Australia, United States of America, Canada and Brazil have all qualified for the Super Final after sixth-day play at the FINA Water Polo World League Intercontinental Cup in Lima, Peru. Australia romped home 33-1 against bottom-ranked Colombia, No 3 Canada fended off No 5 Argentina 16-3 and Brazil survived a fierce battle with Cuba for the all-important fourth spot and with it, cementing a valuable World Championship berth.
Brazil comes from three down in third period to pip Cuba
BRAZIL 10 CUBA 9
Brazilian captain Melani Dias was the leading scorer with three goals, backed up by Kemily Ferreira, Leticia Belorio and Ana Dias with two each. Goalkeeper Thatiana Pregolia made 11 saves and one assist, as did Cuban goalkeeper Arisney Ramos. Madonnis Chavez, Daniuska Carrasco and Lisbeth Santana netted twice for Cuba.
Brazil had a 3-1 lead after four minutes and then watched as Cuba rattled in three unanswered goals by midway through the second quarter. The impetus stayed with Cuba until several minutes into the third quarter, leading 8-5 and on track for a wonderful victory. Then the big turning point of the match came as the more experienced Brazil pulled it back to 8-7 down by the final break and then scored three more in the first four minutes of the last period for a 10-8 advantage. Cuba snared one back at 2:09 and the possibility of a shootout was palpable. Both teams took a timeout, but resulting plays failed to find the net, giving Brazil an unlikely victory considering the position it was in at three down. Cuba led for 13 minutes, but it was not to be its day.
Stats don’t lie
Brazil matched Australia for shots taken — 41. Cuba managed just 29. Brazil struggled horribly on extra-man attack, converting only three from 11 while Cuba was tidier at 3/5. Cuba made more blocks, naturally — 21/13. Brazil, however, stole more at 10/2 and the offensives and turnovers were slightly in Cuba’s favour.
Brazil is the team that could do well at the Super Final, but Cuba was not that far off the mark. It’s chance for glory could come on Sunday when it plays Argentina for the final American berth at the Budapest FINA World Championships. Brazil has earned a rest day, having played six straight and can look forward to the next two major assignments.
Bakoc’s five-goal blast hurls Canada to fourth victory
ARGENTINA 3 CANADA 16
Canada made sure of the match and the result in its quest to finish atop the ladder. Goals were hard to come by at the start, leading 2-0 thanks to a Shae La Roche pair, before Argentina responded and then scoring twice in the final minute — another to La Roche — of the quarter for 4-1. Verica Bakoc gained the first of her five goals on counter. She started the second quarter with another counter-attack goal in a tight period that moved to 6-2 by halftime. Cecilia Leonard struck on extra-man attack for Argentina. Left-hander Bakoc then scored three straight, from deep right, on counter and then drove and sat up to blast the ball in from the top for 9-2. Serena Cameron scored twice in the next four goals — one from penalty — as Canada kept Argentina scoreless and headed into the last quarter with a 13-2 advantage. Ashley Haatcher scored off a quick one-two on extra to open the final-quarter scoring for Argentina with Canadian Cameron adding a third, Hayley McKelvey from deep left and captain Gurpreet Sohi from right-hand catch.
La Roche added a fourth goal in the third period for a total of four. Canadian goalkeeper Jessica Gaudreault made eight saves and four assists. In the stats, Canada took 16 more shots than Argentina, vaguely won the extra-man count 4/10 to 1/3; made three more steals at 12/9 and forced two more turnovers and offensive fouls. The blocks were fairly even. The win was Canada’s fourth and Argentina’s fourth defeat.
Aussie Sharks remain unbeaten after dominant display
AUSTRALIA 33 COLOMBIA 1
As the leading team in the competition, the Aussie Stingers showed respect for Colombia and played at the top level, cruising through the quarters 10-0, 8-0, 9-1 and 6-0. Australia needs to play its best as it faces World League champion USA on Sunday and a win there would secure the gold medal. Abby Andrews, centre forward Amy Ridge and Sienna Hearn scored five goals each while Charlize Andrews and Olympian Lena Mihailovic netted four apiece. Tokyo Olympian Bronte Halligan added another three. For Colombia, Daniela Marin scored on extra-man attack at 27-1, after a timeout, receiving the ball at deep right-hand catch and sending the ball into the flailing hands of the goalkeeper. Her excitement at scoring was more relief than triumph.
The statistics, as expected, favour Australia, taking a tournament-high 41 shots to 14, winning extra-man attack 2/3 to 1/4; making 10 blocks to five and taking an incredible 25 steals to four. Colombia forced three turnovers to one and equalled the offensive fouls at two.
The tournament will be decided with the final women’s encounter between unbeaten Australia and defending World League champion United States of America, which was beaten by Canada on day five. However, the winner of the gold medal might not come from that match. Canada should easily beat Colombia to finish on 15 points. If USA wins, it finishes on 15 points as well and there would be a three-way tie with the results between the three the big decider. Brazil has completed its schedule with three wins and cannot be overtaken from the fourth spot in the World League Super Final. Argentina will play Cuba and while that match has no bearing on making the Super Final, it carries super significance as the winner will gain the final American berth at the Budapest FINA World Championships in June. USA, Australia and Canada gained their World Championship qualification from the Tokyo Olympic Games; Brazil earned its spot from Lima and the winner of Argentina-Cuba will do the same.
Australia 15, USA 12, Canada 12, Brazil 9, Argentina 3, Cuba 3, Colombia 0.