Spain and Hungary showed why they are Olympic contenders with handsome victories on the opening day of the FINA Women's World League Super Final in Athens, Greece today. Competing in different groups, Spain defeated Kazakhstan 20-11 after tight first and fourth periods while Hungary opened strongly, surging from 7-1 at the first break to 26-10 by fulltime over Olympic host Japan.
Despite a fantastic start by Kazakhstan, Spain had the credentials and the skills to lift when most needed and blew the Asians out of the water in the second quarter en route to a solid victory in Group B.
Kazakhstan led twice in the opening spell and had the match at 6-6 a minute into the second quarter before Spain unleashed a barrage of shots to lift the score to 12-6 by halftime and 14-6 at the final break. Spain won the last quarter 6-5, showing that the Kazakhstan spirit was there until the end.
Check the results
However, Spanish head coach Miki Oca was content to give all his team ample time in the water and switched players at will while Kazakhstan relied heavily on its main stars.
The mental fatigue of Covid-19 may have had an early effect on Spain before the floodgates opened with the seven-goal second-quarter haul, which included two penalty strikes, making up for the opportunity lost halfway through the first quarter.
Anna Turova, so long the strikeforce for Kazakhstan, netted three goals to keep her team in the match by the first break. However, doubles from experienced veteran Anna Espar and international newcomer Alejandra Aznar had the Spaniards fully in control by the long break.
Judith Forca drilled a six-metre shot to close the period and opened the third on extra as Spain was skilfully controlling the eight minutes before what became an excellent scoring final period.
Four Spaniards hit triples while Turova made it four from six attempts. Alexandra Zharkimbayeva was sparkling in goal for Kazakhstan, making 10 saves, including the penalty stop in the first quarter. Spain converted five from 10 attempts on extra-man attack compared to Kazakhstan’s two from seven.
Hungary’s pedigree coming into this match was enough to make sure Japan would not be a threat in the first Group A encounter. With the mighty Rita Keszthelyi ramming in three opening-quarter goals, Hungary had the measure of Japan from the starting whistle. The 7-1 opening quarter was only blemished by Miku Koide’s centre-forward strike for 2-1.
Japan roared into life with two goals early in the second quarter, boosted by Yumi Arima’s conversion of extra-man attack. However, Dora Abel-Antal struck twice in 30 seconds as Hungary surged to 11-3. Yuki Niizawa and Maiko Hashida scored Japan’s third and fourth goals and Rebecca Parkes (HUN) netted her second from two metres for 12-4 as halftime neared. Japan, looking much more controlled from the early bewilderment, drew a fifth goal, on extra, through Kyoko Kudo in her debut on the big stage to close the half’s scoring.
Parkes was enjoying her time in front of goal at the start of the third period and fired four shots from point-blank range — scoring, hitting the post, scoring and missing the target. Her strength proved too much for Japan to handle as she scored her fifth goal for 20-8 in the final period and finally finished with seven, missing just the two attempts. It proves size and strength does matter when it comes to the torrid centre-forward position.
Keszthelyi had the perfect five from five and Greta Gurisatti equalled the feat, closing with two late counter-attack performances.
Akari Inaba scored twice in the final quarter as a dogged Japanese showing reaped 10 goals against the powerful Hungarians. Arima had all the work to do and fired 12 shots to goal for only one to bypass the goalkeeper.
Both teams took 35 shots and both scored four on extra-man attack with Hungary the slightly better percentage.
Full statistics — http://results.microplustiming.com/athens2021