Spain and Netherlands are through to the FINA Women’s Water Polo World League Super Final later this year following emphatic victories at the European qualifying finals at Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Spain today. Spain beat Greece 13-9 and earlier, Netherlands sent off France 18-6 in the first-day matches which now means taking on pre-qualified Italy and Hungary in Saturday’s semifinals.
TENERIFE, SPAIN — With the first day gone, it now comes down to pride as the top four European nations play for honour. Spain and Netherlands have one match in the bag and will now take on Hungary and Italy respectively in the semifinals on Saturday. Greece and France will have a rest day before their play-off on Sunday. The semifinals promise much as Hungary and Italy come in cold, but as group winners, should have the impetus to provide top performances.
NETHERLANDS 18 FRANCE 6
The Netherlands was always on top, easing to a 3-0 lead and closing the quarter at 5-1. It was a similar second quarter with the match closing the half 10-3 and then at 15-5 by the final break. France was allowed just one goal in the final quarter. Twice the Dutch closed quarters with goals on the buzzer and another time with just five seconds remaining.
Dutch newcomer Fleurien Bosveld scored twice, including the opener on an extra-man attack. Lola Moolhuijzen scored three with two from the deep left and a third with a fantastic skip shot off the left post. Brigitte Sleeking also netted three, one from downtown, another off a near-post cross pass and the last goal of the match from the top. Isle Koolhaas and Iris Wolves grabbed another two each. For France, Louise Guillet was the only double scorer — from the deep left and the penalty line.
With the match at 6-3 midway through the second quarter, France was looking keen and eager, but the Netherlands scored the next eight goals before France pulled two back, but too far to have any effect on the result.
Stats don’t lie
The Netherlands converted three from eight on extra-man attack compared to France’s two from four. The Dutch netted one from two at the penalty line and France took its only opportunity for 16-6.
This was all about the Dutch getting in a training match against the less experienced French and it showed with tighter play upfront, excellent outside shooting and sharp cross-passing. One goal needed a VAR decision with Marit Van der Weijden’s score just before halftime seemingly stopping on the line. Netherlands’ ability for everyone to score was also a big challenge for the French.
SPAIN 13 GREECE 9
Spain sent Greece into the World League wilderness with a four-goal decision that always had Greece on the defensive. A two-lead lead at the start meant that Greece had to come back, closing to one goal no less than five times and even levelling the match at four several minutes into the second quarter. After a slow start in which only one goal was scored, it became 3-2 at halftime and 8-6 at the final break. It moved to 11-7 and goals were traded until the end.
The undoubted star, much like in Tokyo last year, was 17-year-old Elena Ruiz with five strikes — three from the top and two from the deep left. Her dominance and movement proved crucial with the last four in six and a half minutes when the score progressed from 6-4 to 11-7. Judith Forca (below) scored twice from an extra-man attack and once from about nine metres. Beatriz Ortiz netted two, including one from a penalty foul. Greece’s Nikoleta Eleftheriadou scored three in the second half with identical extra-man goals and a penalty strike. Two of the three Plevritou sisters scored a goal — Vasiliki and Eleftheria.
From 4-4 at 5:48 in the third period, Spain went 4-2 in the next phase and had a two-goal advantage at the final break. It became 9-6 at the top of the fourth and 11-7 by 3:21 — all Spain’s from Ruiz. It was a four-goal span that would never be bridged.
Stats don’t lie
Greece came out better with the extra-man goals, netting six from nine. Spain gained four from seven and both teams converted their one penalty attempt. Spain had the better of the blocks and looked more efficient on the attack.
Spain is the Olympic silver medallist and Greece did not compete at that level last year. Spain has the better offence, the better-drilled team, more experience and generally sustained coaching through long-time mentor Miki Oca. Spain is setting itself nicely for the FINA World Championships and this weekend’s encounters will go a long way toward that aim.