Triumphant Rubio

After the last matches of the pool stage of the Tokyo 2020 men’s Olympic beach volleyball tournament were played at Shiokaze Park on Saturday, 14 of the 16 eighthfinalists are already known. World champions Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy of ROC, pool runners-up Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler of Germany, as well as USA’s Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser and Mexico’s Josue Gaxiola and Jose Luis Rubio as the two best-ranked third-placed teams, booked the latest spots in the knockouts.

The dramatic last competition day in Pool B started with a surprising first win for Gaxiola and Rubio over unbeaten Latvians Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs. After 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) Mexico’s way, the pool was left wide open, with only Plavins and Tocs with a safe spot in the next round.

“I’m very happy about this performance and satisfied with the result,” Rubio said. “In our two previous games, we didn’t get the results that we wanted. I’m very glad that we were able to achieve this victory. We achieved what we needed for the next round.”

Not your everyday block on the beach! Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy raise a double block to stop Schweiner!

Not your everyday block on the beach! Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy raise a double block to stop Schweiner!

The deciding match between Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner of Czechia and Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy started with a first-set win for the Czechs. Had the world champs lost one more, they could have well had to start packing. However, they put their act together and stormed back to a 2-1 (19-21, 21-13, 15-8) victory and the first place in the pool, pushing Perusic and Schweiner bottom of the standings and out of contention.

“After losing the first set we kept our positive mentality knowing that if we win the next two we could be first in the pool,” Oleg Stoyanovskiy told Volleyball World. “It was a really close match, because it went to a tie-breaker. In the first set, we didn’t manage to get our points in defence. The difference was only two points, which means one or two transitions. But we learned from our mistakes, tried to improve our game in the second and the third sets and I think we managed that. We are number one in the pool, but before the match we could have finished fourth. No pressure! Just an opportunity for us to get on top of the pool. And we took it.”

Clemens Wickler in defence

Clemens Wickler in defence

Earlier on Saturday, Germany’s Thole and Wickler secured the second place in Pool F and a direct pass to the eighthfinals with a 2-0 (21-16, 21-11) shutout of Yusuke ‘Gottsu’ Ishijima and Katsuhiro Shiratori in the last match of the pool. For the winless host country pair, that meant elimination from the tournament. The third place and a spot in the lucky-loser matches went to Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak.

“It’s an amazing feeling to make the next round at our first Olympics!” Thole said. “We are pretty happy with our game today. It was, as expected, a tough first set. The Japanese guys made fewer mistakes and played good side-out. We had to play good side-out through the end, because it was close points. We changed a few things in the second set, applied more service pressure, more flexibility in block-defence and I think it was the key. Clemens played great defence and we won the second set by a big distance.”

The last two tickets to the knockout stage will go to the winners of Saturday’s lucky-loser matches with the participation of four of the third-placed teams in the pools, Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak (Poland) against Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira (Spain) and Marco Grimalt and Esteban Grimalt (Chile) against Adrian Heidrich and Mirco Gerson (Switzerland).

On Saturday afternoon, after the end of the pool stage, the round of 16 fixtures were drawn (matches to be played on Sunday and Monday):

Ilya Leshukov & Konstantin Semenov (ROC) v Winner of lucky-loser match

Anders Mol & Christian Sorum (NOR) v Alexander Brouwer & Robert Meeuwsen (NED)

Evandro Goncalves & Bruno Schmidt (BRA) v Martins Plavins & Edgars Tocs (LAT)

Josue Gaxiola & Jose Luis Rubio (MEX) v Alison Cerutti & Alvaro Filho (BRA)

Cherif Younousse & Ahmed Tijan (QAT) v Nick Lucena & Phil Dalhausser (USA)

Michal Bryl & Grzegorz Fijalek (POL) v Paolo Nicolai & Daniele Lupo (ITA)

Jake Gibb & Tri Bourne (USA) v Julius Thole & Clemens Wickler (GER)

Winner of lucky-loser match v Viacheslav Krasilnikov & Oleg Stoyanovskiy (ROC)