The final day of power pools is over, bring on the bracket
July 19, 2023 by Sean Colfer in Recap with 0 comments
The bracket is one round from being set. The teams that have made pre-quarters and crossovers are all now confirmed, and after tomorrow morning we’ll know the teams in the running and the path that everyone will need to take to glory.
It was another chalky day in open, comfortably the most predictable division so far. Outside of the upset win for Spain over Italy, we are largely where we thought we’d be. Great Britain, Belgium, Germany and France have all qualified for the bracket already while eight other teams will play pre-quarters to see who plays them.
The most notable game in open today, outside of a close one between Italy and Belgium that was decided by a break on the last point for the Belgians for a 15-13 win, was between Austria and Ireland in the last round. Both teams knew they had already qualified for the bracket, but the winner would play Spain and the loser would play Italy. There was some discussion on the sideline with spectators which matchup would be preferable, and the Austrians chose this game to rest several key contributors.
“We kind of tried to block out any thoughts about what would happen if we didn’t win,” said Ireland player Aidan Kelly. “We can’t really control what the other teams do in terms of their mindset. We thought if we can beat Austria we can beat whoever lies ahead after that. There definitely did seem to be a lack of intensity at some points, especially in the middle third of the game, and we did address that in the spirit circle. At the end of the day we can only play the team ahead of us. We played Italy in game one, they’re obviously a very established team that we know a lot about. I feel like regardless of whether we played them or Spain we were going to be looking to take the win against a team we’ve played before and Spain showed themselves that Italy are beatable in a one-off match. That’s the way we’re approaching it.”
The game was decided early on with a run of six points in a row to put Ireland 7-2 up, but both teams took breaks in the second half and the eventual score was 15-10, so hardly a blow out.
That leaves Ireland playing Italy, with the winner to face France in the quarters. Austria will play Spain with the winner meeting Belgium1, Denmark play Switzerland, with the winner against GB, and finally Sweden play the Czech Republic with the winner meeting Germany. Those games take place in the second timeslot tomorrow.
There were some interesting results in the women’s division today, with two unexpected losses for France. First, Italy triumphed 13-9 in a game that looked likely to decide top of the pool. The Italians raced out to a 6-2 lead thanks to several breaks driven forward by the handling and dynamic throwing of Gaia Pancotti and Susanna Casarini2. An assassin zone taking out star French handler Aline Mondiot worked very effectively, with Margherita Giovannini taking the assignment more often than not. Chloe Vallet was doing a good job trying to drive the offense forward but without Mondiot’s expansive throwing the Italian zone was able to generate turns in long, punishing points. France staged something of a comeback after the Italians took half 8-4 and backed it up with an immediate break for a 9-4 lead. Four French points in a row made it interesting as the Italians looked slightly nervous despite putting on power lines. Eventually, though, they found the hold and got back on a roll. The Italians pushed the pace at all times, picking up quickly pretty much every time the disc hit the deck. Casarini threw two assists for breaks, Gianna Arcangeli ran the O line well when needed, and the final point was an absolute pearl of a throw from Elena Benghi right to Irene Scazzieri in stride.
The French followed that up with a game against a Belgian side that had had some good performances but lost to the three elite teams they had played up to this point3. The first half looked more of the same with the French taking it 3-8. From there, though, Belgium played brilliantly. Maria Castillo, who had been reasonably quiet for a player of her ability, went absolutely nuclear in the second half, accounting for five points on her own and pushing the Belgian offense superbly alongside the inside breaks of Ella Cromheecke. The French staggered under the pressure of the different Belgian D looks and Sophie Matthys topped it all off with a spectacular layout block on Mondiot. A 9-3 run of their own out of half meant that Belgium took the lead 12-11, their first lead since 1-0. The teams traded to 14-13 to send the French O line out to take the game to universe. Matthys used her long reach to block Mondiot’s backhand huck and give Belgium a short field. They worked the disc to the centre of the field about 10 metres out and took a timeout. After some more calm offense under heavy pressure Eva Maxson found Matthys alone in the endzone with an inside shot and ended the game, 15-13 to Belgium.
That means that two quarters are now set. France will play Great Britain after GB lost to Germany early on today and then beat Switzerland4 . The Czech Republic, meanwhile, will play Belgium for a spot in the semis. Germany and Italy, the power pool winners, await the winners of the crossovers, where Switzerland play Austria and Sweden play the Netherlands.
The Netherlands had some close losses early in the tournament and were disappointed to be pushed into the lower power pool. They responded by winning all four games and putting themselves in a position to reach the quarters.
“I am super proud, especially of our mentality,” said captain Paula Baas. “It was super tough losing out on the power pools by basically two points, two universe point losses, and we were super disappointed about that for a while but we immediately knew we were going to fight super hard to come back. We respect our opponents but we thought we might have some games where we were more comfortable and we could rotate through the lines, do some zones we hadn’t done yet in the tournament. We kept our energy super high and that’s how we won some games because we kept going and going.”
They also thought that the energy levels that have kept the Dutch going would help them against Sweden’s short but talented roster: “We shouldn’t underestimate them even though they have so few people but I think we will bring the energy on the field and on the sideline as well, and if we cannot do it with our legs we’ll do it with our sideline and try to get into their heads and outrun them.”
The mixed division was slightly less chaotic than it was yesterday, but there was still time for some intrigue in the final games of power pools.
Ireland played Italy and GB played Germany this morning in the final matches of power pool F. Ireland’s win over Italy was expected and ended up being reasonably routine, the game ending 15-9. Ireland went up 4-0 and never looked back, with Italy only able to secure one break on the Irish offense.
The game between GB and Germany was closer. GB edged ahead at the start but Germany took two breaks in a row in the middle of the first half. GB punched back and the first half ended on serve, 8-7 to GB. GB broke twice out of half, only for Germany to take one back immediately. Another GB break proved the final turning point, though, and they were able to trade the win out from 13-10 up to take it 15-12. The defensive ability of GB’s female-matching players was crucial in the win, with Levke Walczak and Nici Prien, two of Germany’s standout O line stars, having to work extremely hard to generate the offense they’re accustomed to. While the D line conversion of both teams will be something of a concern going into the bracket, GB seem to have more answers than the Germans at the moment. Germany was missing key players, though, including Lena Trautmann who remains a doubt.
On the other side, France got the job done against Lithuania and a comeback 15-13 win by Poland over Slovakia5 avoided an incredibly unusual five-way tie in the power pool, where all teams would have been 2-3 when taking out France. Alas, the goal difference confusion was avoided by the Poles taking the win, sending Slovakia to bottom and Poland to second in the pool.
This all means that Ireland are now the top seed with France second. Both teams get a bye while pre-quarters happen tomorrow morning. Ireland await the winner of Latvia/Finland, while France will play the winner of Germany/Austria thanks to Germany’s fourth-place finish after losing two games in the power pool. It’s a nightmare situation for both Germany and France, who will now have to play three very difficult games to win the title when they would have hoped for a slightly more straightforward quarter.
Meanwhile, GB face Switzerland with the winner facing either Lithuania or the Czechs, and Poland play Hungary before taking on the winner of Italy against Slovakia. The seeds would suggest we’re looking at GB and Lithuania playing in one quarter and Poland facing Italy in the other, but we’ve seen some upsets already in mixed. GB’s side of the bracket would then very likely see the Germans or the French in the semi, while Ireland would see Italy, Poland or a surprise package.
Knockout play starts in the morning. It’s set to be the last day of decent weather, but it’s unlikely to be the last day with some decent drama.
For whom Ben Jonkers was back on the field today. ↩
Who was also throwing huge pulls down to give Italy great field position. ↩
15-5 to GB, 15-11 to Germany and 15-10 to Italy. ↩
The Germany game wasn’t as close as expected even with both teams already confirmed as making the bracket and the game being much less meaningful than others. GB also struggled with the Swiss so it’s something to keep an eye on against a very talented French team that is now backed into a corner. ↩
Poland trailed 12-13 and scored three in a row to win. ↩