Dutch duo fly into last eight with win over Italians
The veterans – that have a combined age of 75 – were in no mood to be denied their place in the last four after they had been eliminated at the quarterfinal stage four years ago at Beijing 2008. Nicolai and Lupo by contrast were unable to find the form that had allowed them to knock out defending champions Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser in the previous round.
“Four years ago we had such a disappointing quarterfinal and now we are in the semis,” Nummerdor said. “There are still things we have to improve on. We had some points we didn’t capitalise on, but we served well.”
European champs on track to add to medal collection
They will now play European champions Jonas Reckermann and Julius Brink who continued their impressive form with a 21-15, 21-19 win over Brazil’s Ricardo Santos and Pedro Cunha.
The win gives the German pair the chance to end 2012 with a medal six months after their participation at London 2012 was in doubt after Reckermann was struggling with a shoulder injury. However, the European Championships was their first tournament of the season and winning it gave them the confidence that they could perform to their best at the Olympics.
“I think there were times when I was not too sure if we would be able to play a good Olympics,” Reckermann said. “But we knew at the end of June we could have a good Olympics.
“It (winning the European Championships) gave us a lot of confidence. It was our first tournament after injury and we came out of nowhere and were already competitive. We then knew that whatever happened we’d be ok and that we could do our best.”
In the first set 2009 FIVB world champions Reckermann and Brink started aggressively and kept up their barrage of attacks throughout the set. The Brazilians improved their performance in the second set and while the teams continued to take points off one another Cunha and Ricardo had no answer to Brink’s anticipation at the back of the court.
A Reckermann spike put the Germans on match point and though Brink was wide with his serve, with the second he put the Germans into the last eight when Cunha was unable to defend his spike.
Latvians into last four
Latvian duo Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins found their best form to knock Jacob Gibb and Sean Rosenthal out with a 19-21, 21-18, 15-11 victory. It means they will now play FIVB world champions Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti for a place in the final.
“It’s unbelievable,” Plavins said. I have no words to say. Every win at the Olympic Games is a huge victory for all of Latvia. Now we have five. It’s huge. We don’t want to finish fourth so we will keep on fighting.”
Gibb and Rosenthal were in control for the majority of the first set, but they displayed uncharacteristic nerves which allowed the Latvians to stay in contention. Plavins and Smedins saved two set points, but on the third Plavins over hit a shot that dropped out and gave the Americans the opening set.
Throughout the second set both teams matched each other point for point. Gibb and Rosenthal showed glimpses of the form that allowed them to win two grand slam gold medals on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour this year, while Plavins and Smedins demonstrated why they reached the semifinals at the 2011 FIVB World Championships. At 19-19, a Plavins’ spike gave the Latvians set point and he repeated the move to draw them level.
They kept up their form in the third set and didn’t allow Gibb and Rosenthal the chance to settle into their rhythm. The Americans saved one match point at 15-10, but Plavins and Smedins took their second to reach the last four.
“To play these guys and beat them on centre court in front of 15,000 people is amazing,” Smedins added. “We have to play like that again and not be scared and be confident.”
Close call for world champions
Emanuel and Alison were given a shock and needed to save one match point to beat Poland’s Mariusz Prudel and Grzegorz Fijalek 21-17, 16-21, 17-15.
The first set was evenly-matched, but when the pressure came at the end it was the Brazilians who handled it better and they won the set when Alison dropped a cleverly-placed shot just over the net.
The Polish side started the second set with a bang and scored the first three points. Alison and Emanuel used their experience to fight back and stay in contention, but the Poles pushed ahead again and drew level when Alison was unable to defend a powerful Fijalek serve.
In the deciding third set Poland had match point at 14-13, but an Emanuel spike saved it and then an Alison ace gave the Brazilians a match point of their own, which Prudel and Fijalek then saved. Another Emanuel shot gave the world champions another match point and a he then set up Alison for a trademark spike down the line to win the match.
“Emanuel had problems on attack because I was not hitting my balls very well,” Alison said. “I have never had to face a match point before in the Olympic Games, but I just concentrated on how Leticia (Leticia Pessoa, their coach) would approach this.”
In London the teams were divided equally into six pools of and the teams played each other once in their group. The top two advanced to the single-elimination knockout phase that began on August 3 along with the two best third-placed teams. The remaining four third-place teams competed in playoff matches to determine which pairs filled the final two places in the 16-team elimination bracket’s first round.
Sixteen teams qualified for the Games through the Olympic Ranking which is based primarily on world tour standings. Five more joined as winners of the AVC, CAVB, CEV, CSV and NORCECA Continental Cup Finals, and two from the World Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament. Great Britain was granted a berth as hosts.
The sold-out beach volleyball competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games is being held through Aug. 9 in a purpose-built 15,000-seat stadium on the grounds of Horse Guards Parade in central London. For current information, visit www.fivb.org.
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