Classification 1-8 Quarter-finals — Budapest


France is hosting the Paris Olympic Games in two years’ time and showed today that is capable enough to handle the pressure of the big time. However, it was Italy which became the first team to advance to the semifinals and immediately improve on sixth position in Gwangju two years ago. Playing at the prestigious Margaret Island Alfred Hajos Swimming Pool, Italy three times went in front only for France to level and by midway through the second quarter, there was no advantage. Silvia Avegno rifled in two shots from deep left and the floodgates had opened. With Sofia Giustini relishing the freedom allowed by France, Italy jumped into the Ferrari and raced to a 13-3 lead a few minutes from the final break. It was 7-3 at halftime and with France throwing the last goal of the period, 13-4 was about right. The margin drifted to 11 at 17-6 and French skipper Louise Guillet lobbed for the final goal 24 seconds from time.

Match heroes
Sofia Giustini was sublime with her perfect six goals, never straying from the line, She came into the contest with eight goals and now has 14. Guillet ended with four to lift her tournament tally to 11. Of the four goalkeepers, Caterina Banchelli, was the best with nine saves.

Turning point
Avegno’s pair starting from 4:37 in the second quarter.

Stats don’t lie
Italy’s five from nine on extra-man attack and France’s inability to convert any of its four attempts.

Bottom line
Italy has the team to make it to the final while France , 11th in 2017, is now in a position to improve on that considerably.

What they said
Carlo Silipo (ITA) — Head Coach
“I am satisfied with our performance today. We need to change our mentality for the next game, which will be the semifinal at the World Championship, so it will be much more difficult, of course. We are in a better position right now than our eventual rival, because we played our game and have more time to regenerate.”
Roberta Bianconi (IYTA) — Goal Scorer
“In the end, maybe it was easier, but at the beginning it wasn’t. To play after six days without hard games is not ideal. It was difficult to go into the game with a good mentality. France had a good start, made us some difficult situations; they were fast in the beginning but then we did what we had to do. This game was a good preparation and anyway, the only opportunity to tune ourselves for the semifinal.”
Emilien Bugeaud (FRA) — Head Coach
“We took a good start and felt great together, but after all, I think Italy wanted the victory more. In the fourth quarter we came back, but it was not enough, so we have to go back to work and try to find out what was missing today. We have two more chances to fight with the best in the world, so we have to focus on that.”
Camille Radosavljevic (FRA) — Athlete
“It was a hard game; we started pretty strong. We were competitive at the beginning. It is disappointing that we lost, but I think we did a really good job together, made progress and we were getting better as a team. We try to reach the best position; the next two games will be as hard as this was, but these games are good preparations for the European Championships.”


This was meant to be close, or as close as could be expected. However, two players spearheaded the fast and bewildering USA attack — Stephanie Haralabidis and Maddie Musselman. Between them they collected most of the goals, finishing off the excellent support work of the team, to race away with the victory and shift their thoughts to the semifinals. When goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson blocked an Elena Ruiz penalty attempt at 6-5 late in the first half, the USA was given the reprieve it needed. Spain went from 3-1 down to 4-3 ahead at the start of the second quarter and led 5-4 before USA switched the leader. Haralabidis opened the second-half scoring with two goals; goals were traded twice and then USA was ahead 11-7. Ruiz pulled one back to close the period, but, and it was a huge BUT… Haralabidis did a repeat of the third quarter and opened the fourth with another pair. At 13-8, the match was over and neither side could breach the other’s defence. Spain started to second-guess itself with shots and this proved fatal, especially after Johnson’ penalty stop.

Match heroes
Haralabidis with six goals and Maddie Musselman with five! The latter was the best player at Tokyo 2020 and the pair of them deserved to be named best in pool, although Musselman nudged out her team-mate because of her 100 per cent shooting.

Turning point
Johnson’s penalty save. It was big and smashed the Spanish psyche.

Stats don’t lie
Johnson again — 11 saves. USA nailed five from 11 on extra and Spain just three from 13 —there’s the match right there. USA shot at 50 per cent and Spain 22 per cent.

Bottom line
Check the stats. USA was rattled on attack with wayward or blocked shots, but in the end USA was smacking down everything in sight. This was a master class in defence — and throw in Johnson, as well. She could have faltered after those sliding shots from Spain to level the match, but she didn’t. USA has the team finely tuned for a fourth consecutive crown. Spain needs to ponder the loss and feel what it is like to be in the five-eight group and do better than the 2015 blip of seventh.

What they said
Adam Krikorian (USA) — Head Coach
“We were able to create some easy opportunities at counter-attack and the girls stuck together. The game was under control by us, so yes, we won. We are really excited to play against Italy in the next round. We haven’t seen them for a long time and Carlo (Silipo, head coach of Italy) is doing a phenomenal job. Their team is tough and well prepared and it will be fun to play with them. We need to get some rest right now; the temperature is really hot right now. We say ’Hay’s in the Barn’, now we rest up and get back together in a couple days.”
Stephanie Haralabidis (USA) — Six Goals
“It was difficult; we played with a rated team and before the start I was a little bit nervous what the game would bring. They started sharply, but then we started to work and that was the key point. I have already scored six goals in other games, but it is actually funny that I think that my defensive efforts are more important. Italy is a physical team; we have to be ready to match that physicality and just shooting the goals and work hard again.”
Miguel Oca (ESP) — Head Coach
“We did well in attack and scored some goals, but in the defence, we have to be tougher. When you give more than 10 goals to the US, it is really hard to win. If we want to hold a chance to win these games we should be harder on defence. To be honest, the result is demonstrating the difference between the two teams right now. We have to fight and do our best to catch the fifth position.”
Anni Espar (ESP) — Goal Scorer
“The defence was the key. It was a close game, especially at the beginning, when we could organise our defence. Unfortunately, later we conceded some easy goals. We cannot win a medal here, but we would like to take the fifth place.”