Who’s who at the Mens World Championships

Who’s who at the Mens World Championships

The field is wide open for this years Mens beach Volleyball World Championship!

It’s been an interesting two years since the last WC, with a lot of teams changing partners, and a lot of different teams winning Grand Slam medals. This is partly due to the Brasilians not being as consistent as they have been in the past, possibly due to their attempt to move away from a “professional” system and into a program based system. They have switched back again from what I understand, but they have not yet steadied the boat.

Another two major factors, unfortunately, are injuries. Phil Dallhausser is out with a muscle injury and Janis Smedins is not yet ready after his knee surgery. This removes two of the strongest teams from the tournament.

I think we have about 10 teams that have a legitimate chance to take the title. As Billy Birmingham once said; “harder to pick than a broken nose”.

Format: Just a quick note on the format. We have 12 pools of 4 teams. (48 all together). 32 progress to the elimination round which is the top 2 from each group plus the best 6 3rd placed teams based on ratios. From there it’s single elimination. The elimination round is created by a random draw, so seeding becomes almost irrelevant after the group phase, although the 12 teams that finish top of their group are kept apart, so those 12 teams should get an easier first round match.

This format creates a large luck factor which can help make or break a teams result.

So let’s go through the groups, starting with Pool A…

Pool A at The Hague

Reinder Nummerdor/Christiaan Varenhorst – Netherlands
Michal Kadziola/Jakub Szalankiewicz – Poland
Carlos Escobar/David Vargas – El Salvador
Nivaldo Gomez/Sergio Gonzalez – Cuba

In this group Nummerdor–Varenhorst are clear favourites. At the end of last season they made finals at a couple tournaments (weaker fields, but still strong enough), they are coming off a silver medal last week in St Petersburg, and they are definitely in the category of teams that can beat anybody on their day. Nummerdor is a winner. He knows what it takes to play and win a big tournaments. He’s won three medals at the European Championships, he’s finished 4th at the Olympics, and if he’s desperate/crazy determined to win the World Championships in his home country… he’s a guy that could make it happen. As for Varenhorst, the 212cm blocking monster… don’t worry about him, he’ll do his job :-).

Can they win? Yes. I wouldn’t put money on it, but it’s a chance.

Kadziola–Szalankiewicz are a pair of campaigners. They are a tough team, but even at their best, they can’t crack the top teams. They should get out of this group, and are definitely good for a few upsets, but they are very unlikely to get further than the top 16, and I don’t think they’ll kill any giants along the way.

I am confident that both the Netherlands and Poland will get out of the group. The other two are likely to drop out due to poor ratios.

Pool B at Amsterdam

Rhyan Doherty/John Mayer – United States
Isaac Kapa/Christopher McHugh – Australia
Alexandr Dyachenko/Alexey Sidorenko – Kazakhstan
Sam O’Dea/Michael Watson – New Zealand

I’ll cut to the chase and say that if anyone from this group wins the tournament, it will be a HUGE surprise. Australias Kapa/McHugh might have had the form to make semis mid to late last year, but have dropped their level a little. Although they had a good result last week in St Petersburg with a 5th, they aren’t looking likely to go all the way. Semi finals would be a fantastic result for them.

USAs Doherty/Mayer have replaced Dallhauser/Rosenthal, but despite Dohertys enourmous block I don’t think have the game to get past quarter finals.

Sidorenko/Dyachenko are always interesting and upset a few teams last year, but again, not likely to go far and New Zealands Watson/O’Dea still have some work to do before they are a threat at this level.

I think it’s likely that the USA, Australia and Kazakhstan will all get through to the elimination round with fairly close games between all three teams.

Pool C at Apeldoorn

Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt – Brazil
Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst – Austria
Tiago Santos/Jefferson Santos Pereira – Qatar
Joshua Court/Damien Schumann – Australia

There are two teams in this group to watch. Alison/Bruno are obviously a chance. They haven’t shown great form yet this season, their best being a 4th in Moscow. Having said that, they are definitely capable of beating everyone in this tournament and are one of the tournament favourites.

Doppler/Horst have been steadily improving over the last two seasons. I would not be surprised to see them in the quarters, or maybe even semi finals. Can they win the tournament? Doppler has won European championships and Horst is a guy who always plays without fear. They would need a little luck, but I would hesitate to count them out of the race.

Qatar are struggling to qualify at open level so I don’t see a threat here, and Australias second team Court/Schumann, aren’t ready to cause any major upsets yet. (Hopefully they will prove me wrong ;-))

Pool D at Rotterdam

Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel – Poland
Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter – Canada
Jesus Villafañe/Jackson Henriquez – Venezuela
Usama Eltranisy/Ayman Shoukry – Egypt

The teams to watch here is Poland. Fijalek/Prudel are definitely a team that can win the tournament. They won in The Hague in 2014, and finished 3rd in 2013 so they have a good record in The Netherlands but having said that, their group is playing in Rotterdam, so it’s not the same venue that they are used to. They have beaten just about everyone at some time of another, but this season haven’t quite shown the brilliance that they did at times last season. The question is whether they are ready to play their best next week. I have a sneaky feeling they’ll bring their “A” game and we’ll see them in the semis, maybe beyond.

Canada are a steady team, but haven’t shown that they can break into the top 10.

This is another group that will probably deliver three teams to the elimination round, because Venzuela has been playing well and will give both Canada and Poland a run for their money.

Pool E at Rotterdam

Daniele Lupo/Paolo Nicolai – Italy
Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen – Netherlands
Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl – Austria
Rodrigo Salinas/Matías Tobar – Chile

This pool is going to be a lot of fun! The Italians, Nicolai/Lupo were European champions in 2014 and seemed capable of beating anyone “if they wanted to…”. There was a question of motivation or perhaps burn out after their short patch of dominance last year, but with a 5th last week in St petersburg, I think it’s safe to say that they will be ready. The question will be whether they can string together 5 good matches in a row to get through the elimination phase.

Brouwer/Meeuwsen from the Netherlands are my personal pick for this tournament. Some of the bookmakers have them ranked equal 5th favourite, which is surprising to me. I guess there is a chance that they’ll melt down under home town pressure, but there season so far has gone like this: 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 1st, 9th across Opens, Grandslams Majors and CCEV. They are clearly the “in form team” so far this season, ranked No. 1 in the world for 2015 so far, they are the defending world champions and they are playing at home. The stars seem to be aligning for these guys.

Huber/Seidl are the team that makes this pool so interesting. Although they haven’t shown great form so far this season, they have had some epic battles against the Italians, and have a 3:3 record against Brouwer/Meeuwsen, having beaten them in their last two, meetings, at the Savanger Grandslam 2014 and in Baden Masters 2014.

I think all three of these teams will progress to the elimination round leaving Chile without a chance.

Pool F at Apeldoorn

Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Martin Plavins – Latvia
Esteban Grimalt/Marco Grimalt – Chile
Steven van de Velde/Michiel van Dorsten – Netherlands
Yaroslav Koshkarev /Dmitri Barsouk – Russia

Sadly for Latvia, Janis Smedins has withdrawn due to a knee injury, and is to be replaced by Martin Plavins. I suspect these guys will be competitive but lack to edge to get far into the elimination round. Having said that, Plavins is a very good player and has been around for a long time. Between 205 and 2008 he and Samoilovs played over 40 international tournaments together, so who knows… this might be the dark horse to watch.

Grimalt/Grimalt are a good bet to get out of this pool and give anyone they meet a good shake, but they aren’t a serious contenders.

The Russians have chopped and changed a little, but this is a pretty solid combination. Both players have been around for a long time. They will be hard to beat and I think they’ll get out of the pool, worst case as the third placed team with a good points average.

Latvia should win pool F despite the absence of Smedins.

Pool G at Amsterdam

Emanuel Rego/Ricardo Santos – Brazil
Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera – Spain
Oleg Stoyanovskiy/Artem Yarzutkin – Russia
Edward Seidu Ajanako/Jonathan Scott Sarpong – Ghana

Ricardo/Emanuel, together again! Probably the greatest team of all time, these guys reunited at the end of last season, and are both still playing great volleyball. Quarter finals or better for sure.

Gavira/Herrera from Spain are also a chance. They have won a Grandslam already this season, and were European champions in 2013. My only concern is their ability to break through teams with larger blocks. They really rely on a steady side out, and play a very simple, classic style of game. Consistency is their weapon, and with the wind, and a 32 team single elimination round, I can’t see them making it to the final. However they do tend to play their best at big tournaments.

The Russians in this group are the under/21 team. They are a good team, and will push hard, but they don’t have much hope in this group.

Pool H at The Hague

Jonathan Erdmann/Kay Matysik – Germany
Ben Saxton/Chaim Schalk – Canada
Youssef Krou/Edouard Rowlandson – France
Grant Goldschmidt/Leo Williams – South Africa

Germanys Erdmann/Matysik are yet to win a Grandslam but are very tough competitors. They have been a little up and down this season with finishes between 25th and 3rd, but I think they should win this group and get to the round of 16 at least. Outside chance to win the tournament.

Both the Canadians and the French have had some solid results this season. I’m a little hesitant to say that they won’t get far in the elimination rounds. Saxton/Schalk have improved steadily over the last couple of season, and Krou/Rowlandson have also been on the up for the last 8 or 10 tournaments. Either team could get to the quarters if they get a bit lucky with the draw, but if they run into a team like Alison/Bruno or Herrera/Gavira then I think it will be lights out.

Pool I at The Hague

Tri Bourne/John Hyden – United States
Philip Gabathuler/Mirco Gerson – Switzerland
Eric Haddock/Roberto Rodríguez-Bertrán – Puerto Rico
Daan Spijkers/Tim Oude Elferink – Netherlands

Hyden/Bourne from the USA came out of nowhere last season, won the Berlin Grand Slam, and then cooled off. They are still one of the better teams around, but haven’t had impressive result for a while. Based on their recent results, I doubt they’ll get to the quarter finals.

The Swiz guys Gabathuler/Gerson also had a good run last season, but have struggled lately. I think that unless they get very lucky with the draw, they’ll be knocked out in the first or second round of elimination.

Pool J at Amsterdam

Konstantin Semenov/Viacheslav Krasilnikov – Russia
Theo Brunner/Nick Lucena – United States
Alexey Kuleshov/Dmitriy Yakovlev – Kazakhstan
Wessel Keemink/Sven Vismans – Netherlands

There are two teams in this pool who will cause some trouble. Semenov/Krasilnikov are an unpredictable team. They won the Grandslam in Moscow last year, which suggests to me that they can raise their level when they need to. Semenov is one of the biggest blockers out there, and an amazingly talented player. Going on results, you’d have to say that quarter finals are about as far as they can go, but with this team… you never know.

Lucena/Brunner look to me like a team waiting to make their mark. A 3rd place last week in ST Petersburg, but up until then, respectable but modest results. Lucena had some decent results with his previous partner, and Brunner took a bronze medal with Todd Rogers last year at the Long Beach Grand Slam. So both players have what it takes. Maybe the World Champs will be the right stage for them to make their move.

Pool K at Apeldoorn

Álvaro Filho/Vitor Gonçalves Felipe – Brazil
Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson – United States
Christian Garcia/Francisco Alfredo Marco – Spain
Julian Amado Azaad/ Pablo Bianchi – Argentina

I’m afraid I don’t rate the Brasilians Álvaro Filho/Vitor Felipe too highly. Although Álvaro won the silver medal with Ricardo at the last World Champs and has proven himself to be a very good player, from what I have seen of Vitor, he is a little too predictable.

Gibb Patterson, on the other had, are coming fresh off their first Grand Slam win together, and will be running hot. I think a final for them is unlikely, but they could be there at the quarters, but they are such a positive and well prepared unit (referring to the coaching staff as well as the players), I honestly think that they are capable of anything, so I don’t count them out.

Pool L at Rotterdam

Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Salgado – Brazil
Alexander Walkenhorst/Stefan Windscheif – Germany
Lombardo Ontiveros/Juan Virgen – Mexico
Choaib Belhaj Salah/Mohamed Naceur – Tunisia

Evandro/Pedro from Brasil can be a scary team, and if Evandros jump serve is on, they can crush anyone. They will have two problems. The length of the tournament (the need to maintain consistent form for such a long period), and the wind, which will give Evandro some trouble. I can’t see them going all the way, but quarters, or even semis are possible.

A summary of teams to watch:

This is a list of the 13 teams that are going shape the final 16. There will surely be a few unfortunate match ups early on due to the random draw system, which will see some of the top teams knock each other out at the round of 16 and in the quarters.

Evandro/Pedro – Brazil
Emanuel/Ricardo – Brazil
Alison/Bruno – Brazil

Gibb/Patterson – United States
Lucena/Brunner – United States

Herrera /Gavira- Spain

Nummerdor/Varenhorst – Netherlands
Brouwer/Meeuwsen – Netherlands

Nicolai/Lupo – Italy

Fijalek/Prudel – Poland

Konstantin Semenov/Viacheslav Krasilnikov – Russia

Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst – Austria

Isaac Kapa/Christopher McHugh – Australia

If I had to pick my two finalists, I’d have to go with Fijalek/Prudel and Brouwer/Meeuwsen.

And I’ll go with Fijalek/Prudel to take the Championship, but as I said, the chances of picking this tournament are slim… ;-)

Make sure you check out the official site of the World Championships of Beach Volleyball 2015 to stay up to date.