Qatar’s Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan stunned Italy’s Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo to storm into the beach volleyball semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday.
The newly-crowned World No 1 Qatari pair defeated the Rio Olympics silver medallists 2-0 (21-17, 23-21) in their quarter-finals match at the Shiokaze Park.
“I’m grateful to be in the semi-final, because it took us maybe six or seven years to build this team. It’s a long process and we trusted the process. For sure, the roads were very difficult, there were some ups and downs. But we didn’t give up and we’re thankful to be here,” said Younousse.
Nicolai and Lupo could not hold on to the three-point lead they opened early in the match. After 8-8, the Qatari team took control of the game and never let go through the end of the first set. The second set was far more competitive and the Italians even pushed it to overtime. They denied the Qataris two match points, but on the third one, Younousse’s aggressive spike clinched their last four spot.
“It was a very tough game mentally. This guy is like a maestro. They were playing really well and not giving up. Now we’ll get a good rest, because tomorrow we are going to be here again,” said Younousse.
The Qatar team will face reigning world champions from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy in the last four stage. Krasilnikov-Stoyanovskiy registered a straight sets 2-0 (21-16, 21-19) victory over Germany’s Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler.
“It was a tough match. We know this team really well. We always play hard with them, because they are really strong. We’ve already played them five times and it was in the final stages of tournaments. We know how to play with them and how they play against us,” Stoyanovskiy said.
“We are just very happy that we won. For sure, we are improving from game to game. We did not give away a set. And that already is a good thing.”
In the other quarter-finals, Latvia’s Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs beat Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Morais Filho 21-16, 21-19 in 43 minutes. The Latvian pair had defeated the other Brazilian pair Bruno Schmidt and Evandro Oliveira on Monday.
They will face Norway’s Christian Sorum and Anders Mol in the semi-finals tomorrow, who defeated the ROC’s Ilya Leshukov and Konstantin Semenov 21-17, 21-19.
“We made fewer mistakes. Fighting for the medals in the Olympics is a dream come true. We hope to bring some medals back to Norway,” Mol said.
Since beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1996, Brazil and the United States have dominated the event but countries like Qatar and Latvia are now challenging their supremacy.
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