If you enjoyed the first three days of Women’s World Cup action in Rotterdam, you’re in luck: because the World Cup returns this week in Athens. All eight nations from the first phase are back in action this week, racking up the air miles as they descend 2800km south to the Greek capital.
Half the teams (Group A) arrive in Athens relatively care-free, knowing that their mission to qualify for the World Cup is already accomplished. However, the stakes are higher for the second group (Group B), who still need to book their tickets.
World Cup Groups – Athens
Group A – Netherlands, United States, Hungary, Italy
Group B – Spain, Greece, Australia, China
Eight teams travel from Rotterdam to Athens and are split into two groups of four. The top two teams from each group in Rotterdam are now placed into a new group alongside the Netherlands, United States, Hungary, and Italy. These four teams have already qualified for the World Cup Finals in Long Beach, so they are now only competing in Athens to improve their ranking for the final tournament. The remaining four teams, which were the third and fourth-placed teams from the initial groups in Rotterdam (Spain, Greece, Australia, and China), are now put into a new group and will play round-robin games for fifth through eighth place. The top two teams in this group will earn a spot at the World Cup Finals. After both tournaments, the top six teams from Division 1 and the top two teams from Division 2 will advance to the World Cup finals in June. The finals will have a similar structure to the Men’s Champions League Final Eight, with quarterfinals, semifinals, and medal matches. It’s important to note that the last-placed teams in Division 1 will be relegated to Division 2 in the next edition, while the winners of Division 2 will be promoted to a higher rank.
Eight teams travel from Rotterdam to Athens and are split into two groups of four. The top two teams from each group in Rotterdam are now placed into a new group alongside the Netherlands, United States, Hungary, and Italy. These four teams have already qualified for the World Cup Finals in Long Beach, so they are now only competing in Athens to improve their ranking for the final tournament.
The remaining four teams, which were the third and fourth-placed teams from the initial groups in Rotterdam (Spain, Greece, Australia, and China), are now put into a new group and will play round-robin games for fifth through eighth place. The top two teams in this group will earn a spot at the World Cup Finals.
After both tournaments, the top six teams from Division 1 and the top two teams from Division 2 will advance to the World Cup finals in June. The finals will have a similar structure to the Men’s Champions League Final Eight, with quarterfinals, semifinals, and medal matches.
It’s important to note that the last-placed teams in Division 1 will be relegated to Division 2 in the next edition, while the winners of Division 2 will be promoted to a higher rank.
The same four nations that completed the semi-final line-up at the most recent World Championships in Budapest have progressed into the “winners” group in Athens. The Netherlands is the only side to have progressed with a perfect record from the first phase in their backyard. On the balance of play, they were the best team in the first phase of the tournament, with the devastating demolition job against Greece being a particular high point for Eva Doudesis’ team. The Oranges won’t be able to muster much spirit from the crowd this time, but perhaps they will take a stronger side to Athens than the one that bypassed the first hurdle at home with flying colours.
The Olympic champions eventually ended up finishing at the peak of Group B, but it wasn’t plain sailing for the Americans. An opening day loss to Spain showed some teething problems that Adam Krikorian will hope was just a blip. Their star players – such as Maddie Musselman and Maggie Steffens – looked in red-hot form in Rotterdam, their opponents in the Greek capital could be in for a tough time. The USA are already qualified for the Finals, but Adam Krikorian’s winning machine will be eager to keep to their winning mentality.
Three players hit double-digits in Rotterdam: Maddie Musselman (USA), Silvia Avegno (ITA) and Rita Keszthelyi (HUN) all scored ten goals in three games.
Barring a mistake-ridden final game against the Netherlands, Hungary will be pleased with their showing in Rotterdam, with confident wins over Greece and Australia. The Magyars, however, will be without their main protagonist in Athens, as Rita Keszthelyi is returning to Spain as previously agreed. Attila Biro will be eager for some of the other players on the team to stand up and be counted. Natasa Rybanska returns to the team.
Completing the group is Italy’s Setterosa, whose performance against their elite opposition is always unpredictable. Despite a narrow loss to the United States in their final game in Rotterdam, Carlo Silipo’s team can take pride in their impressive defeat of Spain on day two. With each team bringing their A-game to Athens, the “winners” group promises to deliver some thrilling water polo action.
Italy are the only team in Group A to never have won the World Cup, despite playing in two gold medal matches. The Netherlands have won 8 times, the United States have won 4 times and Hungary have won once.
With tickets for Long Beach already in the bag for all four teams in Group A, only two berths for the World Cup Finals remain, and the ticket allocation for Group B can’t be split four ways. Based on the form guide, you would back the two European sides to book their place in the finals, but they’ll have a dogfight on their hands against China and Australia.
There were mixed feelings from the Spanish camp last week, with the ecstasy of defeating the United States on day one followed up immediately by a malfunction against Italy. Spain no doubt deserves a place in Long Beach, but will need to take the long way around in Athens.
Greece vs Spain: All-time record: 34 meetings, Spain wins: 23, Greece wins: 10, Ties: 1.
Qualification is a must for the Greeks to keep their national program on track. The home support will be a boost for the European Championship silver medalists, who will look to replicate their win over Australia in Rotterdam. Alexia Kammenou’s side will also get a second bite at the cherry at taking revenge on Spain for their Euro Final defeat in Split on Sunday (21st April).
Athens hosts a major international tournament for the first time since in hosted the World League Super Finals back in 2021.
Australia’s task of securing a World Cup Final berth will be daunting, but not impossible. The absence of talisman Bronte Halligan for two of their games in Rotterdam was felt, and her return will undoubtedly boost the Aussies’ chances. The team usually performs better the longer they stay together, which could work in their favour in this tournament’s format.
China, like Australia, is still searching for their first victory in this new tournament, with their sights set on the upcoming Asian Games. Nevertheless, Charis Pavlidis’ team has enough talent to make their mark in Athens. The likes of Siya Yan, Zewen Deng, and Jing Zhang impressed in week one, and Pavlidis himself will be returning to the city where he made his name.
World Cup Schedule – Athens (CET)
Wednesday 19th April
13:00 – Spain vs Australia
15:00 – Netherlands vs Italy
17:00 – Greece vs China
19:00 – United States vs Hungary
Thursday 20th April
13:00 – Spain vs China
15:00 – Netherlands vs Hungary
17:00 – Greece vs Australia
19:00 – United States vs Italy
Friday 21st April
13:00 – Australia vs China
15:00 – Netherlands vs United States
17:00 – Greece vs Spain
19:00 – Hungary vs Italy
World Cup Rosters
Australia – Gabi Palm, Pascalle Casey, Sienna Hearn, Elle Armit, Tenealle Fasala, Bronte Halligan, Bridget Leeson-Smith, Abbie Andrews, Amy Ridge, Lena Mihailovic, Alice Williams, Sophie Pontre, Brooke McClean, Maddy Steere, Lilian Hedges, Genevieve Longman
China – Jiaqi Zhang, Ziqi Lu, Xuan Wang, Jing Yan, Dunhan Xiong, Bozhou Lu, Shiyun Wang, Zewen Deng, Huan Wang, Siya Yan, Sanfeng Nong, Qiyun Zhong, Jing Zhang, Wenxin Dong, Ying Zhai, Xinyue Du, Yixin Shao
Spain – Laura Ester, Paula Crespi, Ariadna Ruiz, Bea Ortiz, Paula Camus, Cristina Nogue, Paula Prats, Pili Pena, Judith Forca, Elena Ruiz, Maica Garcia, Alba Munoz, Paula Leiton, Nona Perez, Elia Jimenez, Martina Terre
Greece – Eleftheria Fountotou, Stefania Santa, Chrysi Diamantopoulou, Foivi Angeledi, Foteini Tricha, Nikoleta Eleftheriadou, Margarita Plevritou, Eleni Xenaki, Eirini Ninou, Eleni Elliniadi, Vasiliki Plevritou, Christina Siouti, Vasiliki Plevritou, Athina Giannopoulou, Maria Myriokefalitaki, Ioanna Stamatopoulou
Hungary – Boglarka Neszmely, Dorottya Szilagyi, Kata Hajdu, Vanda Valyi, Greta Gurisatti, Zsuzsanna Mate, Rebecca Parkes, Geraldine Mahieu, Natasa Rybanska, Dora Leimeter, Panni Szegedi, Dalma Domsodi, Kamilla Farago, Krisztina Garda, Alda Magyari, Panna Tiba
Italy – Aurora Condorelli, Chiara Tabani, Gaia Galardi, Silvia Avegno, Dafne Bettini, Giusy Citino, Agnese Cocchiere, Domitilla Picozzi, Luna Di Claudio, Veronica Gant, Valeria Palmieri, Emma De March, Claudia Marletta, Lucrezia Cergol, Giulia Viacava, Caterina Banchelli.
Netherlands – Laura Aarts, Iris Wolves, Brigitte Sleeking, Sabrina Van der Sloot, Maartje Keuning, Fleurien Bosveld, Marit Van der Weijden, Simone Van de Kraats, Bente Rogge, Vivian Sevenich, Kitty Joustra, Lola Moolhuijzen, Lieke Rogge, Nina Ten Broek, Sarah Buis.
United States – Ashleigh Johnson, Maddie Musselman, Tara Prentice, Rachel Fattal, Julia Bonaguidi, Maggie Steffens, Emily Ausmus, Ava Stryker, Denise Mammolito, Rachel Gazzaniga, Alison Cohen, Jordan Raney, Amanda Longan
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