LONDON (AP) -- With 6-foot-8-inch Paolo Nicolai blocking at the net and Daniele Lupo chasing down balls behind him, the Italian beach volleyball team is often compared to Americans Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers.
"People say, 'They're the young Phil and Todd,'" Rogers said Friday after a loss to Italy in the round of 16 put an early end to his quest for a second straight gold medal. "I guess they 'Phil and Todded' us to death."
Rogers has always been a cerebral player - his nickname is "The Professor" and his Twitter handle is (at)professortodd. It's a reputation he's developed over more than a decade on the world's beaches.
But Lupo, who just turned 21, proved every bit as cagey.
"You don't see many 21-year-olds with Todd's type of game," Dalhausser said. "They're basically the younger version of us."
Nicolai and Lupo beat Rogers and Dalhausser 21-17, 21-19 at Horse Guards Parade, fighting off one last rally to advance to the quarterfinals and put a surprising end to the Beijing gold medalists' Olympic run. Although the Italians were one of the last teams to qualify for the London Games, it is the third time they have beaten Rogers and Dalhausser.
"We've won two times against them, but everything is a battle," Nicolai said. "They are the best team in the world, I am sure. If we play in another match, they can win the gold medal."
The Italians went 1-2 in the preliminary round, losing not only to top-seeded Emanuel and Alison of Brazil but also to an Austrian team that did not make the medal round.
That turned out to be bad luck for the Americans, who finished pool play unbeaten.
"They're far too good a team to play an average game against," Rogers said. "They've beaten everybody in the world that's good."
Rogers and Dalhausser lost the first set 21-17 and fell behind 12-7 in the second. The Americans tied it 19-19 but lost the final two points and were eliminated when Rogers' spike was blocked back into him by Nicolai.
"It's a little bit different when you win: It takes about a month for it to sink in," Dalhausser said. "When you lose, it smacks you right in the face the second the ball hits the sand."
Italy has never won a medal in men's or women's beach volleyball, a sport that has been dominated by the Brazilians and the Americans since it became an Olympic sport in 1996. This team came together only in 2011 and qualified for the Olympics in the final qualification tournament.
But they have had success against Rogers and Dalhausser, a team they're hoping to replace atop the medal podium.
"We hope so. For me, it's a dream to be like Phil and Todd," Nicolai said. "For me, they are like an idol. It's strange to beat them at the Olympics. I don't know how to react."
The men's and women's round of 16 continues Saturday with four more men's and four more women's matches, including defending gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor against Marleen van Iersel and Sanne Keizer of the Netherlands. Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal, the No. 2 U.S. men's team, will play Sergey Prokopyev and Konstantin Semenov of Russia.
Also Friday, Brazil's Ricardo Santos and Pedro Cunha beat Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira of Spain, 21-18, 21-19 and Austrian sisters Stefanie and Doris Schaiger beat Russians Anastasia Vasina and Anna Vozakova 21-17, 16-21, 15-9.
Earlier Friday, Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross beat Switzerland's Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr to advance to the quarterfinals of the women's tournament. Top-seeded Juliana and Larissa also advanced, eliminating the Netherlands 21-10, 21-17, and Laura Ludwig and Sara Goller beat fellow Germans Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler 21-16, 21-15.
Mariusz Prudel and Grzegorz Fijalek of Poland also advanced in the first round of knockout play, beating Sascha Heyer and Seba Chevallier of Switzerland 21-18, 21-17. Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins of Latvia beat Martin Spinnangr and Tarjei Viken Skarlund of Norway, 21-18, 21-16.
More Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Related Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Asafa Powell's (and other sprinters') odd prerace rituals
• Photos: U.S. sprinter LaShawn Merritt injured during 400m
• Video: Why U.S. star Allyson Felix kept her 100-meter spot