Gergely Csurka FINA Media Committee Member (HUN)

A rare scenario saw the Greeks netting as many as 14 goals against the mighty Spaniards in the clash of the former world champions (Greece won in 2011, Spain in 2013) and that was more than enough for a fine victory on the opening day. The favourites didn’t make any mistake while earning their respective wins in the other five matches, the world champion and Olympic title-holder US team set the day’s scoring record with 18 goals.

Game 1 – 12.40, Group A: Japan v United States 1-18 (0-6, 1-5, 0-2, 0-5)
Referees: Natacha Florestano (BRA), Svetlana Dreval (RUS)

JAPAN: Mivra Rikako, Sakanove Chiaki, Ianab Akari, Maganiyama Shino, Nakata Moe, Takahashi Oyaka, Nakano Yumi, Hashigochi Mitsuki 1, Hosoya Kana, Moni Tsuhasa, Jokumoto Marina, Suzuki Kotori, Aoki Miyun. Head coach: Kato Hideo

USA: Samantha Hill, Madeline Musselman 2, Melissa Seidemann, Rachel Fattal 2, Caroline Clark, Margaret Steffens 3, Courtney Mathewson, Kiley Neushul 4, Aria Fischer 3, Kaleigh Gilchrist, Makenzie Fischer 3, Kameryn Craig 2, Ashleigh Johnson. Head coach: Adam Krikorian

Extramen
JPN: 0 for 4
USA: 4 for 6

Penalties
JPN: none
USA: 2 for 2

It took 17 seconds for the world champion US team to take the lead against Japan, Kameryn Craig put away the ball from the centre – and gap just kept growing, only the third period saw a bit of slowing down from the world beaters. The lonely Japanese goal came late in the second period, with 25 seconds before the middle break. The game ended up just like their recent encounters: in Kazan the US won 17-2, while just a month ago, in the World League Intercontinental Tournament it was 19-2, so this 18-1 fits to the line.

Comments

Kato Hideo, head coach, Japan
“The result shows big difference, and in fact there was a big difference. We would have liked to lead much more counter attacks but we couldn’t – this was a bit disappointing.”

Adam Krikorian, head coach, USA
“Our next three games will be very challenging so it’s good to have a warm-up game under our belt. This definitely helps us for the next three.”

Game 2 – 14.00, Group A: South Africa v Canada 2-17 (0-3, 1-6, 1-4, 0-4)
Referees: Marcela Mauss (GER), Erwin Schaapers (NED)

SOUTH AFRICA: Rebecca Thomas, Amber Penny 1, Kieren Paley, Emma Hardham, Cary Wessels 1, Christine Abrahamse, Amy Keevy, Alex van der Valt, Megan Parkes, Amica Hallendorf, Kelsey White, Lauren Nixon. Head coach: Samuel Gareth

CANADA: Jessica Gaudreault, Krystina Alogbo 1, Katrina Monton, Emma Wright 4, Monika Eggens 4, Kelly McKee, Joelle Bekhazi, Axelle Crevier 2, Carmen Eggens, Christine Robinson, Hanna Yelizarova 4, Dominique Perreault 2, Nicola Colterjohn. Head coach: David Paradelo

Extramen
RSA: none
CAN: 3 for 7

Penalties
RSA: 1 for 1
CAN: 1 for 1

As expected, another easy journey for the favourite side: the Canadians needed a little less than four minutes to open the scoring. Then they found their rhythm which was bad news for the South Africans who could get on the scoreboard after 13:36 minutes, while trailing 0-8.

Comments

Samuel Gareth, head coach, South Africa
“We played with a superior team, Canada has been playing together much longer. We are here to build our team and if we are lucky we can even qualify – but today we didn’t have any luck at all.”

David Paradelo, head coach, Canada
“We have a very disciplined game, did the little things pretty well. It was a good preparations for the really important matches.”

Game 3 – 15.20, Group A: Spain v Greece 11-14 (2-3, 2-4, 3-3, 4-4)
Referees: Gabriella Varkonyi (HUN), Daniel Flahive (AUS)

SPAIN: Laura Ester, Marta Bach, Anna Espar 1, Beatriz Ortiz 1, Matilde Ortiz, Jennifer Pareja, Paula Leiton 1, Pilar Pena, Judith Forca 4, Roser Tarrago 2, Maica Garcia 1, Laura Lopez 1, Patricia Herrera. Head coach: Miguel Oca

GREECE: Eleni Kouvdou, Christina Tsoukala 2, Nikoleta Eleftheriadou, Vasiliki Diamantopoulou, Margarita Plevritou 1, Alkisi Avramidou 3, Alexandra Asimaki, Antigoni Roumpesi 3, Christina Kotsia, Triantafyllia Manolioudaki 1, Eleftheria Plevritou 1, Eleni Xenaki 3, Chrysoula Diamantopoulou. Head coach: Athanasios Kechagias

Extramen:
ESP: 4 for 14
GRE: 5 for 10

The first signs that the Greek concentration level is a bit higher this day came in the middle of the opening period when the Spaniards missed two connecting 6 on 5s during one possession. Soon after the Greek took the lead for the first time in the game and never looked back. Spain levelled the score at the beginning of the second but another missed extra cost them a lot: Greece hit four in succession for a 3-7 lead.

Judith Forca brought back some hope for Spain before the break and the 2013 world champions showed some quality water polo in the first five minutes of the third period. While netting two, their brand new defensive tactics worked pretty well as two players stood on the goal line and the others disturbed the Greek attackers quite effectively. They bounced back for 6-7 and they seemed to equalise soon, but it never happened. The Greeks finally earned a man-up and Eleni Xenaki converted it, then they stayed tuned and soon it was 6-9 as Alkisi Avramidou and Antigoni Roumpesi added further goals – Roumpesi indeed managed to beat the new defensive format.

Spain had slim chance early in the fourth, scoring connecting goals after 7-11 but again, the Greeks’ concentration prevailed: Avramidou netted a crucial 6 on 5 for 9-12. Soon they were 9-14 up and could celebrate a fine win. Since this tournament is arguably the toughest of all, this victory is not just a simple one achieved in the prelims, it can mean a lot when the pairings will be settled for the quarter-finals.

Comments

Miguel Oca, head coach of Spain
“We didn’t play well in defence, we conceded 14 goals, it’s too much in a game against any team but especially against Greece, they are great in defence so you cannot beat them if you let them score 14 times.”

Athanasios Kechagias, head coach of Greece
“Today we played well but the tournament is quite long so we have to keep our joy on a low level. Tomorrow is another day, with another game.”

Game 4 – 16.40, Group B: New Zealand v Russia 2-15 (0-3, 1-5 1-3, 0-4)
Referees: Nikolaos Boudramis (GRE), Michael Baty (RSA)

NEW ZEALAND: Jessica Mihcich, Nicole Lewis 1, Kelly Mason 1, Ricci Ferigo, Simone Lewis, Annabel Harman, Alexander Boyd, Caitlyn Lopes Da Silva, Emma Stoneman, Ema Carevic, Casie Bowry, Liana Dance, Antouki Youna. Head coach: Angie Winstanley-Smith

RUSSIA: Anna Ustyukhina, Tatiana Zubkova 3, Ekaterina Prokofyeva 2, Elvina Karimova, Maria Borisova 1, Olga Gorbunova 2, Svetlana Kuzina 1, Anastasia Simanovich 2, Anna Timofeeva 2, Evgeniia Soboleva 1, Evgeniya Ivanova, Anna Grineva 1, Anna Karnaukh. Head coach: Alexander Gaidukov

Extramen
NZL: 0 for 10
RUS: 4 for 8

Penalties
NZL: none
RUS: 1 for 1

As in the first two games of the opening day, only the margin of Russia’s win was in question. The New Zealanders could withstand the pressure for a couple of minutes but soon they found themselves 0-6 down. At this stage they managed to score first, after 12:10 minutes. The Russians didn’t bring their very best to the pool, they seemed to reserve some energy for the following chapters – but two, almost equal halves (1-8, 1-7) were enough to earn an easy win.

Comment

Angie Winstanley-Smith, head coach of New Zealand:
“We’ve got a really young team, we don’t have a lot of experience in playing at this kind of level as this the first time New Zealand take part in this qualification tournament. We were a bit unlucky on a couple of occasion, the 15-2 result doesn’t represent the game and a lot of people agree with us on that. It’s a great experience for this team as we haven’t played any official game since Kazan.”

Game 5 – 18.30, Group B: France v Netherlands 5-14 (1-2, 2-4, 1-4, 1-4)
Referees: Adrian Alexandrescu (ROU), Steve Rotsart (USA)

©Pasquale Mesiano

FRANCE: Lorene Derenty, Estelle Milot 1, Lea Bachelier, Aurore Sacre 1, Louise Guillet, Geraldine Mahieu, Marie Barbieux, Marion Tardy 2, Adeline Sacre 1, Audrey Daule, Lucie Cesca, Michaela Jaskova, Morgane Chabrier. Head coach: Filippos Sakellis

NETHERLANDS: Laura Aarts, Miloushka Smit 2, Dagmar Genee 1, Catharina van der Sloot 4, Amarens Genee 1, Nomi Stomphorst, Marloes Nijhuis 1, Vivian Sevenich, Maud Megens 2, Isabella van Toorn, Lieke Klaassen 2, Leonie van der Molen 1, Debby Willemsz. Head coach: Anro Havenga

Extramen
FRA: 2 for 6
NED: 3 for 9

Penalties
FRA: none
NED: 1 for 1

For one and a half periods the hosts struggled a bit against France which was a bit surprising as the Dutch got the silver medal both at the FINA World Championships in Kazan (in last summer) and at the Europeans in Belgrade (this January), while France finished 14th and 7th respectively. Still, the French did some great job in defence while the Dutch seemed a bit nervous in front of their supporters who filled the stands in the Groenhovenbad.

Though towards the middle break the Dutch started to gain control, jumped to 3-6 from 3-4 and in the third they quickly decided the match by adding four more. Indeed the partial results show the difference between the Holland performances: 3-6 in thee first half, 2-8 in the second.

Comments

Filippos Sakellis, head coach, France:
“The first half was good, we played well against a really strong team which seeks the Olympic qualification. From the third period we had to start our rotation as the tournament is long and we need rested players."

Arno Havenga, head coach, Netherlands:
“It was a usual opening game for a host team. Naturally, we were a bit nervous, felt the pressure but improved a bit for the second half. It was a good win for the first day, tomorrow we’ll have the start of our real tournament (against Russia)."

Game 6 – 20.00, Group B: Italy v Germany 16-3 (4-0, 5-0, 4-2, 3-1)
Referees: Jaume Teixido (ESP), Yosuke Kajiwara (JPN)

©Pasquale Mesiano

ITALY: Gulia Gorlero, Chiara Tabani 2, Arianna Garibotti 3, Elisa Queirolo 2, Federica Radicchi 1, Rosaria Aiello 1, Tania di Mario 2, Roberta Bianconi 2, Giulia Emmolo 2, Francesca Pomeri, Aleksandra Cotti 1, Teresa Frassinetti, Laura Teani. Head coach: Fabio Conti

GERMANY: Felicitas Saurusajtis, Belen Vossberg, Nadja Kreis, Bianca Seyfert 1, Claudia Blomenkamp 1, Sina van der Bosch, Anja Seyfert, Jamie Verebelyi, Jenifer Stiefel 1, Nadine Hartwig, Carmen Gelse, Anika Ebell, Liselotte Hurrelmann. Head coach: Milos Sekulic

Extramen
ITA: 2 for 4
GER: 1 for 5

Penalties
ITA: 3 for 3
GER: none

Finally a team wearing the white caps left the pool as the winning side. Italy did a clean job against the Germans, just as two months ago in Belgrade when they won 22-3 in Belgrade, at the Europeans. This encounter was similar, this time the Italians didn't rush that much in the second half, still, they were superior in all fields of the game. The Germans scored their first goal only in the third period, at 9-0, however, they managed to keep the Italians well under 20 goals, a small success in the one-sided fight.

Comments

Fabio Conti, head coach, Italy:
“This game was about to start the tournament, to get the feeling – our first big test is due on Wednesday.”

Petar Trbojevic, coach, Germany:
“We lost to a clearly better side. We have five new girls in the team, compared to the Europeans, their big event is the junior Europeans in September. Here we expect the older players to push them to a higher level and to gain experience. The girls fought hard, until the end, I cannot ask any more from them.”