Spain restricted a fourth-quarter fightback by Australia to claim fifth place in the women’s water polo competition in Budapest with an 8-5 victory. The beaten finalist in the past two FINA World Championships editions, Spain was 6-2 up at the final break and never looked like losing.
Classification 5-6— Budapest
SPAIN 8 AUSTRALIA 5
Spain is one of the best teams in the world and it was sad to see it not once again contest the top four. It was not to be and Spain went into the fifth-place classification match as the firm favourite. At 2-0 ahead by the quarter and 3-0 late in the half, Australia struggled to get back into the match. One goal came just before halftime and at 4-2, there was a slim chance. Spain pushed out to 6-2 at 3:41 and maintained the difference until the final break. The Stingers bounced back with three straight — two on extra and another on a short drive down the right — to close within one. Judith Forca, one of the top strikers in Budapest 2022, netted on extra and then had her penalty attempt blocked, but it was Maica Garcia on the left-post-position who steered in what was the 8-5 winner inside the final minute. So, Spain dropped some positions from Gwangju 2019 while Australia, also a winner of this event (1986), went down the list after collecting the bronze medal.
Paula Leiton set the scene with her opening goal and added another later for what has been a great tournament for her. Elena Ruiz completed another strong match with two goals and for Australia, Bronte Halligan was like a wound-up top.
The opening 3-0 dominance of the first half. Australia’s three-goal haul in the final quarter could have been something more.
Stats don’t lie
Spain scored three from eight on extra-man attack and Australia three from five. Gabriella Palm pulled down nine saves in goal for Australia.
Spain was No 2 in the world and Australia No 5 and they were battling for fifth. The better team won, although it must be said, Spain is far more experienced than the youngsters Australia brought to Hungary.
What they said
Miguel Oca (ESP) — Head Coach
“We have to be very satisfied with the game today. It was a very hard battle against Australia. They were very good at defence, but we did good things, too. Helped each other and had only five goals in defence, so the game was good for us today.”
Paula Camus (ESP) — Athlete
“It wasn’t an easy game, Australia played hard today. We did a very good defence and led throughout the game and fortunately we won at the end. We tried our best to reach the fifth place, but also were not satisfied because we lost in the quarter-final against the US. It was a much different game than now, but we wanted to win that too.”
Paul Oberman (AUS) — Head Coach
“We lost. We didn’t have enough opportunities. We weren’t good at shooting. This championship was a great experience for my girls. We had three hard games and we learned from those very much. We had a good tour before this tournament and challenged ourselves against Hungary and Spain in the training camp. We had a good first week, but after that the second wasn’t going that way. Also, we did as much as we could today.”