United States of America showed why it is the best team in the world with a controlled 9-7 victory over host Hungary in the gold -medal final of the FINA World Championships women’s water polo tournament at the crucible of the sport — Budapest’s Margaret Island. It was the fourth consecutive title and seventh overall.
1. United States of America
10. New Zealand
13. South Africa
Most Valuable Player in Final:
Maddie Musselman (USA)
Most Valuable Goalkeeper:
Ashleigh Johnson (USA)
Bea Ortiz (ESP), Judith Forca (ESP) 21 goals.
Media All Star Team
Goalkeeper: Ashleigh Johnson (USA).
Field Players: Judith Forca (ESP), Bronte Halligan (AUS), Rita Keszthelyi (HUN), Lola Moohuijzen (NED), Maddie Musselman (USA), Bea Ortiz (ESP).
Classification 1-2 — Budapest
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 9 HUNGARY 7
In Tokyo last year, Hungary produced a sublime performance to beat USA, a rare feat indeed. It was in the round play and USA went on to win a third consecutive Olympic crown. Tonight was not the night that USA would slip up again. For the fourth consecutive FINA World Championships, and for the seventh time in history, USA was atop the world and slipping another gold medal around its neck. It was USA’s 10th medal at this level. Only Australia, Netherlands, Italy and Russia have five medals each, so USA’s effort is double. Hungary was a worthy opponent and even though Maddie Musselman and Ryann Neushul were tormenting the host nation with their frequent forays to the Hungarian goal, the home women battled hard at each end. It stopped a lot of USA attacks early on, but USA was relentless and the senior players stepped up. It was only 2-1 at the quarter and 4-3 by halftime and that was after Hungary levelled at two and three. It went 5-3 to the USA and 5-4 and 7-4 by the final break. Neushul scored her second before the intermission and her third afterwards. It was now 8-4 and the Hungarian crowd of more than 6000 (let alone the workers and media) who were upset after the Hungarian men’s disastrous night a day before, was more than a little dismayed. However, an eruption of sound came soon after when Zsuzsanna Mate and Dorottya Szilagyi brought the match within two at 4:11. That last goal caused a furore when a review was made with the VAR system as to whether it was shot within in the allowed time. The decision? Yes! We could progress, after a long five minutes. Then USA called a timeout on extra at 2:54. The resulting pass to goal was intercepted and Hungary had a life. Hungary’s shot was short; USA’s next shot was wide; seven Hungarians were in front of goal as goalkeeper Alda Magyari took a spot up front and Rita Keszthelyi blasted in a cross-cage bouncer for 8-7 at 1:11. Then came high-end drama as a Hungarian defender rode the back of an advancing USA player and the penalty foul was called. Hungarian head coach Attila Biro erupted as he thought it should have been something other than a penalty as another defender appeared to be closer to goal. Either way, the player should not have fouled. Musselman made it five goals with the conversion for 9-7 at 0:47 and Hungary had no way out of jail. It was USA’s night… again.
Musselman (five goals) and Neushul (three) for their finishing, as well as Ashleigh Johnson’s defiant play in the USA goal with 10 saves. Also, Greta Gurisatti with three and Kesthelyi for her two goals and keeping the morale high in the Alfred Hajos pool.
Moving from 5-4 to 8-4 heading into the final quarter and earning that “controversial” penalty shot that assured victory.
Stats don’t lie
USA converted three from eight on extra-man attack and Hungary three from 11.
USA has no equal and proved that tonight. However, like last year, Hungary proved that USA is vulnerable and all it takes is extra training, harder work and one day, the citadel known as Team USA, will be scaled and eventually beaten. Yeah. Right!
What they said
Adam Krikorian (USA) — Head Coach
“We never played in such circumstances, anything similar to that. In the first quarter it was like ‘this is incredible, I can’t hear myself thinking, my players can’t hear me…’ It was amazing, this is the Mecca of water polo, a world champion place. I was thinking, with all honesty, it doesn’t matter if we win or lose, it is an honour to be part of this. This result is a huge shot for Attila’s (Biro) team and I’m jealous to see this kind of support his team enjoys, to see how the Hungarians love water polo.”Ashleigh Johnson (USA) — Goalkeeper of the Tournament
“I feel incredible right now. Accomplishing this, in front of this crowd against Hungary, is just one of the most incredible experiences in my sports career. It is always hard to play against Hungary, but in front of this phenomenal home crowd, it was so difficult. I got an experience of a lifetime – as for the team, we have grown so much in a short period of time.”
Attila Biro (HUN) — Head Coach
“The US team was slightly better today, though they benefitted from a couple of easy calls, which they don’t need as they are better than all the other teams, anyway. We wanted to win this title and we had a chance, but I also have to admit than in some critical situations we also made mistakes. We cannot deny we had a couple of weaker shots; we couldn’t set up our six on fives on many occasions, though we had to fight much more to earn exclusions than at the other end.”
Greta Gurisatti (HUN) — Three Goals
“It’s really hard to say something right now, I feel I'm still in the match. We absolutely wanted to win this. I think we demonstrated that in offence and defence, as well. We had some unlucky situations, but that was expected. We played against the now four-time world champions; they just used these chances. I feel sorry, but we did everything and in the end I had no power to swim just one metre more. We had a good mentality and that's what moves us on.”