Team USA has caused the biggest surprise of the first edition of the World Aquatics Water Polo Cup.
The Americans taught a lesson to Hungary – 15:9 on Day 6 of Division 1 Group A in Zagreb. The USA had a six-goal advantage at the middle break. It stretched the margin to eight in the third period, and after that, their win wasn’t in danger.
Despite the shocking loss, Hungary still has a chance to qualify for the Final tournament.
Italy secured its berth with four wins in the first four games in Group A. Team USA qualified as the host. Tomorrow, Croatia and Hungary will battle in a replay of the 2022 European Championships final to decide which team will be the third qualified from this group. If Hungary wins in regular time, it will qualify. Any other outcome will send Croatia to Los Angeles.(more in our report).
Japan beat France 18:15 in a scoring festival in today’s other match in Group A.
Favorites recorded 10-goal wins in Group B in Podgorica today. Spain demolished Australia 18:8 and confirmed 1st place. Greece beat Georgia 17:7, but the Greeks still haven’t qualified for the Final. They will face Montenegro tomorrow. Two available tickets are in Group B before the last round. Greece, Serbia and Montenegro are eyeing them.
USA – Hungary 15:9 (4:2, 5:1, 4:2, 2:4)
USA: Weinberg, Hooper, Vavic 2, Abramson 1, Daube 2, Cupido 3, Hallock 1, Woodhead, R.Dodd 1, Ch. Dodd, Avakian, Irving 5, Turner. Head coach: Udovicic.
Hungary: Szakonyi, Angyal 2, Manhercz, Pohl 1, Vamos 1, Molnar, Zalanki 4, Burian, Nemet, Fekete 1, Nagy, Vigvari, Vogel. Head coach: Zs. Varga
Even though Team USA has played very well throughout the tournament, few could foresee that the Americans would surprise Hungary, as it did in the 5th-8th place semifinals at the 2022 World Championships in Budapest when they beat the hosts in the penalty shootout.
Team USA’s head coach Dejan Udovicic didn’t put the best scorer of the 2022 World Championships Alex Bowen. Hungary was without Denes Varga and injured Szilard Jansik, but Pro Recco’s leftie Gergo Zalanki joined the team.
But, the Americans didn’t just surprise the Hungarians in the first half. They demolished the European Championships silver medalists in the first 16 minutes, which was crucial for the final score. Hungary couldn’t come back after the first half.
The beginning didn’t indicate that one team would dominate. After almost four minutes, the first goal was scored – Hungary’s Pohl converted a man-up. The Americans leveled, Gergo Zalanki scored the 2nd goal for Hungary in the 6th minute for 2:1. Late into the opening period, the Americans started taking control. They netted three in the last 02:15 minutes of the first quarter and headed into the second period with a 4:2 advantage.
The Americans ruled the field in the second quarter. By the middle of the quarter, they netted two action goals and one with a man-up for 7:2. Then, Hungary’s head coach switched the goalkeepers. Soma Vogel replaced Daniel Szakonyi, who started the match. Still, it didn’t produce an immediate effect and consolidate the Hungarians’ defense. Daube scored for 8:2 in the 15th minute.
The Americans had a chance to go to +7 with 32 seconds left on the clock in the first half, when a penalty shot was awarded to them. But, Vogel saved a shot from Hooper. Fifteen seconds after, USA’s goalkeeper committed a penalty foul. Marton Vamos didn’t have a demanding task. He sent the ball into the net and ended the Hungarians’ goalless phase that lasted for 10:23 minutes. Still, it wasn’t the beginning of the Hungarians’ comeback, as Team USA earned a 6 on 5 advantage in the dying seconds. Cupido hit the back of the net, and the USA regained a 6-goal lead (9:3).
Hungary’s power-play conversion in the first half was horrible. The Europeans had nine power-play attacks in the first half. But they lost the ball or finished the attack without a shot in many of these possessions. After 16 minutes, Hungary’s conversion of man-up shots was 1/2, and the USA’s 3/4.
Irving made it 10:3 in the USA’s first possession in the second half, by converting a penalty shot. Shortly after, Hungary got a new chance from the 5m line. Zalanki made no mistake, giving Hungary a slim hope with a goal for 4:10. But, midway through the quarter, the Americans netted two quick action goals for 12:4 and it was clear that only a miracle could save Hungary. But, miracles happen rarely. In the remaining time , Hungary just reduced the gap to six and didn’t come closer.
Nothing worked well in Hungary’s play today. They had a poor percentage of shots (9/28). The USA scored six more goals despite fewer attempts (15/26). Action shots made the difference – USA 10/16, and Hungary only 5 of 16. There were a lot of exclusions (the Americans committed 15 personal fouls, and the Hungarians 13 – three penalty shots on both sides are included in this sum). Still, there were not many shots with a power play advantage. Team USA converted three of its five scoring attempts with an extra player. Hungary’s conversion was 2/6.
Hungarian goalkeepers Vogel and Szakonyi posted one save each today. USA’s goalie Weinberg stopped eight shots.
It can happen that Croatia, Hungary and the USA finish the tournament equal in points – if Hungary beats Croatia and USA loses to Italy.
According to the World Aquatics rules, the best of the three teams will be the one with the most points and the best goal difference in the encounters between these three teams. Currently, it’s the USA (which lost to Croatia 14:16). The criteria for ranking the remaining two teams will be their encounter. So, a minimal win over Croatia will be enough for Hungary to qualify. The host Croatia needs a point (a loss in a penalty shootout) to secure a ticket for the Final Eight because it has a point more than Hungary before tomorrow’s clash.
Japan – France 18:15 (10:5, 0:2, 8:4, 0:4)
Japan: Tanamura, Adachi 4, Watanabe 5, Ogihara 1, Nitta 1, Suzuki 2, Date, Takata 1, Arai, Inaba 3, Okawa 1, Araki, Nishimura. Head coach: Shiota.
France: Fontani, Canovas, Crousillat 6, Bouet, Khasz, Vernoux 3, Zivkovic, Bjorch, Marzouki 2, Canonne 2, Vanpeperstraete 1, De Nardi, Rossi. Head coach: Bruzzo.
Japan and France played for pride. The ticket for the Final Eight became an unattainable goal for both teams already in the middle of the tournament.
Japan had more motivation to say goodbye with a win. They saved enough energy for the last match and played like the game was a big final.
France was considered a possible surprise in the tournament. The French opened the matches against Croatia, Hungary, Italy very well and dictated the pace in the first quarters of these games, but lost the rhythm in the remaining periods.
Today, France’s defense fell apart shortly after the beginning. Japan had 11 attempts to score in the first eight minutes and netted 10 goals. Only one shot was blocked. The Japanese defense wasn’t at the highest level and the French attack wasn’t harmless, so the first eight minutes produced 15 goals!
France consolidated its defense in the second quarter and narrowed the margin to three. It seemed that the Europeans could come back. But, the third period was similar to the first quarter. The Japanese were firing from all positions. Almost each of their shots was a goal, so the Asians had an 18:11 advantage before the final quarter.
At the end of the game, we had another replay. France was the better rival in the fourth quarter, as it was in the second. The French, led by Ugo Crousillat, didn’t let a single goal in the final eight minutes, but it was too late for a comeback and France finished the tournament without points.
1.Italy 4 – 12*
2. Croatia 4 – 9
3.USA 4 – 9*
4. Hungary 4 – 6
5. Japan 5 – 3
6. France 5 – 0
*Qualified for the Final Eight (Team USA qualified as the host)
DAY 6 (March 14)
Hungary – Croatia (18:30)
USA – Italy (20:30)
France and Japan bye
Australia – Spain 8:18 (1:3, 2:4, 3:5, 2:6)
Australia: Porter, Mardsen, G.Ford 1, Negus 1, Power 2, Lambie 1, Pavillard, McJannet 1, A.Ford 1, Putt, Poot, Edwards 1, Hedges. Head coach: Hamill.
Spain: Aguirre, Munarriz 5, Biel 1, Sanahuja 2, Asensio 1, Barroso 2, Famera, Cabanas 2, Tahull 2, Perrone 1, Mallarach 2, Bustos, Lorrio. head coach: Martin.
The world champions bounced back after a penalty shootout loss to Serbia and finished the tournament as was expected of them.
They convincingly beat Australia and cemented the top spot.
The Spaniards started quite slowly. At the finish of the first quarter, they led 2:1. Two seconds before the first break, Munarriz sent the ball into the net from a perimeter for 3:1. Already at the beginning of the second period, Spain doubled its advantage with goals from Barroso ad Asensio (5:1). Sanahuja missed a penalty shot in the 11th minute, and McJannet punished that with an action goal (2:5).McJannet opened a short exchange of goals, so Australia trailed 3:6 at the finish of the quarter. But, Munarriz converted a man-up to close the second period and give Spain a new 7:3 lead.
Midway through the third period, Australia reduced the gap to three once again (5:8). Spain responded with a 4:0 series and jumped to a safe 12:5 lead in the 24th minute. By the end, the world champion extended their lead to ten.
Eight penalty shots were awarded to Spain in this match. The world champions scored six goals from the 5m line. Interestingly, Spain scored four goals from penalty shots in the final quarter.
Greece – Georgia 17:7 (4:2, 5:1, 3:2, 5:2)
Greece: Zerdevas, Genidounias 2, Skoumpakis 3, Kalogeropoulos 1, Fountoulis 2, Papanastasiou 2, Gkillas, Argyropoulos 1, Nikolaidis 1, Solanakis 2, Dervisis 2, Alafragkis 1, Tyortzatos. Head coach: Vlachos.
Georgia: Razmadze,Akhvlediani, Dadvani, Shushiashvili 1, Bitadze 1, Jelaca, Adeishvili, Saric, Imnaishvili, Magrakvelidze 2, Tkeshelashvili 1, Dzikhtsiarenka 2, Gvetadze. Head coach: Stanojevic.
Greece killed Georgia’s last, really slim, hope that it could climb to 3rd place with a dominant performance. For the third time in Podgorica, Greece scored more than 15 goals and they recorded their second win with a double-digit margin (it beat Serbia 16:14 and Australia 20:5)
The Greeks played without their probably best center-forward, Konstantinos Kakaris, but they were unstoppable in the 2m area. The Olympic silver medalists forced 13 exclusions, and their conversion of the man-up shots was outstanding – 10/13. Georgia scored three goals from six shots with a man-up.
The game was an even contest only until 2:2. After that, the Greeks’ show started. They scored five straight goals to go to 7:2. The Georgians struggled in attack and defense. At the finish of the second quarter, they couldn’t even score from a 6 on 4.
Before the last quarter, seven goals separated the rivals. Greece had an 11-goal advantage (17:6), while Magrakvelidze closed the match with a consolation goal.
Tomorrow, Greece has to win at least a point against Montenegro to secure a ticket for California. But, if Serbia loses to Georgia (which is very unlikely), the Greeks will qualify even before the match with Montenegro.
1.Spain 5 games – 13 points*
2. Greece 4 – 9
3. Serbia 4 – 8
4. Montenegro 4 – 6
5. Georgia 4 – 3
6. Australia 5 – 0
*Qualified for the Final Eight
DAY 6 (March 14)
Georgia – Serbia (17:30)
Montenegro – Greece (19:30)
Spain and Australia bye
For the full schedule, live scores and statistics, visit Total Waterpolo Arena
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