2019-05-14 14:34:00 CET

Next stop Itapema

With the line-up for Hamburg complete, attention turns to the four-star event in Brazil as the season begins to hit top gear and the world’s top players come to play

The winners of Itapema in 2018 - Barbara and Duda and Evandro and Andre - the latter who have since splitThe winners of Itapema in 2018 - Barbara and Duda and Evandro and Andre - the latter who have since split

What’s the deal?

It’s the fourth four-star event of 2019 and the first in South America as a number of the world’s best head to the south of Brazil to Itapema to compete for a share of 150,000 US Dollars in prize money per gender. With Olympic ranking points and a decent pay packet to play for, naturally a number of the world’s top players are making the trip, including a number of European teams.

With the line-up now complete for the World Championships following the announcement of the wildcards, and with that tournament just over a month away, a total of 48 teams who will head to Hamburg are playing in Itapema (26 women’s and 22 men’s teams). With competition tough, it’s got the makings of a pretty intense tournament.

Qualification for participation

We know it, you know it, the players know it. Everybody knows it: the level of beach volleyball right now is pretty darn good and that means in big tournaments like this, the qualification stage is a place nobody wants to be. These qualifiers are fierce. Like, every time. And it’s no different in Itapema.

So, one look at the men’s qualifier and you see a reigning World Champion, Andre Loyola, and his new partner George Wanderely, staring back at you. This is how it is. He’ll have the support of the home crowd, too, don’t forget.

It’s just as bad for the women. If not worse. Unless you’re Brazilian, of course. Top seeded women’s team in qualification? Oh, just a team that has won back-to-back four-star tournaments in 2019: Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia. Hell, there’s a chance three-time Olympic and World champ Kerri Walsh Jennings could be in there, too. The 40-year-old and teammate Brooke Sweat will face compatriots Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in a country quota face-off before quali even begins.

Itapema 4-Star - 2018 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour - Men Gold Medal Match

Watch the live stream of the 'Itapema 4-Star ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - 2018 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour' here! About the FIVB The FIVB is the governing body responsible for all forms of volleyball on a global level.

Back-to-back golds for Brazil?

Twelve months ago, the partisan home crowd were celebrating like Brazil had won the soccer World Cup as the nation took both the men’s and women’s gold medals.

In last year’s event, Evandro Gonçalves and that man Andre took top spot on the podium, beating a certain Norwegian team, Anders Mol and Christian Sørum in the final. That was the Vikings’ first medal on the World Tour together. Anders and Christian believe the silver medal was the moment they realized they could compete with the big boys. And we all know what followed last summer…

In the women’s tournament, Agatha Bednarczuk and Duda will aim to defend their crown after their triumph last year when they beat Swiss stars Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré in the gold medal match. They’ll have a swarm of top Brazilian teams out to oust them though, including Barbara/Fernanda, Maria/Carol and, of course, Rebecca/Ana Patricia.

Olympic champs on their way back?

While Mol/Sørum will aim to go one better than they did last year, all eyes (certainly Brazilian pairs) will be fixed on two new Brazilian duos, Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Filho and Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Evandro Gonçalves.

Alison and Alvaro followed their debut ninth place in Xiamen with gold in the three-star event in Kuala Lumpur. And although the standard of opposition in Malaysia isn’t as strong as it will be in Itapema, the pair will be hoping to draw confidence from that victory on home sand against their rivals. Bruno and Evandro are already playing catch-up after two successive 17ths. For some reason we’re envisaging a meeting between these two teams early in the elimination rounds. You heard it here first.

But don’t forget the North Americans…

Your friend who saw Alix Klineman and April Ross beat Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan in an epic one-hour-14-minute three-set thriller at Huntington Beach last week will have already shared a few hundred clips with you over WhatsApp, or Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, hollering to you OMG THIS – THIS, MATE – IS BEACH VOLLEYBALL!!! While doing so your friend has also gone to the trouble of including their own analytical commentary, Dain Blanton-style, highlighting the QUALITY TECHNIQUE on show. You nod quietly but excessively in agreement to yourself. After all, it’s true. “SARAH PAVAN STOP IT!” You shout back at your tablet having opened the most recently-sent clip from your friend. “CAN THIS PLEASE BE THE FINAL IN ITAPEMA *praying hands emoji*?” you ask your friend.

It can be. And it might be. What’s certain is the Brazilians are not going to have it all their own way this week. Someone show us that video again.

Stats the way we like it

Dinamismo....🙏🏻🏐

644 Likes, 11 Comments - Patricia Ramos (@patisramos) on Instagram: "Dinamismo....🙏🏻🏐"

Rising star Ana Patricia was Duda’s partner when the pair garnered everything there is to win at youth level in the sport in few years before they joined the senior ranks. It’s frightening to think both are just 20 years old.

Ana Patricia’s record so far in 2019 with Rebecca reads three gold medals from five World Tour events, one silver and one fourth place, having most recently won last time out in Xiamen. Don’t tell us we didn’t warn you…

Where can I watch?

The FIVB will be streaming the latter stages of the tournament live on their YouTube channel, including the semifinals and finals. We’ll have our recap online once the sand settles on the action.

What else can I expect?

Players’ social media accounts will be alive with sand greetings from the Brazilian coast. Expect the trademark selfies with cups of acacia in between Insta-ready sunsets pics and a bit of workout. There’s also stuff like this, from Red Bull boys, Brouwer/Meeuwsen, who get the drone out for some fun and games as part of their training.

Monday funday! 💪🏼🏐🔥Can you guess what the rules of our game are? #DayOff #footvolley #beachvolleyball #beachvolleybal #teamnl #beachvolley #itapema #fivb #fivbworldtour 🎥: @menzo.tanis & @romeeuwsen

496 Likes, 7 Comments - Robert Meeuwsen (@romeeuwsen) on Instagram: "Monday funday! 💪🏼🏐🔥Can you guess what the rules of our game are? #DayOff #footvolley..."

Now that’s what we like. More, please.

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