The Hungarian women delivered what the men could not and that was a gold-medal-final berth for the water polo-crazy nation, by denying Netherlands that cherished position. The match was tied five times in the first half, and only once in the second half — 12-12 — before Hungary won 13-12, setting up a final with reigning champion United States of America. In the curtain--raiser, Australia beat Greece 16-14 in a penalty shootout after Greece tied the match 12-12, thus sending Australia to a fifth-place clash with Spain and Greece to play for seventh against France.
Classification 1-4 Semifinal — Budapest
HUNGARY 13 NETHERLANDS 12
Alda Magyari, the rock on which Hungary builds its defence and thus attack, made a save she will always remember, blocking the ball with her right arm to send the ball on to the top of the net just seconds from time. The tall Hungarian goalkeeper denied Netherlands access to her realm and sent her team to the world championship final. No wonder she was awarded the player-of-the-match award that she will cherish for many years to come. That save was the icing on the cake for Hungary as it toiled hard in the first half to gain an ascendancy over a team of mega shooters and turned a 6-6 halftime score into 8-6, 9-7, 10-8 and 11-9 margins in the third quarter before the Dutch pegged one back. In the fourth, 12-10 soon became 12-12. Then Dora Leimeter swung her left arm and sent in the winning goal, still a vast 3:50 from the final buzzer. This is where the rock came into action and the bustling defence — at both ends — as neither team could mine a goal.
Magyari for her last-minute magic, eight saves in total and a steal in the final minutes. Leimeter scored four from eight and for Netherlands, Simone van de Kraats was sensational with five goals from seven attempts. She scored two in the second quarter, brought the match to one, nine seconds from the third break, and then blasted in two consecutive goals for 12-12.
Every movement was a turning point in a match where each team had very few chances to pull away.
Stats don’t lie
Netherlands had the better of the extra situation, converting six from eight while Hungary sent in four from seven.
Hungary has earned the right to play the final and will need every skill available to beat USA. Netherlands also deserved to win, however, tonight it was all about Hungary and its chances of bringing home a gold medal. Already it has improved on Tokyo 2020 where it collected bronze. The Dutch will now finish, hopefully with a flourish, against Italy.
What they said
Attila Biro (HUN) — Head Coach
“These successes bring a person to life. The head coach’s job is not a life insurance, but it is a pleasure to work with these players. The really tough thing was the two months before the world championships; this success is just icing on the cake. This one hour is really just a celebration, in front of a crowd like this, and if you win, there’s also the cocktail cherry on top of the cake. This game was as challenging as the quarter-final – the Dutch defence suits us better, that’s why we were able to score almost twice as much as against the Aussies. However, the Dutch have more quality players and we found hard to mark and stop them; they caused us a lot of troubles. What sent us through was our fantastic mental toughness. Hats off for the team; finally we managed to win a semifinal. It’s also a special task and we seemed to have learnt it at last – hope this won’t be our last passed semifinal. Our mental preparation is getting better and better; it has been working well since the 2020 European Championships. We were strong in body and soul. We continued writing history.”
Dora Leimeter (HUN) — Four Goals
“First and foremost, I am so happy right now. We talked with the girls before the game about our team, which is in a really high position right now. That height, we haven’t reached for a long time. We would like to add a final touch. I am happy that we reached that stage; it was a really hard fight in the pool and thank God we won it. We wanted to gift our fans with a victory, so I’m really glad that our offence ticked this evening in all four periods. In the final we could play without pressure; we shall have no weight on our shoulders – and we should use the positive energy from the last two weeks, which brought us to the final.”
Evangelos Doudesis (NED) — Head Coach
“It was a game between two of the absolute best teams in the world. In these games the details made the difference. I would say that Hungary deserved the win very much; they were one per cent better than us. I am looking forward to the next game with Italy. A team always needs improvements, of course; we need change at defence reaction in M zone; we will prepare for that for the bronze match.”
Brigitte Sleeking (NED) — Goal Scorer
“It was a tough game; we expected that. Against Hungary it is always a tough game. The atmosphere was tough, too, but I think we played a good game, made some mistakes again and again and they won in the end. We have to watch some videos from this game and prepare ourselves mentally. We will be ready to face Italy in the next match.”
Classification 5-8 Semifinal — Budapest
AUSTRALIA 16 GREECE 14 in penalty shootout (FT: 12-12. Pens: 4-2)
Australia, with such a poor penalty conversion rate all tournament, backed itself to beat Greece in the classification 5-8 semifinal by winning a shootout 4-2 after drawing the match 12-12. With the exception of 2-1 and 11-10 leads to Greece. Australia was the aggressor, allowing Greece to level at three and then not until 10, 11 and 12. Australia was comfortable at 6-4 by halftime and 10-8 heading into the last quarter, then Greece came back and made sure that the match went to the penalties, at which Australia had a shaky record. The first two rotations were successful and then Greece had its next two shots saved identically with Gabi Palm’s right hand blocking passage to the goal. There was no need to head to s fifth rotation and Australia had claimed a fifth-place berth on Saturday.
The biggest was probably Aussie Stingers goalkeeper Palm who smacked down two Greek shootout attempts to secure the victory. Aussie captain Zoe Arancini netted three, as did Bridget Leeson-Smith and Amy Ridge. Eleni Xenaki did everything possible to keep Greece in the match, scoring four goals in the four quarters, then sending in the first shootout goal.
From 3-3 to 6-3 in the second quarter, which set the tone for the Aussies. Greece’s three-goal surge in the fourth and a stoppage of a Bronte Halligan penalty attempt, proved the catalyst to achieve the shootout.
Stats don’t lie
Australia rammed in nine from 14 on extra-man attack; Greece managed six from 11.
Australia came through an easy group and was not tested until the quarter-final, where it went down by a single goal to Hungary. It is improving with every match and the victory showed true grit and sets it up for a magnificent clash with Spain on Saturday.
What they said
Paul Oberman (AUS) — Head Coach
“We did our game a bit hard in the last two quarters. We gave them the lead, whether we relaxed too much or didn’t cope with the situation and let them score three goals in a row. We need to be calmer, but it came from experiencing more and more games.” On the match-up with Spain: “First, we have to get ourselves physically ready. We used to have a training camp with Spain, so we know some of their techniques, but never know. It is one game, everything could happen there.”
Gabriella Palm (AUS) — Goalkeeper
“Finishing with the penalties is always dramatic, but I am really proud of the girls. We went back down and we won that after all. We know each other really well with Spain, have had a common training before we came here, so it will be a really hard match and pretty exciting.”
Alexia Anna Kammenou (GRE) — Head Coach
“It was a tough game and both teams were fighting hard. I think we had the strength to change the path of the match. When we enter the penalty time, you know it is a ‘mother of luck’, but before that, I was very happy because of my players. They were very active. I think the referee didn't care about both teams in the same way. If you want to be hard, you have to be hard, with both teams. I think we received far too many exclusions and hope it will change somehow. But now we have to move on, to achieve the best rankings possible.”
Eleftheria Plevritou (GRE) — Goal Scorer
“The match was really good for us, though during the game we made a lot of mistakes. It was a really tough and physical game against Australia. In the end we came back to equal, so we could have the penalty shootout. It is always a game of luck, but also produces a winner. We are looking forward to the next game with France and we will try to get seventh position. We expect a really good game and we will win, of course.”