Italian pair ends Rogers and Dalhausser's reign
2012 Olympic Games
London, Great Britain, August 3, 2012. Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo put a late-night lucky losers’ match behind them to return to the court less than 24 hours later and beat reigning Olympic champions Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser in the last 16 of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The Italians had to play Canadians Martin Reader and Josh Binstock late on Thursday after they had finished third in their pool, but they won and served notice that they were finding their form at their debut Olympics and continued their upswing in form to finish with a 21-17, 21-19 victory over the USA pair at Horse Guards Parade.
“It is great, it’s fantastic, we’ve played the best team in the world and we won,” Nicolai said. “I think we played well throughout the match and had great intensity. For Italy it was already an historic Olympics as we are the first men’s team to come and now we have beaten the reigning Olympic champions.”
The pair were close to not making it to London, but squeezed through in the last qualifying tournament on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour in front of their home fans in Rome. It was Lupo, who hails from outside Rome, who won the match with a spike that Dalhausser was unable to defend.
“Our aim was to just qualify and in Rome we had difficulty getting here,” Lupo said. “Once we got here we knew we could play, though at the start we weren’t at our best physically, but now we are fully fit and focused.”
For Rogers and Dalhausser it was a disappointing end to the defence of their Olympic gold medal. They threatened to come back in the second set, but the Italians had done enough to keep them at arm’s length.
“People say they are the new Phil and Todd and they out-Phil and Todded us tonight,” Rogers said. “They pushed us hard when there were crucial points. I’m bummed this is my last Olympics, I won’t be going on to Rio.”
Ricardo Santos and Pablo Herrera were opponents at the Athens 2004 final, when Ricardo won gold with Emanuel Rego and the two met again in their last 16 match. Once again Ricardo finished on the winning side as he and Pedro Cunha beat Herrera and Gavira 21-18, 21-19 to progress.
The Brazilians built up a quick lead and while the Spaniards threatened a comeback towards the end of the set, it was a little too late. The Spaniards stayed in contention throughout the second set, but when the crucial points came it was the Brazilians who held their nerve.
“Ricardo’s blocking in the last two points was great,” Cunha said. “We struggled a bit in the second set and our tactics didn’t work like they did in the first, but it turned out all right in the end.”
Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins reached the quarter-finals after they beat Norwegian duo Martin Spinnangr and Tarjei Skarlund. It means Plavins improves on his performance from Beijing 2008, when he reached the round of 16 alongside Aleksandrs Samoilovs. “It's great,” he said. “For beach volleyball the best age is between 31 and 35 and I'm just 27 and my partner is 25. If we keep going like this who knows how far we'll go in the next Olympics? But for now, we're focusing on how far we are going to get in this tournament.”
The Latvian pair didn’t take long to beat the Norwegians, who had come through the Continental Cup to qualify for London 2012 and they won 21-18, 21-16 in 34 minutes.
"We were so nervous but so were they and that's why we won,” Plavins added. “The match was very bad. I’m not sure what our coach will say. We made so many mistakes, but I’m so happy that we won, so it’s not important anymore."
Their fellow Eastern Europeans Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel continued their impressive run at London 2012 when they eliminated Swiss pair Patrick Heuscher and Jefferson Bellaguarda with a 21-18, 21-17 win.
The result sets up a likely match against FIVB world champions Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti in the quarter-finals.
“I am not so sure Brazil is going win,” Fijalek said. “But we’ll see. We are going to watch the game.”
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