Trieste, Italy.— In a battle that never really determined anything, Hungary beat Netherlands 13-11 for the gold medal on the sixth and final day of the women’s water polo Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in the Bruno Bianchi Aquatic Centre today.
It was a dead rubber in the context of the tournament where the winners of the semifinals qualified for the final two berths at Tokyo 2020.
However, pride was on the line and both teams were lifted by their Super Saturday successes and provided an enlightening match.
photo credit Andrea Staccioli / DBM
It was much harder in the bronze-medal decider where the two losing semifinalists — who did not qualify for the Olympic Games — addressed the empty stadium with a dour affair, giving Greece a 10-4 victory.
France won the “minor championship” by beating Kazakhstan 12-10, never being headed, and delivered its third victory, to go with wins over Slovakia and Israel, for fifth place.
Israel bowed out of the tournament in high fashion, downing Slovakia 13-10 for seventh position, giving it a first win to go with an earlier draw with Kazakhstan.
In a tale of two immaculate goal-scorers — Hungary’s Rita Keszthelyi and Greece’s Christina Tsoukala — there was little separating them from their efforts and contribution to their teams. Heroically, Keszthelyi will carry her talents through to Tokyo 2020 while Tsoukala will only watch on the television as Greece faltered at the final hurdle. It will mean Greece misses three Olympiads after finishing eighth in 2008.
Spare a thought for Italy, which has attended four straight Olympic Games since 2004 and who will also miss the trip to Tokyo.
Netherlands will have a chance to taste Olympic glory again, possibly, emulating that great team from 2008, which won the gold medal over the United States of America and Danielle de Bruin’s incredible seven-goal haul in the final.
Qualified teams will be looking to the FINA World League for more competition ahead of Tokyo and all eyes will be on the Olympic draw, probably being made at the same time as the men’s after their qualification tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands next month.
Hungary and Netherlands will join reigning champion USA, Canada, host Japan, China, Australia, South Africa and European qualifiers Spain and Russia in the tournament that has been expanded from eight to 10 teams.
Unlike the qualification tournament, teams will front with 11 players only in the women’s and men’s competitions in Tokyo, for the first time. This came about to help restrict overall numbers at the Olympic Games and give two extra women’s teams to water polo.
Sunday Finals Programme
Match 21, 14:00, SVK 10 ISR 13
Match 22, 16:00, KAZ 10 FRA 12
Match 23, 18:00, GRE 10 ITA 4
Match 24, 20:00, NED 11 HUN 13
Rita Keszthelyi (HUN) 28/44
Christina Tsoukala (GRE) 23/36
Simone van de Kraats (NED) 15/21
Eleftheria Plevritou (GRE) 15/31
Valeria Palmieri (ITA) 14/21
Louise Guillet (FRA) 13/38
Carmelia Marletta (ITA) 12/22
Maud Megens (NED) 12/27
Ema Vernoux (FRA) 12/33
Greta Gurisatti (HUN) 11/22
Darya Roga (KAZ) 11/28