England Men finish CEV Continental Cup in 7th place
14th May 2021
Pairs Javier & Joaquin Bello and Freddie Bialokoz & Issa Batrane secured a 7th place finish for England at last weekend’s CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup.
England Men’s team qualified for the competition – a route to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – on home soil in London at one of the Phase 1 events back in 2019. Unfortunately, England Women were eliminated from the tournament during Phase 1.
Izmir, Turkey, was one of the locations of Phase 2 of the Cup competition between 6-9th May, 2021, with England being drawn with Baltic nations Estonia and Lithuania in Pool B.
Countries at the Continental Cup were each represented by two pairs competing together as one team. A nation’s A team would play another’s B team and vice versa, and if it was level after those two matches, a third ‘golden match’ would be played to determine a winner.
First up for England on 7th May was Estonia. Bialokoz/Batrane were defeated by Nõlvak/Tiisaar (19-21; 14-21) while the Bellos overcame the challenge from Lõhmus/Korotkov (23-21; 21-14).
A golden match was contested between the Bello brothers and Nõlvak/Tiisaar but it ended with a win for Estonia (10-21; 16-21).
Later that day came the second round of matches, this time against Lithuania, with England showing its competitiveness on the international stage.
In a repeat of the previous games, the tie once more went to a golden match as Bialokoz/Batrane lost to Vasiljev/Juchnevic (19-21; 17-21) and the Bellos beat Knasas/Stankevicius (21-17; 21-17).
That match was a closer contest than the previous golden match but still finished in defeat for the Bellos, this time against Vasiljev/Stankevicius (15-21; 21-13; 10-15).
As a result of those matches, England did not qualify from Pool B. However, on 8th May, the teams were given one final opportunity to impress as they were pitted against Hungary in the battle for 7th place.
Bialokoz/Batrane had a tough start to their match with Hungarians Hajós/Stréli. In the second set, they came out fighting and were within one point of taking it. However, their opponents kept coming and managed to edge out in front and take the winning set (9-21; 22-24).
The Bellos overcame the challenge from Soós/Oláh (21-15; 21-16), forcing yet another golden match.
And it was a case of third time lucky, as they romped to victory (21-15; 21-13) to secure England's 7th place and finish Phase 2 of the Continental Cup on a high.
Countless challenges had to be overcome by the athletes before the tournament began to ensure Covid protocols were met. They came through them and put on some good performances in Turkey, showing great spirit and competitiveness. Well done team, we are very proud of you.
The 7th place finish means that England Men’s team does not automatically qualify for Phase 3 of the Continental Cup, which is due to take place in The Hague, The Netherlands, in June 2021.
Luis Bello, Head Coach for the England Senior Men's Beach Volleyball Team, said: “We knew the competition would be difficult but we took on the challenge and saw some positive performances.
"There was a chance to advance to the final round, particularly in the second golden match against Lithuania, but in the end we had to settle with 7th place. Due to the format of the competition, fatigue was a determining factor that made a big difference, so it was great to see a resilient win in the last match against Hungary."
A special thank you to the athletes for following meticulous elite athlete protocols. The British Volleyball Federation has been instrumental in getting the athletes to the Continental Cup and we must also thank Ben Pipes, Karen Beattie and Nicky Osborne in particular, as well as volunteers Phil Smith and Jeff Brehaut, who have worked tirelessly to get England to Turkey for the competition.