World Championship Field Cut in Half

Today was the World Championships day of pain. There are no other major tournaments that eliminate 32 teams in a single day, but today 16 men’s teams and 16 women’s teams had their world championship dreams end. Some of the departing teams were thrilled to have made it this far while others liked their chances of leaving Rome as World Champions. There’s no time to shed tears for the departed though because this tournament just keeps getting better and better.

Switching gears for the final four rounds

The two teams we’ve been following at the World Championships met their fate today. Kusti Nolvak & Mart Tiisaar of Estonia ended Dan Dearing & Sam Schachter wild ride with a comprehensive 21-18, 21-16 win. Our new women’s team, Esmée Böbner & Zoé Vergé-Dépré were on the losing end of a three setter against Joana Heidrich & Anouk Verge-Depre in a close battle of Swiss sisters (20-22, 21-17, 15-7).

Zoé Vergé-Dépré catches her sister going the wrong way in the all Swiss matchup at the World Championships. Photo by Volleyball World.

I realize that all of you following along are destined for a serious case of whiplash if we keep switching teams every round, so I’m calling it quits on the journey experiment. It was a blast following Sam & Dan and Leila & Lidy while we hardly got to know Esmée & Zoé.

From here on out, the blog will cover the entire World Championships. So lets get started.

Canadian World Champs love facing Brazil

Melissa Humana-Paredes & Sarah Pavan went 3-0 and won their pool. What did that get them? It got them another big dose of Brazil, that’s what. They already got started knocking out South Americans with a win over Taiana & Hegeile (18-21, 21-18, 15-10) in today’s round of 32. Tomorrow they will face Talita Antunes & Rebecca Cavalcant and if they win that, they get the winner of Carol & Barbara Seixas vs. Duda & Ana Patricia.

Sarah Pavan stuffs Taiana at the World Championships.
Sarah Pavan stuffs Taiana at the World Championships. Photo by Volleyball World.

The bracket couldn’t have come out any worse for the Brazilian federation as they will get a maximum of one team into the semifinals and only if they can beat the World Champs. If you are feeling bad for the Canadians, think again. Their run to the Jurmala Elite 16 crown included three straight matches against the three remaining Brazilian teams and they won them all. If they make the semifinals it may come as a shock to them to see a non-Brazilian team on the other side of the net.

Other things to watch in the women’s bracket

Katja Stam & Raïsa Schoon and Taliqua Clancy & Mariafe Artacho del Solar are meeting too soon. Australia lost in pool play and as a result they face the top seeds in the second round. That means one of the pretournament favorites is sure to lose tomorrow. I’m still betting on Katja and Raïsa to win the whole tournament, but if Australia gets their serve going then look out.

Germany, USA, Switzerland and Italy all have two women’s teams left and Canada has a second team as well. Latvia, Australia and the Netherlands each have one team left and of course, Brazil have three. Canada, Germany and the USA are in different bracket quadrants and could possibly get two World Championship medals.

The two Italian teams are a big surprise as neither Valentina Gottardi & Marta Menegatti or Margherita Bianchin & Claudia Scampoli were expected to get this far and since they play in the next round they are guaranteed one in the quarterfinals.

Valentina Gottardi & Marta Menegatti pose for their adoring fans after another win at the World Championships.
Valentina Gottardi & Marta Menegatti pose for their adoring fans after another win at the World Championships. The Beach is in Rome and their surprising success is creating even more Italian fans pf the sport. Photo by Volleyball World.

Joana Heidrich & Anouk Verge-Depre beat Tina Graudina & Anastasija Kravcenoka badly (21-19, 21-13) in Pool C just a few days ago. This was the bronze medal matchup in the Tokyo Olympics where the Swiss also won. Can the Latvians reverse the trend or will the Swiss knock them out of the World Championships tomorrow.

Germany ready to steal the show

Svenja Muller & Cinja Tillmann won Ostrava, didn’t play in Jurmala and have won every match so far in Rome. They probably can’t remember the last time they lost a beach volleyball match. They face American’s Sarah Sponcil & Terese Cannon tomorrow and if they can keep winning they’ll battle the winner of the Dutch/Australia battle for a place in the semifinals.

Meanwhile, Karla Borger & Julia Sude are on another kind of undefeated streak. They don’t seem to ever lose in Rome. The German pair won the 2021 World Tour Finals in this same beautiful stadium and are unbeaten if four matches this summer. They will have to get past Canadians Sophie Bukovec & Brandie Wilkerson and then they’d play the winner of the all Italian battle for a shot in the semis.

No Qatar vs Norway in men’s gold medal match

There is still a lot of volleyball to be played, so I’m getting ahead of myself, but if you were dreaming of a gold medal match between Anders Mol & Christain Sorum and Cherif Samba & Ahmed Tijan, I’m sorry to tell you it isn’t going to happen. We actually knew it was unlikely long before the tournament started because Pool D and Pool H winners were destined to meet in the semifinals. That is much better than the quarterfinals of course, but if they both continue their form and make it that far, semifinal number one will be the must see match of the tournament.

Anders Mol gets so high over the net in this block against Mathew Immers in the round of 32.
Anders Mol gets so high over the net in this block against Mathew Immers in the round of 32. Photo by Volleyball World.

Look out for Brazil

There are 16 men’s teams remaining and four of them are from Brazil. Unlike their female counterparts, the Brazilian men’s bracket gives them a chance to sweep all the medals. And remember that Evandro & Alvaro aren’t even here!

For Brazil to get a medal sweep these are the biggest obstacles:

  • Alison & Guto have to beat Mol & Sorum in the quarters
  • Either Bruno & Saymon or Andre & George have to beat Ahmed & Cherif
  • Renato & Vitor Felipe have to beat Cottafava & Nicolai

When I write it that way, it seems kind of unlikely that Brazil pick up any medals at all, but having four in the final sixteen is pretty impressive.

Repeat offenders

Alison Cerutti (2011 & 2015), Alexander Brouwer & Robert Meeuwsen (2013), Bruno Schmidt (2015) and Andre Loyola (2017) have all won a World Championship before. Only the Dutch pair is playing with their championship winning partner in Rome, but all of these men are just four wins away from taking the top step on the podium again.

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