The months of work behind the scenes, the days of preparing every last part of the event, the hours of players training to be ready; it all led to today. The teams paraded into the arena, the tournament organisers and representatives from Portimao gave speeches about how excited everyone was for the event to start, and the first pull went up in the match between Portugal and the Czech Republic mixed teams. Every team played their first game at the European Beach Ultimate Championships, too, so here’s a very brief summary of the key points.
Mixed is going to be brutal
The mixed division is full of very good teams, some of whom are going to get very tough routes to the latter stages of the tournament. Spain won Sabe a Mixta, a warm up tournament in Valencia in February, but will have to work their way up through the lower pools after France won the game against their neighbours 10-8. France captain Ronan Bichon provided three assists and three goals in the win and looks like a key cog for a French team with designs on the title.
The team that finished second at Sabe a Mixta, Great Britain, survived a scare of their own, albeit barely. They defeated the Netherlands on a universe point, in a game that the Dutch had led the whole way. The Dutch will also need to come through the lower pools but look as equally well prepared as Spain to do well.
The other strong-looking sides won without too many problems. Portugal triumphed over the Czechs, Germany handled their business effectively against Italy and Russia beat Ukraine. The medals in this division are going to be very well-earned, and it’s tough to pick a favourite at this early stage. This is going to be a really fun division to watch.
Potential women’s final preview
Russia are the reigning world champions following their win at the World Championships of Beach Ultimate in 2017, so come in as favourites in the women’s division. Spain finished seventh in Royan and were the fifth-best European team there so also come in with high hopes. While Russia have lost some key players – including talismanic handler Sasha Pustovaia – they still have the likes of Alisa Tizik and Olga Podolskaia who were key parts of the team that defeated the USA.
The two teams matched up in the final game of the day, which ended up being one of the best games in any division all day. Spain went up early before Russia pulled them back in and got their noses in front. Spain rallied though, with a particularly audacious flick huck out of a timeout the highlight of their comeback. They took the game 10-8 and seized control of the division. These two teams are extremely good and we could see a rematch of this game later in the week with the stakes even higher.
Favourites emerging in masters’ divisions
The masters’ divisions are always tough to make picks in, but two teams look to be setting themselves up as favourites. Great Britain’s grand masters team demolished their hosts, Portugal, 13-1 in their first game of the tournament and look well-placed to challenge for top spot. A very similar squad won silver at WCBU against the Americans and will take some stopping here.
In the men’s masters division, Sweden look to be formidable. Sebastian Sporrong, the Swede’s superstar player in the early half of this decade, is back in the fold and they swept a talented Irish team aside. It is scarcely believable how tall this team is – will anyone be able to keep the trophy out of their grasp? The early signs suggest it could be theirs to lose.
More to come!
Most teams played only one game today, so there’s plenty more to come tomorrow and for the rest of the week. Some big games to look out for tomorrow include Great Britain’s men facing off against Spain, the Germans and the Swiss meeting in the men’s masters division and Denmark playing Latvia in the women’s division.
Keep tuned to the streamed games on the arena field and the updates at live.wcbu.org!
Featured photo by Illia Shypunov.