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Triumphant Wachirawit of Thailand

Thailand’s Netitorn Muneekul and Wachirawit Muadpha, who claimed silver at last week’s 2021 FIVB Beach Volleyball U19 World Championship, cruised on through the pool stage of this week’s U21 event, also taking place at Bangtao Beach in Phuket, without losing a set.

Friday’s schedule in the men’s competition started with the last leg of the pool stage, with the eight pool winners advancing straight to the last 16, and continued with the Round of 24, in which the pool runners-up played against the third-placed teams for the remaining eight spots in the eighth-finals. With Thailand, Russia and Czechia boasting two teams each, duos from 13 different countries will play in Saturday’s duels for the spots in the quarterfinals.

19-year-old Netitorn and Wachirawit’s opening match was their most difficult challenge in Pool H. They managed a narrow 2-0 (21-19, 23-21) victory over Portugal’s Guilherme Maia and Filipe Leite and that turned out to be the decider for the first place in the pool. In the Round of 16, the eighth-seeded Thais will play against Ukraine’s Oleksandr Boiko and Oleksii Bublyk, who came back from a set down to take a 2-1 (18-21, 21-18, 15-13) win over Paraguay’s Giuliano Massare Canillas and Pablo Marcelo Portillo Morinigo in the Round of 24.

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Thailand’s Phichakon spikes in the match against Brazil

The other home pair in the men’s tournament, top-seeded Phichakon Narathon and Poravid Taovato, finished third in Pool A, but then produced a hard-fought 2-1 (25-23, 18-21, 15-12) victory over Brazil’s Johann Ferdinand Dohmann and Lucas Coelho Fagundes Sampaio in the Round of 24 to advance to an eighth-final encounter with Czechia’s Tadeas Trousil and Matyas Dzavoronok.

The Pool A final standings were topped by 17th-seeded Gabriel Gutierrez Mendez and Alvaro Viera Iglesias of Spain, who defeated all three of their opponents. Most importantly, they opened their campaign with a 2-1 (12-21, 24-22, 15-12) comeback win over 16th-seeded Mateusz Florczyk and Filip Lejawa of Poland, who finished pool runners-up on a 2-1 win-loss record. Next, Gutierrez and Viera will take on the other Czech duo in the tournament, Jakub Sepka and Tomas Semerad.

Second-seeded Mateus De Paula Dultra and Gabriel Zuliani of Brazil faced few issues in Pool B and allowed their opponents a total of 76 points in the three straight-setters that propelled them straight to the Round of 16, where they will meet Russia’s Aleksandr Martynenko and Aleksandr Rukhmanov.

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Czechia’s Dzavoronok sets the ball

Pool C offered a three-way race, in which Czechia’s Trousil and Dzavoronok edged third-seeded Italians Gianluca Dal Corso and Marco Viscovich and Switzerland’s Leo Dillier and Thibaud Colomb on point ratio, after they all finished with 2-1 win-loss records. However, all three teams managed to find their way to the last 16.

Swedish jump-setters David Ahman and Jonatan Hellvig shut out all three of their opponents in a tough Pool D race to book a direct spot among the best 16 as pool winners, followed by Czechia’s Sepka and Semerad and fourth-seeded Russians Dmitrii Veretiuk and Aleksei Arkhipov in the table. Similar to Pools A and C, this one also had as many as three duos which went on to qualify for the eighth-finals. Switzerland’s Dillier and Colomb will be Ahman and Hellvig’s rivals for a quarterfinal berth.

Fifth-seeded Germans Philipp Huster and Lui Wust produced the best record among the 32 teams participating in the pool stage. They mastered three clean slates to top Pool E after conceding only 75 points in the six sets they won. Huster and Wust will now take on Russia’s Veretiuk and Arkhipov.

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Chile’s Aravena in attack

Pool F was another one that delivered as many as three eighth-finalists. Sixth-seeded Noe Aravena and Martin Iglesias of Chile booked the direct ticket after edging runners-up Boiko and Bublyk of Ukraine and third-placed Martynenko and Rukhmanov of Russia on point ratio as each of the three duos finished with two wins and a loss. The Chileans’ next opponents are Poland’s Florczyk and Lejawa.

USA’s Matthew Gentry and Phillip Catanzaro won Pool G losing only a single set along the way, in their 2-1 (21-14, 19-21, 15-8) victory over Jay Rack De La Noche and Alexander Jhon Iraya of the Philippines on Thursday. However it was their 2-0 (21-18, 21-17) win over Hungary’s Csanad Petik and Domonkos Doczi on Wednesday that proved crucial for the first place in the pool. The seventh-seeded Americans are now set for an eighth-final challenge from Italy’s Dal Corso and Viscovich, who came back from a set down to cruise on to a 2-1 (22-24, 21-11, 15-7) victory over Australia’s Jack Pearse and Lucas Josefsen in the first knockout round.

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USA’s Gentry in reception

On the women’s side, both the Round of 24 and the Round of 16 were played on Friday, so Saturday’s four quarterfinal fixtures are now lined up. 28th-seeded Jasmine Fleming and Kayla Mears of Australia were the lowest ranked team to make the last eight after emerging with a hard-fought 2-1 (25-23, 20-22, 15-13) victory over USA’s Raelyn White and Caitlin Godwin in the first elimination round and winning another tough battle in the eighth-finals, 2-0 (22-20, 21-18) over Hungarian sisters Eszter Vasvari and Zsofi Vasvari. In a duel for a spot in the semifinals, Fleming and Mears will face Switzerland’s Menia Bentele and Leona Kernen, who survived a difficult encounter with second-seeded Brazilians Thainara Mylena Feitosa de Oliveira and Anne Karolayne Figueredo Gois to win by 2-1 (23-21, 12-21, 21-19).

In the other three quarterfinals, Ukraine’s Anhelina Khmil and Tetiana Lazarenko will meet Russia’s Mariia Bocharova and Elizaveta Gubina, Spain’s Daniela Alvarez Mendoza and Sofia Gonzalez Racero will take on Brazil’s Maria Fernanda Ferreira Dias and Carolina Sallaberry Cavalcanti, and Russia’s Arina Riazhnova and Elizaveta Ludkova will play against Latvia’s Varvara Brailko and Anete Namike.

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Switzerland’s Kernen about to serve

Saturday’s women’s semifinals, as well as the men’s semifinals and both genders’ medal matches on Sunday, will be streamed live on the Beach Volleyball World video channel on YouTube.