing indoors.
Teams: Oleg Stoyanovskiy/Viacheslav Krasilnikov (Russian Olympic Committee), Ondrej Perusic/David Schweiner (Czech Republic), Martins Plavins/Edgars Tocs (Latvia), Jose Rubio/Josue Gaxiola (Mexico)
What to Expect: There should be intense fight on this pool as each team on it can beat any other on any given day. The Russians are the reigning world champions and still the favorites but they’ve been inconsistent and already lost to Czechs and Mexicans on the World Tour. The Latvians missed some tournaments this year and will probably be better-rested than most of their opponents but will also need to quickly find their best form.
Key Match: Stoyanovskiy/Krasilnikov vs. Plavins/Tocs. Any match on this pool will have meaningful implications in every team’s situation but this one is hard to pass. It reunites the only two players with Olympic experience in the pool, Krasilnikov and Plavins, and is an interesting clash of styles as the Russians are known for their power while the Latvians excel on their ball control.
Did You Know? Rubio and Gaxiola were technically the last men’s team to secure their place in Tokyo as the day after they helped Mexico winning the NORCECA Continental Cup they had to get back on the court to play countrymen Juan Virgen and Lombardo Ontiveros for the right of representing their country at the Olympics.
Teams: Cherif Younousse/Ahmed Tijan (Qatar), Jake Gibb/Taylor Crabb (USA), Adrian Carambula/Enrico Rossi (Italy), Adrian Heidrich/Mirco Gerson (Switzerland)
What to Expect: The Qatari started the season on fire, appearing in three-straight gold medal matches in Cancun, and are probably the better-equipped to deal with Tokyo’s heat. The Italians are also in good form in 2021 and counted on several good results to qualify. Gibb and Crabb have always had a good balance on their team while Heidrich and Gerson might still be hot after winning the European Continental Cup Finals. It’s a tough pool to predict with four teams that could finish anywhere from first to last.
Key Match: Carambula/Rossi vs. Heidrich/Gerson. These teams battled out for months trying to get in to the top-15 of the Olympic rankings and qualify for Tokyo. The Italians ultimately did it, but the Swiss eventually found their way to Japan via the Continental Cup. Now they could play each other for the right of remaining in the Olympic tournament.
Did You Know? Three of the eight players in the pool were born in different countries than the ones they play for. Cherif was born in Senegal, Ahmed in Gambia and Carambula in Uruguay.
Teams: Alison Cerutti/Alvaro Filho (Brazil), Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen (Netherlands), Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (USA), Julian Azaad/Nicolas Capogrosso (Argentina)
What to Expect: The Argentineans will have a tough life here with three teams with Olympic medalists on it. Alison is the reigning Olympic champion and had some good results with Alvaro despite been inconsistent at times. The Dutch recently ended a long draught of titles at the World Tour and might be getting back to the team that was among the best in the world. The Americans have long been among the elite of the sport and even though they’re bon on their 40s, can still upset the best. It’s likely these three teams will qualify, but it’s hard to predict in which order.
Key Match: Alison/Alvaro vs. Dalhausser/Lucena. This could very well be the last time we see two of the most dominant blockers in the story of the sport playing each other as Dalhausser is about to retire. It that alone wasn’t enough, Alvaro and Lucena are among the planet’s most spectacular defenders.
Did You Know? This is easily the pool with the most Olympic medalists on it. Alison (one gold, one silver), Brouwer (one bronze), Meeuwsen (one bronze) and Dalhausser (one) have as many medals among them as the players from all other five pools combined.
Teams: Grzegorz Fijalek/Michal Bryl (Poland), Evandro Goncalves/Bruno Schmidt (Brazil), Marco Grimalt/Esteban Grimalt (Chile), Mohamed Abicha/Zouheir Elgraoui (Morocco)
What to Expect: This pool will give teams that haven’t been brilliant yet in 2021 a chance to warm up ahead of the elimination. In theory, Poland and Brazil should fight for the top spot with the Chileans probably beating the Moroccan for third place. Fijalek/Bryl and Evandro/Bruno are two teams with the potential to win medals and they will have a chance to show it right from the start.
Key Match: Evandro/Bruno vs. Fijalek/Bryl. In terms of quality and experience, it’s hard to beat these two teams. They met only once before, in an amazing battle at the 2019 Vienna Major in which Bruno got injured near the end, so it would be fun to see both teams at their best playing each other again.
Did You Know? Marco Grimalt will experience a very special moment in his career before hitting the sand in Tokyo as he was selected to be one of Chile’s flag bearers in the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
Teams: Yusuke ‘Gottsu’ Ishijima/Katsuhiro Shiratori (Japan), Julius Thole/Clemens Wickler (Germany), Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo (Italy), Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak (Poland)
What to Expect: The Japanese might be playing at home but will have to play lights out to stand a chance of moving to the elimination round. They had a difficult draw with three of the best teams in Europe and the entire world. Thole and Wicker had a fantastic 2019 but have struggles with injures this season. The Italians might have never repeated their 2016 form, in which they won the EuroBeachVolley and took silver in Rio, but are still among the best in the world. And the Polish gave strong signs of returning to their top form this year with an impressive run that secured their spots in Tokyo.
Key Match: Thole/Wickler vs. Lupo/Nicolai. These teams got agonizingly close to winning two of the most important tournaments in the last five years, with the Italians taking silver at the Olympics and the Germans doing the same at the 2019 World Championships. They've met twice on the World Tour and both times the match went to three sets and the winner didn’t have more than three points of advantage in the tie-breaker, meaning there’s no shortage of excitement when they are on opposing sides of the net.
Did You Know? Not very well-known on the World Tour, the Japanese have both been at the Olympics already. The 44-year-old Shiratori has competed in both the Beijing 2008 and the London 2012 Games while the 37-year-old Ishijima went to China as part of Japan’s indoor volleyball team.