Hungary, Russia, Spain and Italy march to Olympic temple

London 2012 Water Polo

Trieste (April 20) - The women's teams of Hungary, Russia, Spain and Italy, each winning their respective quarter final game on Day 6 of the Women's Water Polo Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Trieste (ITA), successfully booked their ticket to the 2012 London Olympic Games. The four squads will join Australia, China, Great Britain and the United States in the most expected international water polo showdown of the Olympic cycle this summer.  

In today's first encounter, Hungary imposed a grueling victory, 18-5, on Kazakhstan, thus being the first to secure the precious Olympic spot. Russia was too good for Canada, whose consistent team managed to lose by one goal (7-6). In a surprising game outcome, World champion Greece (and 2004 Olympic silver medallist) missed their chance to secure a London berth, losing to ever-impressive Spain 9-7. The Olympic dream of another heavy favourite abruptly vanished; that of the Dutch squad, Olympic champions in Beijing. The Netherlands indeed lost their chance to defend their Olympic title in London after a bitter loss to the home squad, Italy, 7-6.

Match reports: 

Game 17: 15.30, Quarter Final, HUNGARY 18 KAZAKHSTAN 5 
(6-1, 3-1; 4-1, 5-2)
Referees: Cory Williams (NZL), Hans Klopper (NED). 
HUNGARY: Flora Bolonyai, Dora Csabai, Dora Antal (3), Hanna Kisteleki (2), Gabriella Szucs (1), Orsolya Takacs, Rita Dravucz (1), Rita Keszthelyi (3), Ildiko Toth (1), Barbara Buika (4), Dora Czigany (1), Kata Menczinger (2), Edina Gangi. Head Coach: Andras Krisztina Meresz. 
KAZAKHSTAN: Galina Rytova, Lyudmila Chegodayeva, Aizhan Akilbayeva, Anna Turova (1), Darya   Vassilyeva, Anna Zubkova (1), Natalya Alexandrova, Yekaterina Gariyeva, Assel Yakayeva, Marina Gritsenko (2), Alexandra Rozhentseva (1), Kamila Marina, Kristina Krassikova. Head Coach: Andrey Sazykin.

HUN vs KAZ - credit: Guido Cantini/Sea&See

As expected, Hungary was the first qualifier for the Olympics. Their win over Kazakhstan was a sure bet. The Magyars controlled the game at pleasure, pushing forward almost all the way. The Kazakhs did their best to react and managed, sporadically, to score some goals. The Magyars scored 9 goals both in the first and in the second half of the game: 6 goals - 3 and 3 interrupted by one goal of the Kazakhs - in the first quarter, 3 in the second period, 4 in the third and five in last one. The score at half time was 9-2. The split score at the end of the second half was 9-3. The two #10 were the best scorers in their respective team: Hungary's centre Buika was the game best scorer with four goals; Kazakh Gritsenko scored two goals, both in the last period. As Hungary's captain Rita Dravucz put it: "Hungary's third win in the tournament was the easiest but it meant 'mission accomplished'". Hungary's head coach Andras Meresz said: "Today's victory was easy but important. We made a good job during the first round defeating two top teams like Russia and Spain. In the last two days, we will play hard and will try to win the tournament".

Extra-men: Hungary 3/4 + a penalty converted, Kazakhstan 0/4 + a penalty missed. Gangi (HUN) saved a penalty on Zubkova a 7:26 of the fourth period.  Gangi (HUN) replaced Bolonyai at the start of the fourth period. 

Goal highlights: 
First quarter: 7:36 Antal; 6:38 Czigany; 5:06 Keszthelyi; 4:46 Zubkova (KAZ); 3:39 Antal; 3:00 Toth; 1:20 Keszthely. (6-1). Second quarter: 4:35 Menczinger; 4:16 Turova (KAZ); 2:47 Buika; 0:10 Keszthelyi. (3-1). Third quarter: 7:28 Szucs; 4:13 Buika; 1:23 Kisteleki on penalty; 1:05 Rozhentseva (KAZ); 0:44 Dravucz. (4-1). Fourth quarter: 7:27 Gritsenko (KAZ); 5:43 Buika; 5:21 Gritsenko; 4:42 Buika; 4:07 Antal; 3:26 Menczinger; 2:08 Kisteleki (5-2).


Game 18: 17.00, Quarter Final, RUSSIA 7 CANADA 6  
(4-1, 1-1; 1-1, 1-3)
Referees: Radu Matache (ROU); Denis Carvalho (BRA).
RUSSIA: Maria Kovtunosakaya, Nadezhda Fedotova, Ekaterina Prokofyeava, Sofya Konkh (2), Alexandra Antonova, Olga Belova (1), Ekaterina Lisunova (2), Evgeniia Khokhriakova, Ekaterina Tankeeva (1), Olga Beliaeva, Evgeniya Ivanova, Diana Antonova (1), Anna Karnaukh. Head Coach: Alexander Kabanov.
CANADA: Rachel Riddell, Krystina Alogbo (3), Katrina Monton, Emily Jean Csikos (2), Joelle Bekhazi, Carmen Camille Eggens, Rosanna Tomiuk, Dominique Perreault (1), Monika Catharina Eggens, Christine Robinson, Tara Campbell, Marina Radu, Serena Bredin. Head Coach: Patrick Oaten.

RUS vs CAN - credit: Guido Cantini/Sea&See

The game was played between teams of even strength and was very balanced. The final outcome in favour of Russia was influenced by three straight goals scored by the European team in the first part of the first quarter – two from Lisunova and one from Konukh. Russia had therefore a comfortable 3-goal lead that would turn out to be decisive at the end of the game. One goal from each side in the second quarter made for a 5-2 score at half time. Both central periods were marked by many mistakes of the forwards, strong defences and some great saves from both goalkeepers: both ended on 1-1. In the last quarter, an opening goal from Diana Antonova was followed by two great goals from Canada's captain Alogbo, from 2-metres, and by a third one from team mate Csikos. The final score was 7-6 in favour of coach Kabanov's team, which got the second berth at stake in this tournament for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Sadly, because of its narrow defeat, Canada did not make it. Patrick Oaten, Canada's coach, said on the loss: "It's a sad day for our team. We found a very strong Russian team but we didn't play a good match. I'm not happy, we did a lot of errors". On the other side, happiness could not be hidden. Ekaterina Tankeeva admitted: "I'm so happy that I don't remember anything about the game. We made a good match against a strong team like Canada". Head coach Alexander Kabanov said: "We had only this chance to make the Olympics and we did it. We made a good tournament; today we played good water polo and worked hard until the last second of the match. We will try to win this tournament".

Extra-man: Russia 2/6 + a penalty missed; Canada 2/3 + a penalty converted. Prokofyeava (RUS) hit the post on penalty at 1:49 of the second quarter, on 4-2. Warning for Canada sanctioned for a controversial simulation foul of Campbell, at 6:55 of the fourth period.  

Goal highlights:
First quarter: 7:28 Lisunova (RUS) on a direct throw from the long distance, netted a great goal; 5:59 Lisunova (RUS); 5:21 Konukh (RUS); 1:19 Csikos (CAN) on penalty; 0:46 Konukh (RUS). (4-1). Second quarter: 7:21 Perreault (CAN); 1:17 Belova (RUS) from the long distance. (1-1). Third quarter: 6:51 Tankeeva (RUS); 5:51 Alogbo (CAN). (1-1). Fourth quarter: 6:01 Diana Antonova (RUS); at 5:29 and 4:42 two goals were scored from 2-metres by Canada's captain Alogbo, the second (third in the game) on an irresistible backshot; 0:40 Csikos (CAN). (1-3)

Game 19: 18.30, Quarter Final, SPAIN 9 GREECE 7 
(1-0, 5-6; 2-1, 1-0)
Referees: Gabor Vogel (HUN), Alexey Krapivin (RUS).
SPAIN: Laura Ester, Marta Bach (1), Anna Espar (1), Roser Tarrago (2), Matilde Ortiz, Jennifer Pareja, Lorena Mirando, Pilar Pena (2), Andrea Blas, Ona Meseguer, Maria Carmen Garcia (2), Laura Lopez (1), Ana Copado. Head Coach: Miguel Oca. 
GREECE: Eleni Kouvdou, Christina Tsoukala (1), Antiopi Melidoni (1), Ilektra Psouni (1), Kyriaki Liosi, Alkisti Avramidou, Alexandra Asimaki (3), Antigoni Roumpesi, Angeliki Gerolymou (1), Triantafyllia Manolioudaki, Stavroula Antonakou, Georgia Lara, Chrysoula Diamantopoulo. Head Coach: Georgios Morfesis.

ESP vs GRE - credit: Guido Cantini/Sea&See

It was a very tight match between the two fast Mediterranean teams. Spain confirmed it has grown up while Greece confirmed its strength. At the end of this hard fought match, the young Spanish team defeated the reigning world champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallists, unexpectedly winning the third Olympic ticket to the Games. Spain goalkeeper Laura Ester is also to be noted for some great saves. In the first period, the only goal came from Spain's centre Garcia. In the second period, both teams exchanged goals. The score at half time was 6-6; 8-7 at the end of the third quarter. The last quarter was again in favour of Spain by one goal. After the much wanted and suffered victory, the Spanish team celebrated in the water. Spain's head coach Miguel Oca said: "It's a beautiful moment for me and the team. Trieste is a very lucky place for me: last September, I won the Junior World Championships and today I was promoted to the Olympic Games. The team made a good tournament. We defeated two top teams like Italy and Greece with our tactical organization". On his part, Greece's head coach Georgios Morfesis admitted: "We didn't play a good match. We missed a lot of shoots in power-play, and it was a problem for our offensive game. In the fourth quarter, we became very nervous and lost the qualification to the Olympic Games. It is a strange situation for us; we won the World championships last year but that was not enough to go to the Olympics".

Excluded for three major fouls: Lopez (ESP) at 4:15, Ortiz (ESP) at 5:45 and Meseguer (ESP) at 7:41 of the fourth quarter. Extra-man: Spain 2/6, Greece 4/15 + a penalty converted. 

Goal highlights:
First quarter: 3:42 Garcia (ESP). (1-0). Second quarter: 7:20 Melidoni (GRE); 5:52 Pena (ESP); 5:40 and 4:54 Asimaki (GRE) scored twice; 4:32 left handed Pena scored her second goal for Spain; 3:50 Asimaki completed a hat trick; 3:16 Tarrago (ESP). (5-6). Third quarter: 5:32 Garcia (ESP); 2:17 Espar (ESP); 1:05 Gerolymou on penalty. (2-1). Fourth quarter: 3:14 Tarrago on a counterattack (after Greece missed two extra-man opportunities). (1-0).

Game 20: 20.00, Quarter Final, ITALY 7 NETHERLANDS 6 
(2-2, 3-3; 0-1, 2-0)
Referees: Georgios Stavridis (GRE), Jaume Teixido (ESP).
ITALY: Elena Gigli, Simona Abbate, Elisa Casanova, Rosaria Aiello,Martina Savioli, Allegra Lapi, Tania Di Mario (1), Roberta Bianconi (1), Giulia Emmolo (3), Giulia Rambaldi, Aleksandra Cotti (2), Teresa Frassinetti, Giulia Gorlero. Head Coach: Fabio Conti.
NETHERLANDS: Ilse Van der Meijden, Yasemin Smit (2), Mieke Cabout (2), Biurakn Hakhverdian, Sabrina Van der Sloot, Nomi Stomphorst, Iefke Van Belkum, Robbin Remers (2), Vivian Sevenich, Nienke Vermeer, Lieke Maria Klaassen, Hariet Cabout, Anne Heinis. Head Coach: Mauro Maugeri.

ITA vs NED - credit: Guido Cantini/Sea&See

The match was a tough confrontation between two equally strong teams: 2004 Olympic champion Italy and the gold medallist of Beijing 2008, the Netherlands. At stake, the fourth and last place for the 2012 Olympic Games. Both teams were very much aware of the sad fate reserved to the loser and battled at their best to gain the much sought-after ticket for London. Both the first and second quarter were tied: 2-2 and 3-3, respectively. Score at half time: 5-5. Only one goal was scored in the third quarter by the  Dutch, who went into the final quarter with the advantage of one goal (5-6). Italy tied 6-6 at 2:04 inside the last quarter.  Soon after, Giulia Emmolo scored her third goal. It was also the last one in the game, sealing Italy's victory. Left-handed Emmolo was indeed the match winner and the best scorer of the game. The vociferous home crowd undoubtedly helped the Italian team fulfilling the dream and reaching the heaven of the Olympic Games by the narrowest margin of one goal (7-6). The Dutch played well in the first half but then their strikers made too many mistakes. Sadly, the Olympic champion will not be able to defend their title at this summer's Olympics.

Dutch head coach Mario Maugeri (former coach of Italy) said: "I'm very proud of my team, we made a super tournament with a very young roster; we played good water polo against Italy also, but with 11 power-play against us, we did the maximum in such situation". Italy's head coach Fabio Conti said on their win: "It was a hard match; between the second and the third quarter, we have gone through some difficult moments. We missed a couple of shoots in power-play and the Netherlands had gone on 5-6. We are very happy now, the team has earned this result".

Excluded for three major fouls: Remers (NED) at 4:44 of the fourth period. Extra-man: Italy 4/11, The Netherlands 1/3. 

Goal highlights:
First quarter: 7:34 Mieke Cabout (NED); 6:25 Bianconi (ITA); 3:47 Emmolo (ITA); 2:43 Smit (NED). (2-2). Second quarter: : 7:35 and 6:56 Remers (NED) scored twice; 6:24 Di Mario (ITA); 4:32 Emmolo (ITA); 3:49 Mieke Cabout (NED); 0:58 Cotti (ITA). (3-3). Third quarter: 7:13 Smit (NED). (0-1). Fourth quarter: 5:56 Cotti (ITA); 4:37 Emmolo (ITA) scored her third goal, the last of the game too. (2-0).