Mixed pool play got exciting on Friday as stakes got higher. A pool-by-pool recap:
In Pool A, Germany and Sweden have been dominating all weekend, crushing all opponents and staying undefeated until the final game of pool play, where they faced each other. Both teams came out wanting to outclass their opponent, but only one team was able to prevail. After trading points up until 3-2 for Germany, the first break came with an impressive layout catch by Germany’s number #2 Annika ‘Nici’ Prien, who has been a scoring machine throughout the whole tournament. Sweden didn’t really find an answer for the flawless play of the Germans and quickly found themselves trailing behind 7-3. A few breaks here and there and a nice sky catch by who else than Germany’s Nici Prien. Germany won the pool and will face Poland in quarterfinals tomorrow.
Host country Spain had a hard fought victory over Switzerland, taking 3rd place in the pool and holding their initial seeding. Although they beat Switzerland, Italy and Hungary in pool play, they did not manage to qualify for quarterfinals due to two tough losses against top seeds Germany and Switzerland. In the end the Spanish just didn’t have enough point differential to qualify for the top 8. Both Italy and Hungary had some tough times during the first two days but in the end the Italians managed to get their first victory of the week against Hungary, thus keeping the complete seeding in pool A intact.
Pool B also saw two powerhouses dominate, but the other four teams ended up completely different than initially seeded. Both Russia and Portugal came out undefeated after a day and a half of pool play before facing each other to take the number one spot. Both teams had already qualified for quarter finals, but they still went head to head in what was described as a very intense but very spirited game. The highlight of the game came when Portugal’s André Carvalho scored a point by picking up the disc laying on the back of one of his teammates. A floaty disc went up, stayed up for a while, then turned back away and in the commotion the disc finally landed on a Portugal women’s player’s back just a split second after she fell down trying to catch it. A simple move in picking up the disc was all Portugal needed to score this point, but more efforts were needed to close out the game, winning it 9 to 7.
Third seed Belgium had a rough day one, coming out against strong Russia and Portugal. Both games were lost although the Belgians kept on fighting. Another disappointing loss against the French kicked them out of the quarter final race, but they did manage to step up their game on Day 2, beating both Austria and Norway. Having beaten Belgium, the French came out in 3rd place with a goal differential of 19 points, enough to get these boys and girls into the quarter final. In the bottom of the pool, Austria had some troubles connecting on the field, but did manage to knock out Norway, who has been having a difficult tournament and is still on the lookout for a first victory.
Pool C was the most interesting pool of the division. Today, both Great Britain and Ireland confirmed their status as pre-tournament favourites. They didn’t get to take on big teams like Russia, Portugal, Germany or Sweden yet, but they did manage to stay on top of their pool even though it took a lot of effort. Although Ireland started the tournament quite shaky, losing to Poland, they ran over the competition, still having a really tight win over the Netherlands (10-8 in a nailbiting game) and a convincing win in the arena over their main pool rivals GB with 11-6. A lot of uncharacteristic drops and misthrows by team GB made this game much less than the matchup it could have been. However, due to a strange seeding shakeout these teams face each other again in quarterfinals tomorrow. Be on the lookout for a great rematch. The middle of pool C could best be described as sort of mingle mingle dance-off with 3 teams playing a lead role. Poland won over Ireland and Turkey but lost two games to the Netherlands, and had a universe defeat against Great Britain. However, Turkey managed to beat the Dutch as well as UEI in pool play on day 2. The Netherlands made it real interesting by beating Poland, but in the end only one team could strike third place and Poland would be it. Due to their high goal differential at the end of pool play, this team qualified as one of the best 3rd-place teams to make it into the quarter final, alongside France from pool B (who had a better goal average than the Spain in pool A, thus qualifying for quarters.)
After all games had finished, teams rushed to the scoreboards to see who would be matched up in quarterfinals tomorrow:
Germany vs Poland
Portugal vs France
Sweden vs Russia
Ireland vs Great Britain
Not all teams agreed with the matchups, as it turns out that some teams had already faced each other during pool play, and others with semifinal aspirations could potentially get knocked out of the title race early. A quite long but interesting discussion among all team captains ended in the tournament organizing committee deciding that rules or schedules would not get changed over these issues as the schedule and seeding had been out long before the tournament and had always been open for adjustments or corrections during months leading up. No matter if the road to the finals pit pool play opponents against each other, or the two “strongest” teams facing off in quarters, teams will have to play to win. As Ireland Mixed captain Rory Kavanagh succintly expressed in the captain’s meeting: “if you want to win a tournament, you have to beat every team.” With these wise words, we eagerly anticipate quarter finals, where teams will play for all the marbles!
Headline photo by Edmundo Mercier