The Great Britain men’s team has had a distinguished recent past. This group has two silver medals from World Championships of Beach Ultimate, finishing behind the USA twice. They have a familiarity as a team since these players have all played together before, most as part of the worlds teams and those who weren’t there as part of Clapham Ultimate. They are the prohibitive favourites for the men’s division.
Spain is a nation that has made strides, as seen in their results across the divisions so far. Their men’s team has been improving and stands as one of the stronger teams in this division, and one that could trouble Great Britain come the business end of the event.
Great Britain kicked the game off on offence. James Mead sent a huck up to Justin Foord but a huge layout block from Unai Alastruey let GB know that they wouldn’t have it all their own way in this game. Spain tried a huck of their own but Ash Yeo got up first and knocked the disc away with a fantastic leap. GB rode their luck – Tom Cartwright made a great pickup of an errant throw – but slotted in goal number one.
Spain were turned quickly on the next point, Ollie Gordon with a run through catch block. GB couldn’t move the disc effectively, though, due to the tight defence downfield and called a timeout. Out of the timeout Britain tried a huck but it flew too far and drifted out of the back of the pitch. Spain worked the disc around the back and found a window for a shot to the endzone, but Francisco Romano Urdaneta lost his footing and couldn’t quite get to the huck. Sam Bowen replied with a huck for GB, and thanks to a mack from Urdaneta the disc carried into the welcoming arms of Hayden Slaughter. Urdaneta pounded the sand in frustration. GB led 2-0, but had been forced to work hard for that lead.
The next few points were exchanged by the times with quick, efficient offence. Spain’s flow was unstoppable at times; players holding onto the disc for no more than two seconds at a time, exploiting the breakside space and finding the open man every time. At 3-2, Foord took down a huge grab but GB turned with a risky shot into the endzone. Spain ground out space on the open side, hitting under cuts a few times before sending a hammer over the top of the defence as it collapsed onto an up-line handler cut. Spain had brought themselves level and we were back on serve.
The teams exchanged points again. Juan Carlos Fernandez Troyano was particularly effective downfield and was giving British defenders fits – his footwork was getting him open whenever his team needed it. Great Britain were 5-4 up when Spain tried to force a score, sending a hammer to the back corner of the endzone but it flew just beyond the reach of the cutter. James Freeman picked up the disc and sent it long to Slaughter for another GB break.
Spain had been playing with great flow, using the space on the field and running GB defenders in circles. Their strength was popping the disc off to trailing handlers and playing expansively. At 6-4 down, they missed a pop, sending it too high so that the throw trailed out of bounds. Great Britain took advantage, the D line playing smooth offence and finding a gap for a score on the front cone. 7-4 to GB, and the game was starting to fall from Spain’s grasp. After a few more points of trading, Great Britain got another break after a layout point block by Phil Garner, stretching their lead to 9-5.
The teams went back to trading, with the offences looking more and more comfortable. At 11-8, Great Britain had a miscommunication between handler Matt Parslow and cutter Yeo, leading to an early turnover in their own half. The Spanish team ground out yards, repelled by stubborn British defence, but eventually found a crack in the wall with a nice break throw from Guillem Pina Laguna to Urdaneta. Spain celebrated wildly, sensing an opportunity to force themselves back into the game.
They followed up that break with another. Quirze Rovira Castella got a spectacular layout block on Freeman, before a throw on a high stall count to the endzone was bailed out by Sergio Diaz Puerta, somehow catching a disc to nothing on nine. Spain went wild again. It was 11-10 to Great Britain in a game to 12.
On the next point, Britain worked the disc up the field calmly. They reached the Spanish endzone, where they were forced to work hard for an opening. Parslow fired into the endzone only for a huge Spanish layout block to knock the disc away from its intended receiver. The mack, though, only succeeded in pushing the disc over to the side where Cartwright was waiting. He reeled it in, ending the game in the cruellest of ways for Spain – they were a bad bounce away from taking the game to universe point.
For Great Britain, this was a reminder that they have a target on their backs. Spain are a tam built on fast movement and comfort on sand. The Spanish lost a game to Poland later in the day in a surprise, so will need to beat Portugal and Sweden tomorrow to be sure of their place in the quarterfinals. Britain, with another win over Portugal in hand, are pretty much secure atop the pool. Tougher tests may await, but they’ll be better for the pressure that Spain put them under here.
Featured photo showing the block on the first point by Illia Shypunov.