Volleyball Nations League 2021 - News

Yorick de Groot celebrates in Doha

Yorick de Groot celebrates in Doha

With little over a week before the start of the Beach Volleyball World Championships from June 10 to 19 in Rome, Italy, there are some great matches to look forward to. The 12 pools drawn on Tuesday all have their favourites and underdogs and here's a look at some of the highlights.

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Pool G is probably the toughest to call. The line-up is led by recent World Ranking leaders Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot of the Netherlands. They skipped the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite16 events in Ostrava and Jurmala for health reasons, however, and it is still unclear what kind of shape they will be in at the World Champs.

Meanwhile, Spanish standouts Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira, who are seeded third in the pool, have shown some great form recently. They reached the semifinals in Ostrava last week and the final of the Madrid Futures two weeks earlier. Currently seventh in the World Ranking, the experienced Spaniards are likely to assume the role of pool favourites.

Austria’s Moritz Pristauz and Martin Ermacora, seeded second in the pool, have had mixed success on the Beach Pro Tour so far. They did well at the Challenge tournaments in Itapema and Kuşadası, and particularly well in Doha, where they claimed bronze, but failed to make the main draw in Jurmala, dropping out in the deciding qualifier. It has become clear, however, that the Austrians are capable of winning against the big teams like they did against Boermans and De Groot in the match for third place in Doha.

The fourth team of the pool, Wu Jiaxin and Ha Likejiang of China, will be less familiar to their opponents, which may be an advantage. Chinese pairs have not played at high-level Beach Pro Tour or FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour events since the pandemic broke out, but as their women’s teams demonstrated at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the country’s elite beach volleyballers have not just been resting at home all this time.

Another pool that certainly looks difficult to predict is Pool I, where all four teams have a reasonable shot at advancing straight to the elimination rounds. It features Robin Seidl and Philipp Waller of Austria and Chilean cousins Marco and Esteban Grimalt of Chile, who are neighbours in the current World Ranking at positions nine and ten, respectively. While the Austrians have done well on the Beach Pro Tour so far, always successful in the Elite16 qualifiers and always finishing at least ninth, the Chileans have enjoyed a steady improvement starting from their 33rd place in Tlaxcala, and going up to 17th in Rosarito, ninth in Itapema and fifth in Doha and Kuşadası.

Also in the pool, and after finishing fifth at their international debut as a pair in Kuşadası, Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Maciej Rudol failed to make it past the qualifiers at the Elite16 events in Ostrava and Jurmala. Obviously, they are still trying to find their rhythm, but given the quality of the two players, it would not be surprising if they find it when it matters the most, at the World Championship.

The fourth team in Pool I consists of two silver medallists at the two most recent FIVB U21 Beach Volleyball World Championships. Jakob Windisch and Gianluca Dal Corso, or any Italian pair for that matter, are not to be underestimated, especially with the support of the home crowd at Foro Italico.

It will also be interesting to observe the clash between the two South American duos, Bruno Schmidt/Saymon Barbosa of Brazil and Nicolas Capogrosso/Tomas Capogrosso of Argentina, who are in the company of home favourites Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi in Pool A. Also look out for the all-Brazilian duel between Renato/Vitor Felipe and Alison Cerutti/Gustavo Carvalhaes in Pool L, who will also have to deal with Coolangatta Futures gold medallists Izac Carracher and Mark Nicolaidis of Australia.

Talented Norwegians Mathias Berntsen and Hendrik Mol showed good progress at the Kuşadası Challenge and in the Jurmala Elite16 qualifiers. It will be exciting to see if they can stand up to USA’s top-ranked pair Chaim Schalk and Theodore Brunner like they did in the first set of their Rosarito encounter.

While another Norwegian pair, Olympic champions Anders Mol and Christian Sorum are the main candidates for the top of Pool H, that pool also offers a promising clash between Chile’s Noe Aravena/Vicente Droguett and the Netherlands’ Leon Luini/Ruben Penninga. Both teams made headlines on the Beach Pro Tour earlier this season, progressing from the qualifiers to the medals, a Tlaxcala silver for the Chileans and an Itapema bronze for the Dutch. The race in this pool is further spiced up by the presence of Italy’s Carlo Bonifazi and Davide Benzi, who topped the Songkhla Futures podium at their Beach Pro Tour debut.