WPWL 2011: Brand new stadium hosts Women’s Water Polo Super Final

World League

RUS vs CAN - credit: Russell McKinnonTIANJIN, China (June 14) - The pecking order for women’s water polo at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai next month is this week taking a turn in Tianjin, east of Beijing. The FINA Women’s Water Polo Super Final started at the fantastic, newly opened Tianjin Olympic Centre Swimming & Diving Pool today.

The complex, which can house up to 5000 spectators in this city of 13 million people, was opened just a month ago and is staging its first FINA event. The city previously held the 2006 FINA Women’s Water Polo World Cup.

Making an impression on day one was host team China in what is the team’s hometown. World No 3 China thrilled a large crowd with a last-gasp 9-8 victory over Greece to take the early lead in Group A. The champion of the past two years, United States of America, closed out Italy 9-6 after being 2-1 down in the first quarter.

In Group B, world No 2 Australia thrashed Spain 14-6 and Russia scored in the final 20 seconds for a 9-8 win over Canada.

But it was China’s night for the appreciative throng, despite being two down with six minutes remaining in the game.

Whenever Greece scored, especially in a 3-0 third period, the crowd was struck dumb. It wasn’t until the final period that captain SUN Yating produced a magical goal and backed up with another for 8-8 that the crowd responded with gusto.

Head coach Juan JANE GIRALT said his players were too excited, playing in front of a home crowd after a stellar year that saw the team rise to No 3 in the world last year. “In the end we played very well. Our goalkeeper, in my opinion, is the best in the world but not tonight. We won, but…”

Greek coach Georgios MORFESIS was inconsolable after seeing his team’s two-goal margin over-run. “We just had to score one goal. We had many opportunities in the last quarter. We played very well and we were good at woman down. It was the key to the recovery (from 1-4 to 8-6). We received a lot of exclusions and contra fouls. In the end I think the result, it’s right,” he said.

USA vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnon
USA vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnon

For the USA, it was a win en route to what is hoped to be a sixth World League crown. The current World Cup champion as well, the USA looked rusty in parts but managed to fend off a determined Italy.

USA head coach Adam KRIKORIAN said there were  “no easy wins”. “We haven’t seen the M Zone this year (that the Italians employed). There is a big emphasis here on defence for us. I am not concerned with our offence. “We need to make smarter decisions with the ball. We are normally very good offensively in front of goal but our centre missed a few. We also gave up two centre goals (Theresa FRASSINETTI in the first quarter), which should not have happened.”

Italian head coach Fabio CONTI was not upset with the manner of the loss. “I expected a game like this from the girls. This moment we work very strong. If we can score two or three goals on extra we can stay in the game. At this moment we are good and I hope we can stay in the game with preparation for the World Championships (in Shanghai next month). What I have asked of the girls they have done. I hope in coming games we can do something better.”

In Group B, the Aussie Stingers looked on top of their form, although Spain made simple mistakes and the Aussies pounced at every opportunity, led by their experienced Kate Gynther, who scored four goals.

AUS vs ESP - credit: Russell McKinnon
AUS vs ESP - credit: Russell McKinnon

Australian head coach Greg McFADDEN was pleased with his team’s effort. “We knew who their good players were and we nullified them. In defence the girls helped each other and we controlled all four quarters. There were no lapses at any stage.” Aussie Stinger Jane MORAN said: “We were really looking for a good first quarter after what has happened in the past week (Kirishi Cup in Russia). We went 3-1 up and we kept control. There were no lapses in concentration.”

Spanish head coach Miki OCA said: “They killed us today. There’s nothing to say because they were much better. We didn’t expect that (margin). We can only get better as the tournament progresses.”

Russia came home in a slim manner, watching 17-year-old goalkeeper Anna KARNAUKH tip over a penalty shot in the dying stages and then Ekaterina IVANOVA sliding in the winner 20 seconds from time to devastate the Canadians.

Russian head coach Alexander KABANOV was happy to get away with a win considering the youthfulness of his team and the amount of time he used the youngsters in the game. “They are very young and the No 1 (goalkeeper Anna KARNAUKH) is two months short of her 17th birthday. I liked the work by No 3 (Victoria KUROCHKINA), No 13 (Ekaterina ZELENTSOVA), No 5 (Alexandra ANTONOVA) and No 9 (Ekaterina TANKEEVA).” Russia was without star player Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA, who was in the grandstands with a shoulder injury.

GRE vs CHN - credit: Russell McKinnon
GRE vs CHN - credit: Russell McKinnon

Pat OATEN, the longest-standing coach of the same national team here, said “the power play, a lucky bounce for Russia (when Natalia RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA sent in the rebound for 8-7) just after we missed the penalty goal, really hurt”.

“We got off to a good start and then there was a lull in the second and third quarters. It is hard when we are rotating 15 players. It’s better it happens here now (instead of Shanghai next month).

In tomorrow’s action, Russia plays Spain, Greece takes on Italy, Australia fronts with Canada and the USA plays China in the match of the day.

Match reports

Quarters: 1-3, 2-0, 3-3, 3-2

Extra man: RUS 4/12; CAN 3/11
Pens: RUS 1/1; CAN 1/2
Referees: Filippo GOMEZ (ITA), John WALDOW (NZL)

RUSSIA: Anna KARNAUKH, Nadezhda FEDOTOVA, Victoria KUROCHKINA, Sofia KONUKH (3), Alexandra ANTONOVA, Natalia RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA (2), Ekaterina LISUNOVA (1), Evgenia SOBOLEVA (1), Ekaterina TANKEEVA, Olga BELYAEVA (1), Evgenia IVANOVA (1), Yulia GAUFLER, Ekaterina ZELENTSOVA. Head Coach: Alexander KABANOV.

CANADA: Rachel RIDDELL, Krystina ALOGBO (3), Katrina MONTON, Emily CSIKOS, Joelle BEKHAZI (1), Whitney GENOWAY, Rosanna TOMIUK, Dominique PERREAULT, Monika EGGEN (1), Hanna YELIZAROVA (1), Tara CAMPBELL, Marina RADU, Stephanie VALIN (2). Head Coach: Pat OATEN.

RUS vs CAN - credit: Russell McKinnon
RUS vs CAN - credit: Russell McKinnon

A penalty save at 3:15 in the final quarter and a goal 20 seconds from time gave Russia a deserved 9-8 victory over Canada in the tournament opener. Canada began strongly with captain Krystina ALOGBO scoring off an excellent two-metre position but also turned the ball over twice. With both teams feeling their way and settling into a rhythm, the punch behind the shots was not there. However, late in the period, after Canada conceded a penalty goal to Russian captain Sofia KONUKH, two goals in 1:25 pushed Canada to a healthy lead at the break. Hanna YELIZAROVA scored from the deep left on extra and Marina RADU slashed in a penalty shot with 13 seconds left on the clock. Russia lifted in the second quarter with more aggression and was rewarded with a score on counter to Ekaterina LISUNOVA. This was followed by a goal on extra through Natalia RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA, dragging down a ball on the far-post position to tie the game at 3-3 just 26 seconds from halftime. Russia shot away to a 5-3 lead early in the third quarter, KONUKH slamming in a long shot on extra when unguarded and SOBOLEVA with a rather soft goal on extra after Emily CSIKOS gained her third major foul. ALOGBO pulled one back on extra for 5-4 before KONUKH sent in another from outside just as the two excluded Canadian players were returning to the field of play. At 6-4 Russia was starting to take control of the game but Canada scored twice in a minute with Monika EGGENS scoring on extra and Stephanie VALIN netting at the end of a counter-attack from the top for 6-6 with 1:56 remaining. Olga BELYAEVA opened the fourth with a textbook centre-forward goal but Joelle BEKHAZI lobbed goalkeeper Anna KARNAUKH on a counter down the right for 7-7.  Canada then blew an excellent chance for the lead when VALIN’s penalty attempt was tipped over by KARNAUKH at a time when KONUKH went for her third major foul. On the next attack RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA pounced on a loose rebound to score at 2:17 for 8-7. Canada used a second timeout when on extra but could not convert a goal. However, the ball kept coming up Canada’s way and ALOGBO converted the next extra-man play at 1:01. Russia went to a timeout when Tara CAMPBELL was called for holding and Ekaterina IVANOVA slid the ball into the bottom right past Rachel RIDDELL with only 20 seconds remaining. Canada twice had shots, via BEKHAZI with one going over the back line but the second easily saved for the Russian win.

Quarters: 3-0, 3-2, 3-2, 4-2

Referees: Amber DRURY (USA), MENG An Long (CHN)
Extra Man: AUS 4/14; ESP 2/13
Pens: AUS 2/2; ESP 0/0

AUSTRALIA: Alicia McCORMACK, Gemma BEADSWORTH (2), Sophie SMITH, Rebecca RIPPON, Jane MORAN, Bronwen KNOX (3), Rowena WEBSTER, Kate GYNTHER (4), Glencora RALPH (1), Holly LINCOLN-SMITH, Ashleigh SOUTHERN (3), Nicola ZAGAME (1), Keesja GOFERS. Head Coach: Greg McFADDEN.

SPAIN: Ava COPADO, Blanca GIL (2), Ana ESPAR, Roser TARRAGO, (1) Matilde ORTIZ, Jennifer PAREJA, Lorena MIRANDA (1), Pilar PENA, Andrea BLAS (1), Ona MESSEGUER (1), M. Carmen GARCIA, Marta BACH, Laura ESTER. Head Coach: Miguela OCA.

AUS vs ESP - credit: Russell McKinnon
AUS vs ESP - credit: Russell McKinnon

World No 2 Australia out-skilled and out-shot Spain, showing bursts of energy on counter and with slick passing to mesmerise the Spanish. Australia looked comfortable in the opening quarter and shut out Spain but needed nearly three minutes to open the scoring through veteran Kate GYNTHER, captaining Australia at this tournament. The policewoman’s goal was followed by Bronwen KNOX’s score after extra man and the youthful Ash SOUTHERN’s shot on extra. Blanca GIL converted extra to open Spain’s scoring two minutes into the second quarter. KNOX replied from the top on extra. On the next attack Spain’s Roser TARRAGO equalled the effort from the same position. Spain’s resurgence was then stopped in its tracks as the Aussie Stingers scored from the penalty line thanks to SOUTHERN, a neat cross-pass goal from the near post by Gemma BEADSWORTH and Knox draining the ball from deep left with a second left on the clock for a 7-2 halftime lead. Spain kept the rampaging Aussies scoreless for the first half of the third period, even scoring through Ona MESSEGUER, who was rolled on suspension in the third period. However, Australia shifted gear and Nicola ZAGAME scored through the traffic at two metres for 8-3, GYNTHER converted a penalty and Glencora RALPH brought up double figures. Spanish coach Miguel OCA called a timeout and GIL converted at a stage where the foul count was 15-10 against the Europeans. BEADSWORTH and GYNTHER scored either side of a MIRANDA goal early in the fourth, while SOUTHERN and GYNTHER scored again for 14-5. Andrea BLAS picked out the top left from well outside and soon after Spain called a timeout but the resulting play saw the ball intercepted. Australia used its second timeout on extra at 0:42 and the quick SOUTHERN shot was blocked. Spain then had an extra chance but Australia regained for the win.

Quarters: 1-2, 3-0, 2-3, 3-1

Referees: Irfan SADEKOV (RUS), Gabor VOGEL (HUN)
Extra man: USA: 2/5. ITA 3/10
Pens: USA:  0/0. ITA: 1/1



ITALY: Giulia GOLERO, Simona ABBATE (1), Elisa CASANOVA, Giulia RAMBALDI, Allegra LAPI, Martina SAVIOLI, Marta COLAIOCCO, Roberta BIANCONI, Giulia EMMOLO (1), Francesca POMERI, Aleksandra COTTI (2) Teresa FRASSINETTI (2), Elisa QUEIROLO. Head Coach: Fabio CONTI.

USA vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnon
USA vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnon

Five-time champion USA outlasted Italy after coming back from 2-1 down in the first quarter and three times fending off a defiant opposition. Italy proved strong in the first quarter with two Teresa FRASSINETTI goals coming from centre forward to give the Italians the quarter-time lead. Veteran Brenda VILLA opened the scoring for an early USA lead but FRASSINETTI’s power and strength at two metres proved irresistible. The first goal was off a backhand and the second with a lob after a deft turn. Italy might have been happy but the USA was not upset, knuckling down and scoring three unanswered goals in the second period as the defence stepped up and the shooting found the mark. VILLA, Lauren WENGER and Courtney MATHEWSON, on extra had the game lead of 4-2 at halftime. It looked better when Kameryn CRAIG dragged down a high ball on a cross pass on extra on the first attack of the third period. Aleksandra COTTI scored on penalty and Simona ABBATE sent in a sharp shot on extra for a one-goal deficit. Margaret STEFFENS and COTTI traded goals to set the game up tantalisingly at the final break. Kelly RULON gave breathing space when she accepted a wide pass on counter two minutes into the fourth quarter.  Kameryn CRAIG scored off deep right-hand catch, EMMOLO replied to keep Spain within two with 50 seconds left but the USA controlled the final phases and the delight on Melissa SEIDEMANN’s face after her goal was evident, giving the USA a three-goal margin.

Quarters: 2-4, 2-2, 3-0, 1-3

Referees: Marie-Claude DESLIERES (CAN), Jurgen HAUSCHE (GER)
Extra Man: GRE:  3/7. CHN: 5/12
Pens: GRE:  1/1. CHN: 0/0

GREECE: Eleni KOUVDOU, Christina TSOUKALA, Antiopi MELIDONI, Ilektra Maria PSOUNI (1), Kyriaki LIOSI (1), Alkisti AVRAMIDOU, Alexandra ASIMAKI, Antigoni ROUMPESI (3), Angeliki GEROLYMOU, Triantafyllia MANOLIOUDAKI, Stavroula ANTONAKOU (3), Georgia LARA, Eleni GOULA. Head Coach: Georgios MORFESIS.

CHINA: YANG Jun, TENG Fei, LIU Ping (1), SUN Yujun, HE Jin (2), SUN Yating (3), SONG Donglun, CHEN Yuan, WANG Yi (1), MA Huanhuan (2), SUN Huizi, ZHANG Lei, WANG Ying. Head Coach: Juan JANE GIRALT.

GRE vs CHN - credit: Russell McKinnon
GRE vs CHN - credit: Russell McKinnon

China needed a last-quarter revival to dig its way out of a two-goal deficit to clinch a 9-8 victory in the final minute. Greece was proactive all game and even kept China scoreless in the third period. At 4-2 by the first break, and with a large, supportive crowd, China looked set to roll on home against Greece. However, it was not to continue that way. HE Jin opened and Ilektra PSOUNI responded but then MA Huanhuan, HE again and captain SUN Yating with a slippery right-hand backhand goal, had China 4-1 ahead. Antigoni ROUMPESI narrowed it to 4-2. Then Stavroula ANTONAKOU began a purple patch in which she scored three goals in the middle phases of the game. She and ROUMPESI scored in the second but MA and LIU Ping also scored for the hosts to maintain a two-goal margin. The Greek defence then became like wall with few gaps. ANTONAKOU lobbed on one attack and slammed on the next, while ROUMPESI scored on extra. Eleni KOUVDOU was having a sensational game in goal, smiting every Chinese threatening ball in the third quarter to keep them scoreless. A Chinese timeout failed to come up with the goods as the ball creased the bar. At 7-6 down, the Chinese were wounded but not dead and the calm approach of head coach Juan JANE GIRAULT at the break was in stark contrast to some previous years. The news was even worse at the start of the fourth with Greek captain Kyriaki LIOSI scoring on extra in the hushed silence for 8-6. Joy filled the massive hall as captain SUN earned an exclusion and eventually regained the ball to score a doughnut goal over the goalkeeper’s head from point-blank range. She scored two attacks later and China was even at 8-8. Both teams hit the woodwork and then Greece called timeout at 1:42. Greece put the ball into Georgia LARA at centre forward but it was stolen and on the next attack, WANG Yi wasted no time is smashing the ball into goal from about seven metres with 0:52 left on the clock. Greece gained a timeout chance at 0:35 on extra and the ball moved 10 times before LIOSI had the courage for the shot from deep left-hand catch. WANG Ying stopped the ball, China took a timeout at 0:13 and controlled the ball to win 9-8.