United States of America pipped Australia 7-6 for the gold medal at the FINA Men’s Water Polo World League Intercontinental Cup in Lima, Peru, on Sunday. Although it was all about qualifying for the Super Final in France, there was still pride on the line as USA overturned the 12-11 loss to the Aussie Sharks in the round-robin stages. Brazil came from one down in the final quarter to swim over Canada 11-7 with four goals in two and a half minutes.
Super-shot Dodd scores a triple in gold-medal victory
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 7 AUSTRALIA 6
Chase Dodd, one of the tournament’s leading scorers, scored three more for 15 in Lima during the middle stages of the final, lifting the team from 2-2 to 6-4. Thomas Gruwell added a double for USA and his captain, Drew Holland, made 11 saves and also named best goalkeeper in Lima. Luke Pavillard, adjudged the tournament’s most valuable player, scored three for the Aussie Sharks, one from penalty and two from extra-man attack, bringing his total to 19 — one behind team-mate and co-captain Blake Edwards, who topped all scorers.
The biggest turning point was when USA levelled the match at 1-1 and went 2-1 ahead, shaping the match. Aussie co-captain Nathan Power sent in a screamer off a cross pass for 2-2 by the first break. USA scored the only goal of the second quarter and went to 5-2 before Pavillard broke the Aussie drought of more than 15 minutes. An Andrej Grgurevic rebound flick off the left-post position brought it to 6-4 at 0:52 and Gruwell scored from the top on extra for a handsome 7-4 lead at 3:24 in the fourth quarter. Australia came back into the picture through Pavillard and Edwards from deep left on extra at 6:12. However, both teams hunted down every ball and even with three timeouts, no further goal eventuated.
Stats don’t lie
In this case the stats do lie. Australia had the better of the figures all over the pool, except on the scoreboard. The Sharks took 35 shots to 32, won the extra-man count 4/8 to 1/6; forced USA into four offensives and one turnover. The blocks and steals were even at 15/15 and 5/5. One would think with the extra-man count alone, Australia should have finished across the line first.
Two tough teams and power play all over the pitch. Both teams had the shooters, the plays and the bench to produce excellent water polo. The fact that they both won a match, augers well for the Super Final in July but, more importantly, the upcoming FINA World Championships.
Brazil comes up with the goals when most needed
CANADA 8 BRAZIL 11
Brazil scored an incredible four goals inside the final three minutes to up-end Canada 11-8 and grasp the bronze medal. Canada beat eventual champion USA in the rounds and beat Brazil 11-10 in the rounds, so expected more, especially when 7-5 ahead in the third period and 8-7 up with three minutes remaining. However, Brazil’s resolve and two goals from Bruno Chappini and one each from Gustavo Coutinho and captain Rafael Real had Canada reeling and nowhere to go with only 11 seconds left in the match. Reuel D’Souza netted Canada’s last three goals — the last two o extra-man attack. Gustavo Guimaraes scored three of the first five goals for Brazil with Real and Chappini making it two each. Brazilian goalkeeper Guilherme Barella made a respectable 10 saves in the team’s most critical encounter.
The match was decided possibly on steals — 9/4 to Brazil, as the extra-man conversions were similar at four from 12 for Brazil and five from 13 for Canada. Brazil made two more offensives while the blocks favoured Brazil by two. It was close all around and the brilliant defence by each showed. Canada succumbed in the final three minutes, possibly through tiredness after such a tough and close tournament.
United States of America, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, Colombia.
Highest Goal-scorer — Blake Edwards (AUS), 20 with FINA TWPC Member Ken Kuroda
Best Goalkeeper — Drew Holland (USA) with FINA TWPC Member Don Cameron
Most Valuable Player — Luke Pavillard (AUS) with FINA TWPC Member Bill Shaw