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Gwangju 2019 preview (part IV): Does Italy have an easy task?

The Italians will be the favorite in Group D of the men’s tournament at the World Championships in Gwangju. But, they have to be cautious in the matches against Germany, Brazil, and Japan.

Group D

Italy

Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: 6th place.
2018 World League: did not participate.
2018 World Cup: did not qualify.
2019 World League: eliminated in Preliminary Stage.
(European competitions – 2018 European Championships: 4th place; 2018 Europa Cup: bronze; 2019 Europa Cup: 4th place).

Italy is one of the most successful water polo teams in the history, but in the “Sette Bello” have won just two medals at the World Championships in the 21st century (gold in 2011 and silver in 2003) and they have been defeated three times in the games for the bronze medal (2001, 2013 and 2015).

Last year, Italy lost the bronze-medal game at the European Championship in Barcelona. Since Barcelona, there have been a lot of changes in the team. Five players, who competed at the last continental championship, didn’t travel to South Korea, because of injuries or Alessandro Campagna’s (head coach) decision: Andrea Fondelli, Nicholas Presciutti, Guillermo Molina, Valentino Gallo, and Zeno Bertoli. They were replaced by Stefano Luongo, Nicolo Figari, Mateo Aicardi, and two debutants at major competitions Vincenzo Dolce and Eduardo Di Somma.

Still Italy, which won the medals at the last two Olympic Games (silver 2012, and bronze 2016), has an experienced squad. Twelve players come from three best Italian clubs Pro Recco, Brescia, and Sport Management. Only Michael Bodegas will play abroad next season. After four years in Pro Recco, Bodegas, a French-born Italian, has just moved to Barceloneta. The team is balanced. Nobody stands out, but they are all very good water polo players.

The oldest one in the team is a captain Pietro Figlioli (35 years), while the youngest player in the squad is the second goalkeeper Gianmarco Nicosia (21 years)

Pietro Figlioli Photo: Federnuoto.it/Facebook

It seems that the Italians will have an easy task in the Group Stage, as Japan, Germany, and Brazil aren’t high-class teams. But, these three squads were able to surprise favorites at the recent competitions.

The Italians don’t promise a lot before the start of the Championships, but they have great expectations. Italy’s striker Francesco Di Fulvio said that his team was well-prepared for the Championships and for the new rules:

Francesco Di Fulvio: “It was easy to adapt to the new rules because we are a smart team”

Roster
Goalkeepers: Marco Del Lungo (Brescia), Gianmarco Nicosia (Banco Bpm Sport Management). Field players: Niccolo Figari (Brescia), Vincenzo Dolce (Banco Bpm Sport Management), Pietro Figlioli, Edoardo Di Somma, Stefano Luongo, Matteo Aicardi, Francesco Di Fulvio, Gonzalo Echenique, Vincenzo Renzuto, Alessandro Velotto (all Pro Recco), Michael Bodegas (Barceloneta). Head coach: Alessandro Campagna.

Germany

Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: did not qualify.
2018 World League: eliminated in Preliminary Stage.
2018 World Cup: 4th place.
2019 World League: eliminated in Preliminary Stage.
(European competitions – 2018 European Championships: 9th place; 2018 Europa Cup: did not qualify; 2019 Europa Cup: did not qualify).

After six years of absence, Germany will play at the World Champions. They didn’t qualify for the tournaments in Kazan 2015 and Budapest 2017.

The German team played at all World Championships from 1973 to 2013, but it didn’t achieve big successes. The Germans were among the medal contenders at World and European Championships in the 1980s. They won bronze at the 1982 WCH, while they were European champions in 1981 and in 1989, and 3rd at the 1984 Olympics. But, since the bronze medal in 1982, Germany hasn’t reached the semifinals at the World Championships.

Things are getting better in German water polo. Last year, the Germans upset the favorites at the World Cup, held in Berlin, and won the 4th place. LEN also helped them in the comeback by giving German clubs the two LEN Champions League “wild cards” (Hannover and Spandau).

The team is almost the same as the squad that won the 4th place at the World Cup. There is only one new face. A debutant will be Lucas Gielen, a Dutch, who is allowed to play for Germany from this season.

Germany has a clear objective – to get into quarterfinals. Find out more in the interview with Julian Real:

Julian Real: “We want to make it among the eight best teams”

Roster
Goalkeepers: Moritz Schenkel, Kevin Gotz (bothWaspo 98 Hannover). Field players: Marko Stamm, Maurice Jungling, Marin Restovic, Denis Strelezkij, Ben Reibel, Mateo Cuk, Lucas Gielen (all Wasserfreunde Spandau 04), Tobias Preuss, Julian Real ( both Waspo 98 Hannover), Dennis Eidner (ASC Duisburg), Timo van der Bosch (SV Ludwigsburg). Head coach: Hagen Stamm.

Brazil

Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: 12th place.
2018 World League: did not participate.
2018 World Cup: did not qualify.
2019 World League: did not participate.

The rapid progress of Brazilian water polo began 10 years ago when Rio de Janeiro was chosen to be the host of the Olympic Games. The Brazilians invested a lot in water polo. Ratko Rudic accepted the offer to be a head coach of the national team. European players Slobodan Soro (Serbia), Josip Vrlic (Croatia) became Brazilian citizens. Felipe Perrone, who is a native Brazilian, but he played for Spain from 2003 to 2013, also joined the Brazilian national team.

Brazil clinched the bronze in the 2015 World League. They finished 8th at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. But, soon after the Olympics, the development of water polo was slowed down because of problems in the Brazilian water polo federation. Ratko Rudic left the team. Perrone decided to play again for Spain. Vrlic also left. Croatia’s head coach Ivica Tucak picked Vrlic to play for his homeland.

Soro, who played for Savona last season, stayed and he will lead the team in Gwangju, as a captain, just like in Budapest 2017. The fans also expect a lot from the best scorer Gustavo Guimares, who has been playing in Europe for years. A few weeks ago, he signed for Mataro (Spain).

Brazil after a practice with the Chinese team in Shanghai Photo: Polo Aquatico Brasil/Facebook

Roster
Goalkeepers: Slobodan Soro, Joao Pedro Fernandes. Field players: Logan Cabral, Pedro Real, Gustavo Coutinho, Roberto Freitas, Guilherme Almeida, Rafael Real, Heitor Carrulo, Bernardo Rocha, Ruda Franco, Gustavo Guimaraes, Luis Ricarcdo SIlva. Head coach: Rick Azevedo.

Japan

Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: 10th place.
2018 World League: 4th place.
2018 World Cup: 7th place.
2019 World League: 6th place.

The Japanese weren’t very interested in water polo during the 20th century. They debuted at the World Championships in 2001, when they were the hosts (Fukuoka). After their first appearance, they became regular World Championships participant. They missed just two editions (2009 and 2013).

Japan, as a host of the 2020 Olympic Games, wants to have a well-prepared team for the next season. But, the Japanese don’t work as Brazil did. They didn’t reinforce their national team with foreign players and coaches. They are working in their own way, with Japanese players and coaches. They are making progress step-by-step and have achieved solid results in the last few years. Japan was 4th in 2018 World League, while the best result at the World Championships was the 10th place in Budapest. We’ll see if Japan is able to make a step forward.

The team’s biggest stars are fast attackers Seiya Adachi and Yusuke Inaba. Adachi, who “froze” the USA at the 2017 WCH by scoring 7 goals in Japan’s surprising win (15:7), didn’t play in the World League this season, but he returns to the team for Gwangju.

The upcoming World Championships isn’t only an important rehearsal for the 2020 Olympic Games, but for the 2021 World Championships, which will be held again in Fukuoka, after 20 years.

Roster
Goalkeepers: Tomoyoshi Fukushima, Katsuyuki Tanamura. Field players: Seiya Adachi, Harukiirario Koppu, Mistuaki Shiga, Takuma Yoshida, Atsuto Iida, Yusuke Shimizu, Mitsuru Takata, Atsushi Arai, Yusuke Inaba, Keigo Okawa, Kenta Araki. Head coach: Yoji Omoto.

Interesting facts

-Italy clinched three gold medals at the World Championships (1978, 1994, and 2011), two silvers (1986, 2003) and one bronze (1975). Germany has one bronze (1982).

-The Italians’ worst result in the history of the World Championships was the 11th place at the 2009 Championships which took place in Rome, the capital of Italy!

-Japanese Yusuke Inaba was the top scorer of the 2019 World League Super Final in Belgrade. He scored 26 goals in 6 matches.

-Slobodan Soro won two medals at the World Championships as Serbia’s goalkeeper (gold in 2009 and silver in 2011).

-Alessandro Campagna has coached Italy for more than ten years. He became the head coach in 2001, but two years later he moved to Greece, and he guided the Greek national team (2003 – 2008). He returned to the bench of the “Sette Bello” in 2009 and since then he has been coaching Italy.

For more information about the Water Polo World Championship in Gwangju 2019 visit our tournament page or follow our social media channels – FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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