The open division is on track for a blockbuster final
July 20, 2023 by Sean Colfer in Recap with 0 comments
Two of the best teams in the division won with very little fanfare today. Great Britain played Switzerland for the second time in succession1 and came through 15-8, while Belgium defeated Spain by the same scoreline.
GB won 15-3 in the game between the teams yesterday but Switzerland looked more energetic and engaged in the game, managing to break the GB offense twice in the second half. Despite the improvements, the gulf between the two teams was evident with GB’s D line looking in top form ahead of the semis. Joel Terry, Hayden Slaughter, Sam Cameron and Andrew Warnock have all had good weeks so far, as have many other members of this unit.
Belgium also won while giving up only a single break, dealing well with the Spanish quick movement offense and managing to impose their athletic ability on their opponents. They seem to have learned a lesson after starting slowly against Italy in the power pools because they broke off a 5-1 start in the previous game against the Czechs and did the same here, scoring three points in a row at the start of both halves. The scoring was spread across almost the entire roster as the Belgians, too, look primed and ready for the semis. Benjamin Zwarts, with three blocks and a goal, was probably the pick of the bunch although the three goal, one assist and one block performance by Tobe Decraene was also very good.
Italy and France brought together players that know each other extremely well. Key France handler Quentin Roger plays for BFD La Fotta with many of the Italian team, and the players have matched up against each other many times at various elite tournaments. That familiarity led to a balanced game for much of the first half, with the Italians taking two breaks to one for France. At 6-5 up, though, Italy scored two more breaks and went into half with a commanding 5-8 lead.
France took a break back early in the second but Italy marched on from there, re-establishing and then furthering the lead and eventually riding out the 15-11 win. Lorenzo Pavan has been Italy’s main downfield threat this tournament and he continued to generate yards downfield reliably, consistently getting open and offering his handlers a big target. He didn’t score in this game but his four assists reflect his role in the offense and how important he is to their disc movement. Riccardo Venturoli was on fire with three blocks in the game, while Sullivan Roblet got two of his own in a losing effort for France.
“It was a really fun game,” said Italy captain Arturo Laffi. “I think we managed to enter into their mind because we know them really well, Krash2 plays with us on the Bologna team so we had a few insights into their team. We are really happy because it’s the first time that an Italian open team has made the top four during the European Championship so we are really proud of the team. It’s not always working for us to set a plan and respect it, usually we just play as it happens and not how we plan. This time it worked, and it paid off.
“A lot of us are coming from teams all around Italy and we are building some really strong connections during the tournament. The games we played against GB and Belgium earlier in the tournament, we learned from those games. We can beat anyone. We can also be beaten by the teams, but if we stand in a game we can beat everyone else. I am looking forward to the semi tomorrow.”
The closest game of the round was a surprising one. The Germans were undefeated coming into the game against the Czech Republic, including a 15-11 win over the Czechs in the initial pool. The Czechs had the loss against Germany on their record, as well as losses to Italy, GB and Belgium. They started with intent, though, and took first blood by breaking the German offense for a 3-4 lead. The Germans righted the ship and, after some exchanges of breaks, took half 8-7.
While the Germans did stretch that lead in the second half, the Czechs were never far off and were getting a lot of opportunities to get breaks. Their D line offense was often a bit frantic and they had a number of occasions where they turned on the first pass after getting the disc off the German O line. Despite these struggles, they had the disc twice at 14-13 down to try and bring the game to an unlikely universe point. Both times, though, they had sloppy turnovers and the Germans eventually took advantage after being presented with a goal line opportunity. Conrad Schlör played much of the second half with the O line, which does improve the defense on that unit, but it looks like a potential weakness that future opponents could look to. For the Czechs, the presence of handler Ondřej Rýdlo made a significant difference as he was central in a lot of their positive disc movement3.
All this leaves us with four very familiar semi-finalists. GB will play Italy, while Belgium play Germany.
For GB, Switzerland played a pre-quarter against Denmark between their two games against GB. ↩
Quentin Roger’s nickname. ↩
Rýdlo was injured earlier in the week when something worn by another player cut his hand, requiring stitches. ↩