By the time you reach the quarter-finals, you are guaranteed a good game. There are no easy opponents. This is exemplified with Portugal vs Canada. Two great teams, both looking to reach the top four.
Portugal are a team which lives for the beach. And in fact, beach Ultimate lives because of it. BULA founder Patrick van der Valk started the beach Ultimate scene when he moved there, and the first ever WCBU was held in Portugal in 2004. And Portugal have entered a mixed side every time. And almost every time, they’ve come fourth (WUBC 2015, ECBU 2013, WCBU 2011). Now, they’re looking to best that. They disposed of Switzerland 10-7 in their pre-quarter, and are looking for another scalp.
Canada were silver medallists to Germany last time around, beating the USA 6-5 in their semi. This time, they’re out for gold. The only have three returners, but one of those is co-captain Jeremy Norden. And he’s joined as co-captain by brother Justin, as well as a lot of familiar faces. Over half the team has played on Team Fisher Price, a team which finished fourth (highest non-USA team) at WUCC in Lecco. Team Canada managed to get third place in the USA Beach Ultimate Championships this May, and have only lost to the Philippines so far here. They’re the favourites going in.
Canada start on O, and the Portugal sideline starts being loud. Chants of ‘B-O-R-A, bora, bora bora!’ echo across the pitch. Daniel Balzerson (CAN) and David Pimenta (POR) both grab a big disc in the Canadian endzone. It’s sent back, and Canada work it around, until Justin Norden gives a huge jump in for the score. This game is going to be good. CAN 1-0 POR.
Greg Ellis tips a disc with a big bid, and Canada get the turn. There’s a lot of calls. The game isn’t badly spirited, just close. Jeanette Quanch throws a break throw for the break score. CAN 2 – 0 POR. Portugal finally respond with a goal of their own. Canada respond by overthrowing Balerzon. Fortunately for them, Portugal captain Sébastian Lacroix turfs a scoober, and Balerzon can throw the assist. CAN 3 – 1 POR.
There’s a couple of points of clinical offense. Every Portugal point contains a long shot, they love their height. CAN 5 – 3 POR. Finally, Tyler Smith gets a block after Pimenta tries a scoober on a high stall count. Smith then throws the assist, and it’s another break point. CAN 6 – 3 POR. Canada make it tight, as former professional handballer Ricardo Patrão must outbid the Canadian defence for the score. Canada put in a zero-turn point for half, CAN 7-4 POR.
From here the game is settled. Canada keep pulling the disc out of bounds, but never miss their mark when it counts. They try playing gender mismatches on defence, wanting to get two male bodies under the Portuguese long shots. It doesn’t work, but neither does the Portuguese zone brought out to try to stifle the Canadian D.
At CAN 9 – 7 POR, it’s a game to ten. Quanch screams efficiency from the sideline, and her teammates listen. Justin Norden and Cam Burden play simple give-goes all the way up the pitch, until Burden throws an assist to Balzerson for the score, and a place in the top four.
Quotes from the sideline
Liz Garfinkle (former USA Mixed Masters): I saw Canada play a much stronger game here than I did early in the week against Italy. In particular, they started the game much stronger. There was strong play by both teams, but Canada went up and never let Portugal back into it.
Kristie Ellis (Canada fan): Great intensity on both sides, and a lot of spirit. Canada came down with some great grabs, which I think won them the game, although Portugal had a few great grabs of their own. Great play from both sides.
Cyprien Santana (Volunteer): It was a nice game, with lots of intensity. I think the players enjoyed playing this game.
J. J. Edwards (Canada coach): I thought that they made us play our absolute best, and that’s because we had to. One of the most flawless games from both sides. Those early couple of breaks won it, but one of the most athletic and stretched out game I’ve ever seen.
Sébastian Lacroix (Portugal captain): It was very exciting to know we were going to play Canada. At this stage, every game is a final. It’s even more exciting, because we’ve never played Canada before. I’m really proud. We gave everything we had. They were just better than us on offence. We showed a lot of will to keep the intensity high, and kept wanting to win, even when we were behind.