05.07.2019 - Hamburg
For the third match running 2016 Olympic silver medalists Paolo Nicolai Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai had to grind out a victory in three sets to book a quarter-final clash with tournament favorites Anders Mol and Christian Sørum.
The Italians needed to dig deep against American qualifiers Billy Allen and Stafford Slick, coming through 27-25, 18-21, 15-13 in an epic court 2 encounter, meaning the pair can concentrate on facing the Norwegians.
“It was a tough one, we played a good first set but had some problems in the second with our sideout,” said blocker Nicolai. “We came back though, and I’m so proud of the team and Daniele, do bounce back after some problems. It’s a big step forward.”
The talented Italians had disappointed in Vienna two years ago at the last championships, finishing 17th but are now secured at least a fifth place finish in Hamburg.
And they will need to get the better of Mol and Sørum if they are to improve on that and earn the chance to play for a medal.
“I think we beat them once when they weren’t playing like they are now!” laughed Nicolai. “I think they’ve lost three games in about 100 tournaments!
“It will be a challenge, but if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. We know we have the ability, tomorrow we can try and show that.
“They might be the favorites but I think they are comfortable with that situation. They are playing really well right now, but so are we.”
The Vikings were made to sweat for the first time during the championships, with Latvians Edgars Tocs and Martins Plavins leading 19-15 in the first set in front of a shocked Red Bull Beach Arena crowd. However some incredible defense from Sørum was the springboard for a sensational late fightback to take the set 22-20 before the second 21-17.
“I was unbelieve,” said a relieved Anders afterwards. “We were really put under pressure by a good team and we can be really, really happy with how we battled to get the win.”