Russia Sends Italy to the Lower Pools at EUC (Men’s)

Russia shock Europe!

Simone Gasperini and Artemy Churakov fight for a disc. Photo by Anna Krasovskaya

In the biggest upset of the men’s division (so far), Russia stunned Italy by beating them 15-11. As both teams lost to Germany, this sends Italy to third in the pool, which will means that they cannot make the power pools in the next round. The good news for the Italians is that they still have every chance to qualify for the bracket. The game was full of highlights and all around great play from both sides. The Italians will certainly rue their own mistakes and miscues, but that shouldn’t take anything away from an excellent Russian performance on both sides of the disc. The Russian men definitely raised their profile today, proving they can compete with the best teams in Europe on grass, as well as on the beach. You can watch this game on fanseat (you really should).

Russia takes half with big plays

The game started inauspiciously, as the Russians received, worked the disc patiently down the field, and then turned the disc over on an execution error. Italy immediately hucked the disc towards the end zone, and just like that, they were up one break. Russia steadied themselves on the next point, walked it down the field again, and this time put the disc in the endzone. Afterwards, the game settled down. Both teams traded points to 4-4, but it was clear that it was going to be a defensive battle. Then the Russians poached the lane very cleverly and intercepted an Italian pass. The Russians broke the mark quickly to take their first lead of the game. Russia continued to put the pressure on on defense, and the Italians had to work very hard for their next point. The Russians scored quickly right after to take the game to 6-5. The Italians then had a miscue by their own end zone, which Vladimir Kochkin capitalized on by launching a full-field throw to give Russia their second break of the game. Russian captain Nikolay Nikolaev then took to the sky on the next point, coming down with a big interception on a floating Italian pass. He called a timeout right away, knowing his team had the chance to break for half. The Italians played tight defense out of the timeout, and they forced Nikolaev into a high stall-count huck. Lucky for him, Andrey Soprunov was there to reel in the throw with an unbelievable trailing edge layout grab under immense pressure from Italian defensive standout Andrea Mastroianni to take half 8-5. That catch may have been the play of the tournament so far in this division.

Italy can’t force their way back into the game in time

At half time, Davide Morri and other Italian leaders were absolutely fuming, trying to urge their team on. It clearly worked. The Italians scored after a patient offensive point, and then converted a break opportunity after Giovanni Santucci made a fantastic layout grab on a short Russian reset. The Russian offense turned the disc over again on the next point, giving the Italians the chance to tie the game at 8-8. Unfortunately for them, Arturo Laffi dropped the disc on a wide open pass. It wasn’t his first or last mistake of the day. The Russians converted with a hammer from Nikolaev to Mikhail ‘bif’ Khudobin. Nikolaev followed that hammer up with another one from around half field moments later. The Russians got a lay out D from Petr Tomnikov on the next point to take the score to 12-8, and it looked like they were cruising. At times, Italy just didn’t have an answer for Russia’s defensive pressure. However, Italy eventually brought it within two points with a Davide Morri callahan to make the score 13-11, and it felt like that might be the spark the Italians needed to get them back on top. It was not to be as the Russians converted their next offense and broke to win right after.

Nikolaev, Khudobin, Anton Butikov, and Yegor Naumov all had stellar performances, but the entire team played well.

Post-game reactions

After the game, Nikolaev mentioned that the Italians had watched the Russia-Germany game the day before, which gave the Russian team the belief that the Italians knew they were to be taken seriously. At that moment, he knew that they had every chance to win the game. He stressed that having a variety of defensive looks was key for them, as it was impossible for the Italians to get used to any one defensive look or line. In addition, he noted that the team’s flexibility with lines was also key. Finally, he was thankful for the opportunity to play Germany beforehand, as he felt it gave them the opportunity to work out some of the team’s kinks before the decisive games.

Yegor Naumov was quick to heap praise on his team’s tight, physical defense. He also mentioned the team’s maturity in not getting emotional when there were some call discussions, and for staying focused on the game, point by point.

Italian player, Giovanni Santucci, also praised the Russians for their physical ability and tight defense, which kept them from playing their typical game. He felt the Russian defense adapted well to their system after a few points, and they made it very hard for downfield cutters to get the disc, which put too much on the shoulders of the handlers. Denying the cutters prevented their system from working how it should, and they just couldn’t adapt themselves. He also noted that his team had a lot of trouble dealing with the Russian hucks. According to Santucci, they aren’t used to facing teams that play that way in Italy, and they found it hard to cope with.

With this result, and their subsequent victory over Latvia, Russia advance to a power pool, and Italy drop down to a lower pool. Russia now have a guaranteed spot in pre-quarters1 whereas Italy will need to secure a top two finish in their lower pool to make the bracket.

  1. At minimum. If they place top two in their power pool they go straight to quarters. 

  1. Ned Garvey
    Ned Garvey

    Ned Garvey is a member of the European staff. He lives in Riga, Latvia, where he works for Meduza Project. You can find him on Twitter @subwayicon



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