Netherlands bounced back from its first-day loss to United States of America with an incredible 18-17 victory over Italy that nearly went to a shootout on the second day of the FINA Women’s Water Polo World League Super Final in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Wednesday. The winning goal came with just 11 seconds left in the match. In the other Group B encounter, USA defeated Canada 11-5 in their North American derby. In Group A, Spain notched a second win, downing Hungary 15-11 in an exciting performance, and Australia beat New Zealand in their Trans-Tasman clash, 14-5.
Group A: Spain 6, Hungary 3, Australia 3, New Zealand 0.
Group B: United States of America 6, Netherlands 3, Italy 3, Canada 0.
Day 3 Programme:
08:40 Netherlands v Canada
10:20 New Zealand v Hungary
12:00 United States of America v Italy
13:40 Spain v Australia
AUSTRALIA 14 NEW ZEALAND 5
Australia had far too much firepower and experience for New Zealand and converted the 5-0 opening quarter into a more sedate 8-2 by halftime. Bronte Halligan scored all three goals for the Aussie Stingers in the second quarter as the Kiwis plundered two extra-man goals. Australia closed at 12-4 by the final break with Matilda Kearns’ centre-forward goal needing a VAR decision for 9-2. New Zealand scored either side of the final break for 12-5 and continued stout resistance until Amy Ridge scored her second and five minutes later, Halligan hammered the final nail into the coffin. Millie Quin was New Zealand’s only double scorer, netting from both deep wings.
Halligan was the standout with her six goals, three in the second quarter alone. Four came from action, one from penalty and the other on extra. These go with the three goals she netted against Hungary on day one. Of the Kiwis, goalkeeper Jessica Milicich was in fine form with a multitude of saves and one steal.
The opening quarter proved a strong deterrent for the Kiwis to battle into the match. From then on, it was all about maintaining the rage, working the combinations and giving everyone water time, including debutante Jamie Oberman.
Stats Don’t Lie
Australia converted two from five on extra-man attack and New Zealand only three from 12. Australia scored the first two goals from the penalty line.
Australia, with a team far removed from that which contested Tokyo 2020, is building well towards Paris 2024 and showed glimpses of better days ahead. The true test will be the clash with European champion Spain on Friday. New Zealand will face Hungary — a tough ask against a team that bested Australia on day one.
SPAIN 15 HUNGARY 11
Spain showed why it is the European champion and blitzed Hungary with a 6-2 second quarter that had the match at 9-4 by halftime. It was the lightning speed and quickfire shooting that had the Hungarians on the back foot, Rebecca Parkes opened the match on counter for Hungary, but that was the only lead as Spain went to 3-1 and took out the period 3-2. Hungary had the better of the second half — 7-6 — but by then Spain was in total control and nullified the strong Hungarian defence that stumped Australia the day before. The defence unravelled as Spain shifted its attack, especially on extra-man, moving constantly and whipping passes around the arc that seemed bullet-like. It was a case of look down and you missed several passes, let alone the goal. Bea Ortiz was exceptional with four goals while Anni Espar threw in three with both players not needed to score in the second half. Elena Ruiz popped up with consecutive and identical shots from the left-hand-catch position to close Spain’s scoring in the third quarter at 12-6. Hungary was in foul trouble early and had four players on two fouls by halftime, but it was Spain who had three players foul out in the second half. The goal of the tournament so far went to Paula Leiton who received the ball after Kata Hajdu’s six-second goal and then launched it from 18 metres out, arcing over the goalkeeper’s head and into goal with three seconds on the clock and 15-11. Leiton is better known for throwing goals from two metres.
Bea Ortiz, with four goals, was amazing and her goal from the right-top position came off an awkward cross pass, which she pumped into the bottom right for 6-2 with little backward movement. She converted a penalty and once on extra. Some of the new wave of Hungarian players — Kamilla Farago (3), Panna Pocze (2) and Hajdu (2) — were at the forefront of Hungary’s attack.
The 6-2 second quarter was where all the action was as Spain was still playing at a high speed and Hungary was busy trying to contain the slippery customers. Hungary’s 4-1 spurt in a little over three minutes in the final quarter was heroic, but late.
Stats Don’t Lie
This is where the stats did not lie as Spain converted six from 12 on extra-man attack while Hungary squandered opportunities, netting just six from 17. Pocze had her penalty attempt stopped by goalkeeper Martina Terre in the first quarter while Ortiz made sure of Spain’s only attempt.
Spain is a top-notch team playing at its zenith. As the years progress, head coach Miki Oca seems to maintain the excellent high-ratio game as he inserts new players who blend in with the older players nearing the ends of their careers. Hungary is a more solid team and the difference between the two was evident with Hungary struggling to keep up the intensity created by Spain.
CANADA 5 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 11
USA, as expected, surged home against Canada. It was a far different performance from USA on day two after the stuttering start on Wednesday. Combinations flowed and crisp cross-passing were to the detriment of Canada. USA used the deep wings to excellent effect and even managed to slip passes across the face of the goal. The opening goal came 30 seconds after the start and Emma Wright snared an excellent centre-forward backhander for 1-1. It would be six goals later that Canada scored through Axelle Crevier after Jewel Roemer book-ended five USA goals for 6-1 by halfway through the second quarter. USA took it to 8-2 by the long break. Canada played a near-perfect extra-man attack to start the second half with Shae La Roche finishing the swift-passing move. Dual Olympic champion and four-time world champion Rachel Fattal lobbed from 10 metres for her second goal to break a five-minute mini drought for USA. The third quarter was 2-2 with USA converting a penalty foul before Canadian newcomer Floranne Carroll drilled one from the top for 10-4. Roemer completed her scoring on the first attack of the final quarter — USA’s only goal and Canada shut up shot and scored once more from Kyra Christmas at 4:18.
Roemer’s four goals stamped her as player of the match and she looked like a veteran, not a relative novice from Stanford University. Her far-post goal off a cross pass was excellent and she also converted the penalty.
The five-goal march early in the match, which set the scene for what was to come.
Stats Don’t Lie
Canada converted one from eight on extra-man attack and USA three from seven.
USA may have taken the foot off the pedal in the second half, which was drawn 3-3, but it was in control throughout. Canada played better in the second half and had better opportunities. USA makes it a second win and Canada has two losses.
NETHERLANDS 18 ITALY 17
Netherlands scored one of its best victories for some time in defeating Italy by a single goal in the dying seconds. The Dutch were never headed, starting at 2-0, being 12-8 ahead in the third, but having to shrug off an eager Italian team who drew level at seven, eight, 13 at the top of the fourth, 14, 15 and 17 — six times. Both teams were diligent on attack, especially on extra-man where the passes were crisp and eventually found the deep left person, in particular, where eight goals eventuated. Netherlands won the first two periods 5-4; Italy won the third 4-3 and the final quarter was squared at five. It was a high-adrenalin match and the blood rose as the final quarter proved sensational, reaching a fantastic climax when Claudia Marletta nailed a penalty at 1:20 and the lob at 0:39. The Dutch, who previously dumped the ball as the jitters became too much, stepped up in the dying minute with Lola Moohuijzen opting to shoot from the left, only for it to be stopped, fall loose for Nina Ten Broek to swoop on and shovel into goal at 0:11 for 18-17. Italy sent all seven players forward, but the shot came from the left and Sarah Buis stopped the ball for an historic victory.
Italy’s Marletta was inspirational for the Italians with a magnificent six goals, scoring twice in the second period, once in the third and three in the fourth, including the goal of the match when she lobbed Buis from wide left of the eight-metre line. It brought the match to 17-17 with 39 seconds left on the clock. Chiara Tabani was next best in pool with four goals, scoring three of the first seven and gaining the 14 equaliser. Netherlands’ best was Moolhuijzen with four, including a super centre-forward tip shot and two crucial goals in the final quarter, one sending the Dutch 17-15 ahead.
Netherlands’ four-goal surge either side of halfway for 12-8, which meant the Italians were left scampering for goals to get back the equilibrium.
Stats Don’t Lie
Netherlands converted eight from 15 on extra-man attack and Italy a better eight from 13. Both teams netted their penalty attempts.
Netherlands deserved the win for keeping the momentum, never being headed and keeping a cool head until the final whistle. Italy was resilient and never gave up the chase, although it lost its ladder lead, slipping to third. And those 35 goals certainly delighted the youngsters in the crowd.