Defending champion United States of America had to work against Netherlands before winning 11-7, which was the virtual group decider. The other two teams kept the crowd on its feet with an equally inspired match, Argentina earning its first FINA World Championship victory, over South Africa 7-6, with a pair of goals in the final minute to Julieta Auliel.
Group B — Debrecen
ARGENTINA 7 SOUTH AFRICA 6
The battle of hope. This can be the marker of the Argentina–South Africa derby in Group B. The two young and enthusiastic teams jumped into the pool to make history. And Argentina did it. The first quarter brought a tough fight in the pool, with only one goal for both sides. The teams were so close in the next eight minutes, but at last, South Africa took a one-goal lead in halftime. After the break, Argentina arrived back to the water with extra motivation and shot three goals in a row. And then, the last quarter was unforgettable. Both teams pushed their limits to grab the two points. At 6-6 on the board, seven seconds remained, when Julieta Auliel received the ball and scored — an historical goal that meant the first victory for Argentina at FINA World Championships.
We have to mention the two goalkeepers, Both Nahir Stegmayer (ARG) and Daniela Passoni (RSA) saved one penalty apiece and performed at the highest level. About the field players, Argentinian Cecilia Leonard scored three goals, while South Africa’s Ashleigh Vaughan scored two nice goals. And Julieta Auliel, of course, with her memorable shot, winning the glory for Argentina, giving her the last two goals of the match, inside the final minute!
The second half — three goals in a row to the Argentinians and then taking the lead before the last quarter.
Stats don’t lie
Brilliant save performance by both keepers — Stegmayer at 57 per cent, Passoni at 60 per cent.
Definitely, it was a three-way match, where Argentina concentrated better until the end. Those who watched Argentina’s celebration after winning the game, will not forget it for a while. Moreover, this victory may help a lot in the country to make water polo more popular. Last, but not least, credit goes to the South Africans for their performance. They were so close, too.
What they said
Guillermo Setti (ARG) – Head Coach
“We have been working for so many years for this victory and now we have the prize. Thanks to all who supported and trusted us from the beginning. We are super proud of the girls; this victory means a lot for Argentinian water polo.”
Delaine Mentoor (RSA) – Head Coach
“Of course, I am a bit disappointed because we lost the game in the last seconds. We were so close to get at least one point, but anyway, I am pretty proud of the girls. We have a brand-new team with the lack of experience, but we fought till the end. For the future, we have to save the positive things and learn from our mistakes.”
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 11 NETHERLANDS 7
Probably the most anticipated Group B match took place Wednesday at the evening in Debrecen. Two water polo flagships — United States of America and Netherlands — met to decide who would be first in the quartet. The first period was equal – 3-2 after eight minutes — then Team USA ruled the match, building a three-goal lead in the first half. The script didn’t change in the next quarter either and the reigning champion managed the match well, not to let the Dutch women come closer. Maddie Musselman was unstoppable in front of the goal and Ashleigh Johnson was phenomenal in the goal. In the final minutes – although Netherlands fought bravely till the end — there was no doubt who would be the winner of this superb match. USA took the 11-7 victory, setting itself up to win the group.
American keeper Johnson stood the team confidently in the back, while the sharpshooters were so efficient, too. Musselman was four from five — no words needed. On the Dutch side, Lola Moolhuijzen and Simone van de Kraats scored twice each, but today it wasn’t enough against the USA.
USA made two irresistible periods in the middle of the match —two and three goals in a row without any Dutch answer. In addition, the powerful defence grinded up Netherlands attacks.
Stats don’t lie
Johnson had 12/19 saves. Relentless. The Dutch extra-player efficiency was also notable —6/11, against the defending Olympic and world champion. Not a bad base for the future.
USA sent a message to the others. Although it’s a young team and it is at the beginning of the road to Paris, USA takes the world championships seriously. Netherlands’ play was encouraging, too, but it has to improve more in every element if it wants to stay a long time in Hungary.
What they said:
Adam Krikorian (USA) – Head Coach
“All know that this match was the most important for both teams. We were really good defensively, maybe a couple of breakdowns, but for the most part we were sharp. The key was probably the good start and we let them score only seven goals. My young team is stronger and stronger day by day; we are looking forward to the next matches.”
Evangelos Doudesis (NED) – Head Coach
“There was a tough game between to well-qualified teams. I don’t say, I am satisfied with this match — that’s not the best word actually. But I am proud of the girls how we were fighting during the whole game and tried to do their best. Congrats for USA, they were the better team today.”
Group Progress Points: USA 4, Netherlands 2, Argentina 2, South Africa 0.