The Netherlands and Hungary took the last two available tickets for the women’s water polo tournament at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The semifinal matches of the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Trieste were played in Trieste this evening.
The Netherlands earned its Olympic berth with a 7:4 victory over Greece. Hungary defeated host Italy 13:10.
For the first time in history, ten teams will play at the women’s Olympic tournament. The participants: the United States (the 2019 World League winner), Spain (finalist of the 2019 World Championships), Canada (2nd place at the 2019 Pan American Games), Russia (2nd place at the 2020 European championship), Australia (the Oceanian qualifier), China (the 2018 Asian Games winner), South Africa (representative of Africa), the Netherlands, Hungary (World Qualification Tournament) and host Japan.
Women’s Olympic Games Qualification Tournament, Trieste, Day 5
Semifinals 1st – 4th places
Netherlands – Greece 7:4 (1:2, 2:2, 2:0, 2:0)
Netherlands: Meggens 3, Van de Kraats 2, Sleeking 1, Van der Sloot 1.
Greece: Tsoukala 1, Epeftheriadou 1, M. Plevritou 1, Myrioketalifaki 1.
The Netherlands return to the Olympic Games after 13 years. The Dutch won the Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, but after that failed to qualify for the OG in London and Rio de Janeiro. Five years ago, the Netherlands hosted the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Gouda. The top four teams qualified, while the Netherlands finished 5th in the qualifications for Rio. Greece was 6th. Both teams were lost quarterfinal matches in Gouda.
Greece hasn’t played at the Olympics since 2008, like the Dutch. But, the Greeks have to wait at least three more years for a new appearance at the Games.
Maud Megens converted a penalty after just 16 seconds of play to give the Netherlands a 1:0 lead. However, the Greeks dictated the pace in the first half. Tsoukala responded immediately to equalize. The Greeks’ defense worked excellently in the first two periods. In the the11th minute, Myrokefalitaki scored for 3:1.
Brigitte Sleeking ended the Dutch’s long goalless phase with an action goal for 2:3. Simone van de Kraats found the net from a counter-attack to level the score (3:3). But, Nikoleta Eleftheriadou found the net from a distance six seconds before the middle break, and Greece entered the second half with a 4:3 lead.
But, the Netherlands controlled everything in the second half. The Dutch tightened their defense, Greece couldn’t find good solutions in the offense. Maud Meggens found the net for 4:4 in the middle of the third period. Sabrina van der Sloot put the Dutch in front in the 30th minute (5:4). The fourth period was very similar to the third. After three minutes of play in this period, the Dutch jumped to a 7:4 lead. Defenses dominated in the remaining time, and the Netherlands secured a ticket for Tokyo.
Hungary – Italy 13:10 (3:1, 2:2, 4:4, 4:3)
Hungary: Keszthelyi 6, Szilagyi 2, Illes 2, Szucs 1, Parkes 1, Leimeter 1.
Italy: Marletta 4,Tabani 2, Bianconi 2, Palmieri 2.
The second semifinal was the encounter between the teams which were regular participants of the Olympic Games 2004 – 2016. Hungary still hasn’t taken an Olympic medal, despite the fact they reached the semifinals in 2008, 2012, and 2016. Italy was the Olympic champion in Athens in 2004 and won the silver medal in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
The Hungarians will continue their “Olympic series” with 5th episode in Tokyo.
Hungary shocked the Italians with three unanswered goals in the first three minutes of the game (Szilagyi scored an opener, and Keszthelyi added two goals). Italy’s first goal came in the 8th minute (Chiara Tabani)
Gabriela Szuch opened the second quarter with an extra player goal and Hungary regained a 3-goal advantage (4:1). In the middle of this period, Anna Illes stretched the margin to four (5:1). Still, the Italians kept their hopes alive – Marletta and Bianconi scored action goals in the last three minutes of the first half.
Italy started coming back and came very close to the rival twice in the third quarter (5:6 and 6:7). But, Hungary scored two goals within 16 seconds (Szilagyi –extra player and Keszthelyi – counter attack) and regained a 3-goal lead (9:6). Italy missed a few nice opportunities in the last two minutes of the third period, but Palmieri converted a man-up 29 seconds before the last break for 7:9. At the start of the fourth quarter, everything was still open.
An outstanding Rita Keszthelyi found the net for the 5th time this evening in the opening possession in the 4th quarter for 10:7. Marletta sent the ball into the net for 8:10. However, Hungary re-built a four-goal lead (12:8) with 03:10 minutes to go, and there was no way back for the “Settebello”.
Semifinals 5th – 8th places
Kazakhstan – Slovakia 11:10 (2:3, 4:2, 1:2, 4:3)
Kazakhstan: Novikova 4, Yeremina 2, Roga 2, Akilbayeva 1, Turova 1, Khritankova 1.
Slovakia: Stankovianska 4, Halocka 2, Kackova 2, Peckova 1, Kissova 1.
France – Israel 11:4 (2:1, 2:0, 5:2, 2:1)
France: Guillet 3, Millot 3, Vernoux 2, Bouloukbachi 1, Mahieu 1, Dhaullin 1.
Israel:Bogachenko 1, Noy 1, Futorian 1, Hochberg 1.
The first match of the playoff for 5th place offered a lot of excitement. Kazakhstan and Slovakia fought a hard battle. Kazakhstan led for most of the time, but Slovakia equalized several times. For the last time, the Europeans leveled the score a minute and a half before the end, when Peckova converted a penalty for 10:10. Aizhan Akilbayeva converted a power play with 21 seconds to go to secure Kazakhstan an 11:10 win.
France didn’t have a hard task and convincingly defeated Israel.
Quarterfinals (January 22)
Quarterfinals: Netherlands – Kazakhstan 19:6, France – Hungary 7:20, Italy – Israel 15:6, Slovakia – Greece 3:22.
Semifinals (January 23)
Semifinals 5th – 8th places: Kazakhstan – Slovakia 11:10, France – Israel 11:4
Semifinals 1th – 4th places: Netherlands – Greece 7:4, Hungary – Italy 13:10
Matches for the final ranking (January 24)
For 7th place: Slovakia – Israel (14:00), for 5th place: Kazakhstan – France (16:00), for 3rd place: Greece – Italy (18:00), FINAL: Netherlands – Hungary (20:00).