Hungary did the unthinkable and repeated its effort of Tokyo 2020 a little more than a year ago when it beat United States of America 10-9 on semifinal day of the final FINA Women’s Water Polo World League Super Final in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Saturday. Hungary will play host Spain on Sunday after it sent off Netherlands 14-10. In the classification 5-8 semifinals, Italy bettered New Zealand 13-5 and Australia overcame Canada 12-10.
Day 5 Programme:
08:40 Canada v New Zealand
10:20 Australia v Italy
12:00 Netherlands v United States of America
13:40 Spain v Hungary
Classification 1-4 Semifinals
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 9 HUNGARY 10
Hungary caused one of the greatest upsets in world water polo when it denied the USA an eighth straight and 15th FINA World League crown by winning 10-9 in a closely fought encounter.
Just like in Tokyo last year during day-three play, Hungary won by the same score and showed that the invincible North Americans were, indeed, beatable. The look on the Hungarian faces was of disbelief as the stature of the moment took hold and the smiles and embraces slowly came.
The USA was gallant in defeat with many players not knowing what it was like to actually lose a match. When these two last met at a major tournament, it was only back in July in the gold-medal final of the FINA World Championships in Budapest.
In that match, USA led 2-1, 4-3, 7-4 and closed out the victory 9-7. Today, Hungary opened the scoring and allowed USA to go 2-1 up, levelled at two and three by the first break; watched as USA went 5-3 ahead and then redressed the imbalance with three goals by the long break for a Hungarian 6-5 advantage.
That lead was secured by Dorottya Szilagyi, who scored her first goal of the tournament, launching the ball from halfway into the goal with less than two seconds on the clock. Opportunist as it was, it worked in Hungary’s favour and left the USA licking its wounds at halftime.
It was an omen of things to come for the veteran. Jewel Roemer converted extra-man attack for 6-6 to kick off the second half and four minutes later did the deed again for the 7-6 advantage.
However, Szilagyi speared down the left to accept a cross pass and score on counter for 7-7, 15 seconds from the final break. Hungarian skipper Rita Keszthelyi converted a penalty to start the fourth; Jenna Flynn converted extra; Kata Hajdu scored from the left for the 9-8 lead before Hungary regained the ball and went to a timeout.
The ploy worked and Szilagyi had a hat-trick — and subsequently player of the match — for 10-8 at 2:15. Jordan Raney fired in from the top on extra at 1:53 and USA was back in the match. A rare jump ball went USA’s way at 1:29, but no score came and a minute later, the USA took a timeout.
With seven seconds left on the clock, the ball was sent over the top of the goal; Hungary took a timeout and retained the ball until the final buzzer, and an amazing and historic success was witnessed by an appreciative, largely Spanish crowd and a handsome number of USA fans.
Szilagyi (pictured below) by far, because she did what she has done many times before and scored clutch goals. Zsuzsanna Mate scored two levelling goals in the first quarter for Hungary while Hannah Shabb netted two of the first three goals for USA in her first visit to the top stage.
Szilagyi’s bomb just before halftime to switch the momentum and Roemer’s two goals to regain the lead for the last time at 7-6. The Hungarian goals either side of the final break helped achieve the result Hungary wanted.
Stats Don’t Lie
USA had the better of the extra-man count, converting four from nine and Hungary three from nine. Each team converted a penalty foul.
It was some time coming. USA turned up in Tenerife with a young team, missing some veterans, and probably played its best match today, keeping abreast of Hungary, who knows what it is like to come off second best. Both teams need to lift for Sunday’s medal matches.
SPAIN 14 NETHERLANDS 10
Spain turned it on for the large home crowd, going 2-2, 4-2, 3-3 and 5-3 in the periods to ride the crest of victory to the gold-medal final.
The fact that the Netherlands equalled two periods showed how good it was and how focused Spain had to be to get the victory.
Persistent sniping by Spain earned rewards and the close-in attacks on extra-man proved dangerous. Spain had that extra spark from the opening two goals by new international Cristina Nogue through to Elena Ruiz’s penalty strike in the last minute.
The Netherlands levelled at two and three, but from there on it was Spain dictating the match. There were only three stages when Spain scored consecutive goals, otherwise, the match see-sawed to its inevitable conclusion.
Spaniard Bea Ortiz scored two go-ahead goals in the second quarter that gave Spain the impetus for victory. She started the fourth-quarter scoring, which lifted Spain to a three-goal margin, so her shooting was critical and made her best in water.
The Netherlands’ Brigitte Sleeking and Lola Moolhuijzen also scored three, but the latter’s one blemish was a missed penalty attempt in the closing stages of the first half that could have narrowed the score to one.
Ortiz with her pair in the second quarter; Paula Leiton’s two goals that took Spain ahead 9-6 and 11-8; and Judith Forca’s consecutive goals in the last three minutes that took the margin to an unbeatable four and lifted her tally to three.
Stats Don’t Lie
Both teams converted 50 per cent in extra-man attack with Spain netting four and Netherlands six. The Netherlands converted one from two on penalty and Spain one from one.
Spain is the European champion and playing at its best, even with some newcomers. This tournament could belong to Spain if it plays at the same intensity and sticks to its game plan. The Netherlands suffered from the shootout loss to Canada on day three and will be looking for a bronze medal on Sunday.
Classification 5-8 Semifinals
ITALY 13 NEW ZEALAND 5
Italy swam into the play-off for fifth place with the opening victory of the day, managing just a 2-1 first quarter and then 4-2 in the second as the combinations started to come together.
The normally reliable Roberta Bianconi had her penalty saved by Jessica Milicich in the opener in which new face Lucretia Gergol stole the ball and swam the length of the pool to score for 1-0. Goals were traded in the first half of the next period with Italy getting the better of the flow by halftime.
Italy closed out the third period 3-0 and the last 3-2 after Kiwi head coach Angie Winstanley-Smith had implored her players to win the final quarter. New Zealand gained two penalty shots in the final quarter with Emmerson Houghton slotting the first and bouncing the other over the crossbar. Giuditta Galardi imposed her presence at centre forward with two backhanders in the final quarter, the second at lightning speed, and captain closed the scoring inside the final minute for a 4-2 period.
Italian goalkeeper Giuseppina Condorelli was exceptional in the first quarter, staring down three certain Kiwi goals and doing the same at the end of the second quarter, thwarting what seemed a simple New Zealand counter-attack score. She deserved to sit out the rest of the match, her job done. Jessica Milicich deserves mention for two penalty saves, the second late in the third.
A two-goal break thanks to Bianconi for 5-2 midway through the second quarter and the three unanswered goals in the third, lifted Italy to victory.
Stats Don’t Lie
Italy converted five from 14 on extra-man attack and the Kiwis three from 12. New Zealand netted one from two and Italy none from two from the penalty line.
No matter what team Italy sends into the water, it is going to a huge threat. New Zealand played up to Italy and except for a long series of poorly directed shots and blocks, could have made a difference to the losing margin. The same could be said of many Italian shots that were also wayward.
AUSTRALIA 12 CANADA 10
Australia gained a second win for the week and slipped into the play-off for fifth, a match it knows too well, having claimed fifth at Tokyo 2020 and sixth in Budapest this year against Spain, who went on to the European title in October.
Canada was ninth in Budapest and filled the fourth position of this tournament last year. It could have been better for Canada, who defeated Netherlands in a penalty shootout on day three, as it took the 1-0 lead off Australia, finished the quarter 3-2, went to 5-2 before securing the 6-5 halftime lead.
It all came undone in the third period as the Stingers stung hard with a 5-1 outing. Australia shot out 11-8 in the fourth and it was not until 1:40 that Canada pulled one back and then goals were traded for a two-goal advantage to women from Down Under.
At 4:18 in the fourth, Hayley McKelvey’s penalty shot appeared to almost cross the line. It was not given and a subsequent VAR decision backed this up. It could have brought the match back to 11-9. Regular head coach David Paradelo was sidelined with illness and assistant Stefan Posterivo stepped in.
Matilda Kearns racked up four goals for the Aussie Stingers, the first on counter and the others from two metres. Amy Ridge netted three and Bronte Halligan added two more for 12 this week. Kyra Christmas sent in four for Canada, including the last two in the final two minutes, giving Canada an outside chance. It lifted her tally to nine.
Canada’s three-goal charge in the first quarter and the Stingers’ 8-2 surge from midway in the second period until the final break.
Stats Don’t Lie
Australia made it hard on the extra-man count converting only two from seven while Canada went a splendid 50 per cent from eight attempts. Australia buried both penalty attempts and Canada one from two.
It all came down to the third period where Australia stood up and that’s where a lot of matches are won and lost.
Canada had the game and proved that the previous night, but the accurate shooting was not there. Both teams struggled to get good, accurate shots away through the forest-like defences and the channelling of the ball to the goalkeepers.