Men's Beach Volleyball considered wide open

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Baku, June 15, AZERTAC

The Swiss are picking the Polish, the British are going for the Italians, the Spanish are tipping the Czechs, the Czechs are backing the Spanish and the Danes are not sure.

Swiss player Alexei Strasser said, "Almost everyone can beat everyone" in the men's Beach Volleyball.

The Italians are a good example of why the usual form guide can be thrown out of the window at Baku 2015. Andersen's teammate Kristoffer Abell picked the no.1 Italian pair as the team he feared the most, before Andersen jumped in and reminded his teammate: "they come with uncertainty - Alex Ranghieri doesn't play with his usual partner."

Just to add to the fun, Baku's famous winds are liable to create some mischief.

"When it's a strong wind, as is very usual here, many smaller teams - but with very good ball control - could be very dangerous," said Premysl Kubala of the Czech Republic.

In the women's competition, a combination of impressive recent results, home-court advantage and a sprinkling of Brazilian magic has led many to tip Azerbaijan as favourites for the gold medal.

A win and a podium spot in the last two rounds of the European Volleyball Confederation (CEV) Continental Cup and top-five finishes in all of their last five Eastern European Volleyball Zonal Association events help to justify Brazilian-born Vivian Cunha and partner Zinaida Liubymova's billing as leading contenders in Baku.

For the gold medallists there is the added incentive of 160 ranking points towards qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. From Brazil to Azerbaijan and back to Brazil: the road to Rio starts tomorrow.

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