FINA water polo arrived in Israel for the first time and spirited play by 16 teams started the XIV FINA Women’s Junior Water Polo World Championships in Netanya. Reigning champion Russia, Greece, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Argentina, Israel and Hungary were all winners on the first of three days of group matches. FINA Media Committee Member Russell McKinnon reports on the opening day.
There was high-pressure action on the opening day of the FINA Women’s Junior Water Polo World Championships in Netanya, Israel.
The biggest came in the opening match when Group A hot-shots Italy and Greece decided what will probably be the group’s first position.
What started as a close match with the score level with only a few minutes to quarter time between these powerhouse nations, turned into a Greek feast, shooting to 7-3 at halftime and 10-4 at the final break before closing at 12-6.
Photography By Gilad Kavalerchik
It was a shaky start for Italy, in particular, resorting to long outside shots while Greece was secure in the knowledge it could convert from close in, especially with its two national senior squad members Eirini Ninou and Ioulia Kontoni.
Ninou has played at the elite level and her skills from right-hand-catch position proved invaluable, scoring three, including one from nine metres. Kontoni went two better, proving her future in the game is on the right track.
Captain Maria Myriokefalitaki was brutal in her attack, scoring on counter in the first quarter, from two metres in the second and then with a one-person counter that the goalkeeper deflected into the back rope, giving the captain the corner and then the drive to baulk and score for the final nail in the coffin.
A goal earlier, pure skill came from Christine Siouti, who drove deep right, turned one defender, nudged off the second, baulked the goalkeeper and lanced the ball into the left of the cage.
For Italy, it was an upsetting loss, as long shots failed to find their mark. The halftime chat from coach Carlo Silipo — 1992 Olympic champion — had some effect, especially on Sofia Giustini who scored all three of Italy’s second-half goals. Unfortunately, she watched as her penalty attempt was blocked — Italy’s second miss from the five-metre line.
In the other Group A match, Germany and Slovakia had a close tussle with Germany breaking the shackles late in the third period and then shooting to 12-7 before claiming the encounter 12-8. Jamie Haas was Germany’s leading scorer with five goals and Nela Mesterova netted four for Slovakia. Slovakia is being coached by 2004 Olympic champion Cinzia Ragusa of Italy.
VAR (video assisted review) was used to confirm goals in each of the first two matches.
In Group B, Netherlands had the better of South Africa, winning 30-4 thanks to a 9-0 second quarter that seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Africans.
South Africa sported the same head coach-captain combination from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games — Delaine Mentoor and Jordan Wedderburn respectively — while the Dutch head coach — Evangelos Doudesis — was a Netherlands assistant coach in Tokyo.
Spain, coached by Tokyo 2020 assistant coach Jordi Valls, beat France 15-5. Elena Ruiz, one of the finds at Tokyo, spearheaded Spain with five goals and can be expected to be one of the stars in Netanya. France had six players from the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in February and head coach Florian Bruzzo on the roster, a nod to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
In Group C, Argentina downed Peru 15-4 and host Israel beat Serbia 14-9 in front of an adoring and boisterous crowd. Argentina’s top scorers were Florencia D’Onofrio and captain Ludmila Ianni with three each. Peru’s Rebeca Rodriguez also netted three. Serbian skipper Hristina Ilic blasted home five goals and Israel’s top scorer was Noa Sasova with four.
In Group D, the leading teams made their intentions clear with big margins. Russia, champion for the last two editions, defeated Brazil 19-4 and Hungary sent off Uzbekistan 22-1. Russia scored five goals in each of the first three periods and finished with a 4-0 flourish as nine players scored. Russia is coached by dual Olympic bronze-medal player Sergey Markoch. Regina Imzianova topped the list with four goals and Brazil’s Leticia Belorio grabbed three.
Hungary was relentless, captain Kinga Peresztegi-Nagy firing in six goals as all her field team-mates scored, while Uzbekistan’s lone goal, early in the fourth quarter, came on extra-man attack from Sokhibakhon Sayfiddinova.
Key matches on Monday will include Spain-Netherlands (9:00), Israel-Argentina (13:30) and Germany-Italy (19:00).
Day 1 match results:
Group A: Greece 12 Italy 6 (2-3, 1-4, 1-3, 2-2), Slovakia 8 Germany 12 (2-2, 3-3, 2-4, 1-3).
Group B: Netherlands 30 South Africa 4 (4-2, 9-0, 11-1, 7-1), France 5 Spain 15 (1-4, 2-5, 1-5, 1-1).
Group C: Serbia 9 Israel 14 (1-1, 2-4, 2-5, 4-4), Argentina 15 Peru 4 (1-1, 2-4, 2-5, 4-4).
Group D: Russia 19 Brazil 4 (5-0, 5-3, 5-1, 4-0), Hungary 22 Uzbekistan 1 (6-0, 3-0, 6-0, 7-1).
Group A: Greece 2, Germany 2, Slovakia, Italy 0.
Group B: Netherlands 2, Spain 2, France, South Africa 0.
Group C: Argentina 2, Israel 2, Serbia 0, Peru 0.
Group D: Hungary 2, Russia 2, Brazil 0, Uzbekistan 0.
Full results can be accessed at: https://www.fina.org/competitions/1141/fina-world-women-s-junior-waterpolo-championships-2021/results?event=30d346ac-cdff-4278-9572-fbc2b0d31953 and all matches are streamed on the FINA Youtube channel.