The chase for the last remaining two tickets for the women’s water polo tournament at the Tokyo Olympics begins tomorrow.
The Olympic Qualification Tournament will take place in Trieste between January 19 and 24.
Eight teams, split into four groups, will battle for Olympic visas.
Group A: Netherlands, France, Italy, Slovakia.
Group B: Greece, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan
Two former Olympic champions, Italy (2004) and the Netherlands (2008), are the favorites in Group A. To date, France and Slovakia haven’t played at the female Olympic tournament, introduced in 2000.
Five years ago, at the 2016 Olympics, Italy was the best European team. The “Setterossa” won the silver medal, after a loss to the USA in the final.
After winning the Olympic title in Beijing in 2008, the Netherlands didn’t qualify for the Games in London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The Dutch were the European champions in 2018, while they finished 4th at the 2020 ECH in Budapest, ahead of the 5th-placed Italy.
France and Israel are teams that are still learning and gaining experience. Still, France has won two medals at the major competitions, but that happened in the women’s European championships’ early editions. The French were third in Europe in 1987 and 1989. Last year, they were 7th in Budapest. This team is preparing to reach its peak at the 2024 Olympics. Slovakia debuted at the main stage with 12th place at the 1993 European championship. Their next big competition was last year’s continental championships in Budapest, where they achieved historic success by qualifying for the quarterfinals (they finished 8th).
Greece won the silver medal at the 2004 OG in Athens. Four years later, they were 8th in Beijing. Since 2008, they haven’t played at the Olympic Games, although they were the 2011 World Champions. Last year, the Greeks finished 6th at the ECH in Budapest.
Hungary, the regular Olympic Games participant since 2004, was very close to the medal at the previous three OG tournaments, but they took 4th place in 2008, 2012, 2016. However, the female team of Hungary has a rich treasury of medals at the major competitions. At the 2020 ECH in Budapest, Hungary won the bronze medal.
Israel’s female national team appeared in the world of high-class water polo three years ago, when they took 10th place at the European Championships in Barcelona. In Budapest 2020, Israel made a progress, by finishing 9th.
Kazakhstan, the only non-European team in Trieste, played at the first-ever female Olympic tournament in Sidney in 2000 and again in Athens in 2004. Both times they were defeated in all matches. They qualified for Sidney and Athens ad the Asian champions. This time, they failed to win 1st place at the Asian Games and starts a “mission impossible” in Trieste.
For the first time in history, ten teams will play at the Olympic qualification tournament
The best two from the tournament in Trieste will join the eight teams that already qualified for Tokyo: the United States, Spain (finalists of the 2019 World Championships), Canada (2nd place at the Pan American Games), Russia (2nd place at the European championship), Australia (the Oceanian qualifier), China (Asian Games winner), South Africa (representative of Africa) and host Japan.
After the group stage, all four teams will qualify for the knock-out phase of the tournament (quarterfinals, semifinals, final). The finalists will earn the Olympic berth. So, the semifinal matches will be the highlight of the tournament.
Group stage (January 19 – 21)
January 19: Hungary – Israel (14:00), Greece – Kazakhstan (16:00), France – Italy (18:00), Netherlands – Slovakia (20:00).
January 20: Hungary – Kazakhstan (14:00), Greece – Israel (16:00), Netherlands – Italy (18:00), France – Slovakia (20:00).
January 21: Hungary – Greece (14:00), France – Netherlands (16:00), Italy – Slovakia (18:00), Israel – Kazakhstan (20:00).
Quarterfinals (January 22)
QF1: 2A – 3B (14:00)
QF 2: 3A – 2B (16:00)
QF3: 1A – 4B (18:00)
QF 4: 4A – 1B (20:00)
Semifinals (January 23)
Semifinals 5th – 8th places: Losers OF 1 – QF 4 (14:00), losers QF 2 – QF3 (16.00)
Semifinals 1th – 4th places: Winners QF 1 – QF (18:00), Winners QF2 – QF 3 (20:00)
Matches for the final ranking January 24
For 7th place (14:00), for 5th place (16:00), for 3rd place (18:00), FINAL (20:00).
The Olympic Qualification Tournament for men will be played in Rotterdam in February (14-21)