It was a perfect start to the week for Team Canada’s Men on the opening day as they showed their guile against both Japan and Denmark in pool play. In the North Americans’ first game, they breezed past a Japanese side that, despite missing many key players from previous international tournaments, contained some strong players in the form of lefty handler Miyachi Tomoya and beach veteran Yusuke Wakai.
Despite being broken for the opening point, the Canadians cleaned up their offence and combined it with an air-tight and aggressive defence to go 3-1 up before Japan stopped the rot. A quick break back saw the tie return to serve at 3-3 but Team Canada found a new gear to hit seven unanswered points, thanks to big plays by Remi Ojo and Iain MacKenzie. With the tie all but dead, Japan could only muster one more point before Canada pushed it home at 13-4. Tactically, the North Americans’ force middle defence asked a lot of questions of Japan’s O, taking off much of the wide space and O/I hucks and forcing any big shots to come through the middle, which proved much trickier.
With a win on the board, it was important for Canada that they maintained their momentum against a tough Danish outfit in a game they found much tougher. After once again getting broken first point, Denmark’s offence proved too fluid to allow an easy break back. In fact, it was the Scandinavians that found more joy as they put home three in a row to stun Canada. Strong plays by Laurits Hjermitslev and Frederik Schou punctuated a dominant spell for Denmark, which asked a lot of questions of the North American favourites, who finished fourth in Dubai back in 2015.
But, those questions were then answered as Canada once again found another level by turning on the defence we had seen against Japan, notching four of the next five points tie the game at 7-7. Although Denmark would go on to take the half, they looked noticeably more drained from the incessant heat. With a marathon point following half, Canada won the break back to again tie things up before putting home a lightning quick one directly after, followed by a third.
Suddenly, at 10-8 up, it looked as if Canada were going to maintain their lead but the Danish refused to sit down as they punched in three points in a row to once again take the lead 11-10 as time went, making it a game to 12. But, once again Canada’s relentless defence was the underlining aspect of their play as strong plays from the likes of Paul Renaud and Antoine Genest, in a quite frankly gruelling universe point that lasted almost eight minutes, meant that Canada took the game and finished the first day with two wins.
Canada sit in second in their pool and will start tomorrow with games against Spain and Poland before a mammoth game against their neighbours, the United States in the evening.
By Aidan Kelly.