Australia crushed United States of America 11-4 in the final round-robin match of the seven-day FINA Water Polo World League Intercontinental Cup in Lima, Peru. The Aussie Stingers went six straight while USA earlier lost to Canada and took home the bronze medal. Canada made sure of the silver medal with a 24-4 eclipse of Colombia and Argentina snatched a World Championship berth by defying Cuba’s desperate attempts 12-11. Brazil had the rest day and finished fourth.
Aussie Stingers swim away with title after dominant display
AUSTRALIA 11 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 4
Brooke McClean scored four goals off a drive, a centre-forward turn and then the last two goals for the emphatic victory. However, player of the match went to captain Zoe Arancini (pictured above receiving her award from FINA Athletes' Committee Member Voula Kozompoli) with consecutive penalty strikes either side of the final break and a deep-left shot on extra for 9-3. Goalkeeper Gabi Palm made six saves. For USA, Emily Ausmus was the only double scorer and goalkeeper Amanda Longan took down eight balls and finished with the goalkeeper-of-the-tournament award. The player of the tournament award went to Australia’s Bronte Halligan, who had just three shots for no reward today, but was an imposing figure in the pool all week.
The only turning point was the opening quarter where the Aussie Stingers went 3-0 ahead and kept USA out. Ausmus scored the only goal of the second quarter, so that was a win of sorts for the youthful and inexperienced USA. When Australia went 4-1 ahead in the third quarter, USA pulled two back for a flattering 4-3 margin. Australia then scored the next five goals before USA’s Jenna Flynn sent in probably the longest shot of the tournament, just a few metres inside the halfway line. McClean then scored twice into an empty goal as with the first, Longan was stranded up on attack and McClean had the bonus of an extra-man play to score and then landed the final goal at 1:05, lobbing the advancing Longan.
Stats don’t lie
Australia took 30 shots to USA’s 18; converted two from four on extra-man attack to USA’s two from seven and made an incredible 21 steals to seven. This was where Australia was the better team.
Australia was by far the more experienced team with many players having been in the international programme in some small way in the last five years. Its combinations, individual skills, speed and shooting prowess showed it’s in good shape considering having only left the country twice in nearly three years, the last being the Tokyo Olympic Games. USA was here with an untried team and coach and managed the bronze medal. Many players would have impressed and could be seen in USA’s ultimate line-up at both the Budapest FINA World Championships and the World League Super Final.
Bakoc’s six-goals urge Canada to fifth victory
CANADA 24 COLOMBIA 4
Verica Bakoc once again spearheaded Canada to victory with six goals and captain Gurpreet Sohi four as Canada headed winless Colombia 7-1, 5-0, 3-2 and 9-1 in the quarters. It was Canada saying “We want silver at least”, knowing that the final round-robin match could go USA’s way and gold could thus head to Canada through the three-way tie tiebreaker rules. It was not to be, but shows that Canada is capable of bigger things come the June FINA World Championships.
Canada took 37 shots to 19; claimed the extra-man count 7/13 to 2/6; and stole nine balls to two. Colombia made more blocks at 9/7 while the other statistics were nearly even. It was a huge effort by Canada to close out an excellent week, losing only to eventual winner Australia 14-11 on day two. For Colombia, stalwarts Angela Rivera, Carolina Ortega and Daniela Marin were the goal-scorers.
Penalty goals prove difference as Argentina earns Worlds trip
ARGENTINA 12 CUBA 11
Argentina will contest the Budapest FINA World Championships in June, gaining the final American berth by defeating Cuba 12-11. With such a carrot dangling, both teams wanted the prize badly and showed excellent moments in getting to the finish line in first position. Cuba went 2-0 ahead, led 3-2 at the quarter and 4-2 early in the second period. Argentina levelled and Cuba again went ahead, only for Argentina to take its first lead at 6-5. Cuba responded for the 6-6 halftime score. Argentina’s Dana Gerchovsky scored her first goal in Lima for 7-6 and Dalia Grau replied. Two goals to Argentina had the margin at two, which Lisbeth Santana trimmed to one. Carla Comba scored a penalty goal and Ana Agnesina netted her second to have Argentina ahead by two again. Santana pulled it back to one and Comba nailed a second penalty for 10-8. Cuba’s Marielis Zunzunegui, who scored twice in the second period, scored her third for 10-9 to close the third-quarter scoring. Dramatically, the match swung Cuba’s way with Madonnis Chavez grabbing her second on extra-man attack and Zunzunegui bringing up her fourth for the 11-10 advantage at 6:01. Ashley Haatcher, who missed a possible opening penalty, gained her third goal on extra to level at 4:58. Gerchovsky missed her penalty attempt, but Comba made sure of her third penalty strike at 1:07. Both teams immediately lost the ball after timeouts and Zunzunegui had the final chance to force the penalty shootout, but her attempt was blocked and Argentina had all the glory and spoils.
Cuba claimed a goal it scored on full-time should have been counted because of an anomaly with the television timing and the game clock. VAR was used to determine that the ball was on the player’s hand when the final buzzer sounded, so the equalising goal was denied.
Haatcher and Comba scored three each for Argentina and goalkeeper Nahir Stegmeyer made nine saves. For Cuba, Zunzunegui scored four from 11 attempts while Chavez, Grau and Santana slotted two each. Arisney Ramos made a near-match-winning 13 saves in goal. The shots were fairly even at 33/34 and on extra-man attack, Argentina converted three from four and Cuba three from three. Cuba won the blocks 17/16; Argentina the steals at 7/4 and made four offensives to two and one turnover.
Australia 18, Canada 15, USA 12, Brazil 9, Argentina 6, Cuba 3, Colombia 0.
Top Scorer — Verica Bakoc (CAN), 21 goals, pictured with TWPC Member Monica Brochero)
Best Goalkeeper — Amanda Longan (USA), pictured with TWPC Member Guy Pinker
Most Valuable Player — Bronte Halligan (AUS), pictured with TWPC Member Alan Balfanbayev