United States of America had to come from 10-9 down to beat Italy 11-10 on the third day of the FINA Women’s Water Polo World League Super Final in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Friday. It secured the group win ahead of Netherlands who claimed second despite losing its penalty-shootout match with Canada 15-14 after being 11-11 at full time. In Group A, Spain had the better of Australia 12-5 to finish with three wins and Hungary romped home against New Zealand 25-9 for second place.
Group A: Spain 9, Hungary 6, Australia 3, New Zealand 0.
Group B: United States of America 9, Netherlands 4, Italy 3, Canada 2.
Day 4 Programme:
Classification 5-8 semifinals
08:40 Italy v New Zealand
10:20 Australia v Canada
Classification 1-4 semifinals
12:00 Spain v Netherlands
13:40 United States of America v Hungary
NEW ZEALAND 9 HUNGARY 25
Hungary secured a second win and made sure of staying in the medal hunt with a resounding victory over Super Final debutante New Zealand. In a match where 34 goals were scored, 15 of those came on extra-man attack. Hungary won the periods 5-2, 8-5, 5-1 and 7-1. The Kiwis never recovered from the high-pressure second quarter where it sent in five goals and struggled to stay in with a chance thereafter. For Hungary, it was a triumph where newer players stepped up to continue the fine tradition of Hungarian water polo. The win put Hungary into second place in the group and will now play the medal rounds. The Kiwis will take heart from the match, proving it can match leading nations in spurts.
Greta Gurisatti fired in six goals, including three in the second quarter, and slammed in the last for 25-9 to be the best in pool. She finished one of the best goals, accepting a long ball from goalkeeper Aldo Magyari and then lobbed the Kiwi goalkeeper for 12-6. Zsuzsanna Mate, Kata Hajdu and Kamilla Farago all scored four goals. For New Zealand, Emily Nicholson and Emmerson Houghton netted three apiece.
The 3-0 start and the four-goal spurt in the second half proved decisive. Those and the 10-1 control in the last 14 minutes, said it all.
Stats Don’t Lie
The extra-man statistic was not where this victory was gained, although Hungary’s nine from 13 was exceptional. The Kiwis did well to convert six from 13 and Hungary sent in the only penalty attempt.
Hungary turned it on after a four-goal loss to Spain on day two. The Magyars had the intensity, the firepower and the strength. However, New Zealand showed tremendous spirit in scoring as many goals as it did and had a system on extra-man attack that was working well.
SPAIN 12 AUSTRALIA 5
Spain did what its loyal fans expected and finished with three wins in the group stage. Australia opened the scoring and Spain responded two minutes later and the Aussie Stingers were next level at four. It looked like an excellent match in the offing. However, Spain had different ideas, turning the 3-2 quarter-time advantage to a meagre 7-5 at the turn and then closed the door on Australia. A 4-0 third period turned into a 1-0 final eight minutes as Australia could not find a gap to pierce and even Spain had trouble. There was promise from Australia and even more determination from the Spaniards, whose presence in front of goal is most intimidating. The performance of the centre forwards was immense with Paula Leiton inspirational and Maica Garcia smashing in a pair.
Spain’s Leiton for her spectacular 5-4, go-ahead goal when playing centre forward, she kicked the ball to her hand and backhanded into goal. She tried the move in the third period, but it failed to come off. Anni Espar nailed three goals, two coming in the first four Spanish strikes. Amy Ridge was the Aussie Stingers’ star with three goals in the first 10 minutes.
From 4-4, Spain pushed out to 6-4 and after Alice Williams scored Australia’s fifth goal, the tide turned squarely into Spain’s favour, scoring the next six goals.
Stats Don’t Lie
Spain converted three from 10 on extra-man attack and Australia four from 11.
Spain is the European champion, has the runs on the board in the last decade and should have taken this match in front of a home crowd. Australia looked good in the first half. But did not look as threatening in front of goal as Spain did. Australia now plays the bottom group and Spain’s home of a home victory are still in the pipeline.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 11 ITALY 10
Can you remember when USA last won a match by one goal and had to come from behind to do so? We remember the loss to Hungary at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and a match against Australia some time before that, but today Italy was within a whisker of committing world water polo “treason” by upsetting USA. The multi champions of every trophy were 5-2 ahead at the quarter and only 7-6 at halftime. The Italians were on a mini tsunami of goals, winning the second quarter 4-2 and then taking the third 2-1. The 8-8 scoreline came at 3:26 in the third as Roberta Bianconi scored from the deep left on extra-man attack. Domitilla Picozzi blasted one in from eight metres to open the fourth and take the lead for the first time. Jenna Flynn responded and Italian Claudia Marletta converted the penalty for her third and 10-9. Flynn fired in a second from the left side for 10-10 at 3:17 and as the fans were screaming and the North American contingent going wild, Jewel Roemer scored from the left side on extra for what proved to be the winner at 1:24. Italy went to a timeout, but nothing positive resulted and USA had clambered through a particularly rough storm for three straight victories and No. 1 seeding in the group.
Roemer for her bold statement in taking the final scoring shot and Jordan Raney for producing two extra-man strikes to lift USA to 3-1. Marletta was the highest scorer with three, including the first two goals of the second half. Italian goalkeeper Caterina Banchelli is to be commended for a handful of wonderful saves.
USA’s 5-1 start, Italy’s 6-3 dominance of the middle quarters; the two go-ahead Italian goals in the final quarter and USA’s “get-out-of-jail” card played with the final two goals.
Stats Don’t Lie
USA scored just six from 14 on extra-man attack and Italy three from seven. Marletta’s penalty goal was the only one of the match.
The rest of the world is slowly catching up to USA. True, USA has plenty of new players and it will take time to bed in, but other teams know that it is only a matter of time when they can equal and then surpass USA. It has just taken so long. Congratulations to both teams of showing true grit until the final whistle.
NETHERLANDS 14 CANADA 15 in penalty shootout (FT: 11-11. Pens: 3-4)
Canada pulled off a stunning upset of Netherlands, coming back from 3-0 down in the opening minutes to then “win” the remaining regular time 11-8 and force a shootout, which it won 4-3. It was a topsy-turvy match with the ties at three, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11. Netherlands relinquished the lead after halftime, regained it midway through the third and then regained it again at 11-10 at 3:38 in the fourth quarter. The match went to the penalties and Canadian goalkeeper Jessica Gaudreault, who was ejected in the first minute of the match, made a magnificent two saves — the second Dutch shot from Brigitte Sleeking and the final blast from Fleurien Bosveld. This was an encounter with only five extra-man goals, but, more importantly, only 13 major fouls and not one player sacked from the pool. Canada’s Shae La Roche was the only player not to see out the clash as she suffered a bloodied nose inside the final two minutes. The VAR playback was inconclusive and no intent was inferred in the skirmish .
Gaudreault for her two penalty saves in the shootout. Hayley McKelvey was superb with five goals and her match-equalling goal in the final minutes to progress to the penalties. It was her pair of goals that turned the match into an 8-7 advantage in the third period. Her first and second goals were identical, receiving a cross pass at four metres to score. Kyra Christmas had three of the first nine and netted in the shootout for four goals. Netherlands’ Simone van de Kraats had three goals up before halfway and scored the 11-10 go-ahead goal in the fourth, while adding another in the penalties.
The opening three-goal start for Netherlands and then Canada’s opening two goals of the second half that lifted it into the lead for the first time. Canada turned the match again with two goals for a 10-9 lead heading into the final quarter. Netherlands regained control again, taking the 11-10 lead before Canada levelled, forcing the shootout, albeit 3:14 from time.
Stats Don’t Lie
Canada struggled on the extra-man count, converting just one from six compared to Netherlands’ four from six. Canada netted the only penalty shot in regular time.
Canada was stoic and forced the match its way whenever it could. The result does not elevate Canada any higher than fourth in the group as the win only gained two points and the Dutch took away one point to stay second in the group and go to the major semifinals. For Canada, it was justification for work well done and gives the young team lots of hope for next year’s FINA World Championships knowing that it has beaten one of the top teams in the world.