As the sun sets on another bustling summer, the stage is set for the season’s final international tournament—the U20 Women’s World Championships in the picturesque city of Coimbra, Portugal.
While Coimbra may not be as renowned as its neighbouring cities, Porto (which hosted this competition in 2007) and Lisbon, it boasts a rich tapestry of historical monuments and landmarks. Amidst this backdrop, the 15th edition of the U20 competition promises to create lasting memories for the triumphant team in the pool.
The host country, Portugal, has a small but passionate water polo community. In the pool, they have shown promising signs of development in the women’s game. The national women’s team came tantalisingly close to securing a berth in next year’s European Championships, indicating a positive trajectory. Moreover, Portuguese clubs have recently seized the opportunity to host LEN club competitions, further nurturing the sport’s development on the Iberian Peninsula.
Looking ahead to the upcoming seven-day tournament, scheduled from September 8th to 15th, the quality of the participating teams is truly impressive. Coimbra will play host to a plethora of exceptional players, not merely as future prospects but as prominent figures on the current international stage. While senior competitions often take precedence, there’s a unique bond that forms with players when they represent their age-group national teams, competing alongside friends. For many athletes, this tournament represents a final opportunity to do so, adding extra significance to the event.
The competition follows the newly introduced two-tiered format, the idea being that all teams will enjoy a larger number of competitive and exciting fixtures.Tournament Format In Short: The teams are split into two, informally called, divisions – the higher one with eight teams and the lower one with 12 teams. After the group stage, all teams from Division 1 and the best four from Division 2 will continue to battle for medals. The others will play in the 13th – 20th place classification.
The reigning champions from Netanya in 2021 are Spain, and are bidding to become the third team to retain their title, after the United States (2013 and 2015) and Russia (2017 and 2019). Team USA themselves have the most number of gold medals (4), and certainly look in good shape after maintaining a flawless record at last weekend’s Heraklesz Tournament.
Greece finished second in the last U20 tournament, and are long overdue a win at this stage after a 26 year wait. Surprisingly, Italy and Hungary, whose teams have a number of superstars, have never won the biggest prize at this age-group.
At the other end of the spectrum, international competition is rejuvenated by the inclusion of developing nations such as India and Chile.
Reigning U20 World Champions Spain boast an extremely talented group, including superstars such as Elena Ruiz and goalkeeper Martina Terre. Four other players – Paula Prats, Nona Perez, Cristina Nogue and Alba Munoz are senior national team regulars.
Many familiar names will appear on Team USA’s roster, including the likes of Jenna Flynn and Emily Ausmus, with Ella Woodhead – younger sister of Dylan and Quin – captaining the Yanks.
The Junior Setterosa can call on two outstanding players – Sofia Giustini and Dafne Bettini – both of whom won Bronze at the recent World Championships in Fukuoka.
Other familiar names include Dutch World Champion Lola Moolhuizjen; Christina Siouti, Stefania Santa and Foteini Tricha of Greece; Kata Hajdu and Boglarka Neszmely of Hungary, Serena Browne of Canada; Juliette D’halluin and Camelia Bouloukbachi of France and Alma Yaacobi of Israel.
U20 Women’s World Championships draw
Group A: Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Brazil.
Group B: USA, Italy, Israel, Hungary.
Group C: South Africa, New Zealand, Portugal.
Group D: France, Canada, Chile.
Group E: Croatia, Japan.
Group F: Australia, India, Kazakhstan
Group Stage Schedule
Friday 8th September
09:00 AM – Group D – France vs Chile
10:30 AM – Group E – Croatia vs Japan 1
2:00 PM – Group F – Australia vs Kazakhstan
01:30 PM – Group A – Netherlands vs Greece
03:30 PM – Group B – United States of America vs Israel
05:00 PM – Group A – Spain vs Brazil
06:30 PM – Group B – Italy vs Hungary
08:15 PM – Group C – South Africa vs Portugal
Saturday 9th September
10:30 AM – Group D – Canada vs Chile
12:00 PM – Group F – India vs Kazakhstan
01:30 PM – Group B – United States of America vs Italy
03:30 PM – Group A – Netherlands vs Spain
05:00 PM – Group B – Israel vs Hungary
06:30 PM – Group A – Greece vs Brazil
08:00 PM – Group C – New Zealand vs Portugal
Sunday 10th September
09:00 AM – Group E – Japan vs Croatia
10:30 AM – Group F – Australia vs India
12:00 PM – Group C – South Africa vs New Zealand
01:30 PM – Group D – France vs Canada
03:30 PM – Group A – Spain vs Greece
05:00 PM – Group B – Italy vs Israel
06:30 PM – Group A – Netherlands vs Brazil
08:00 PM – Group B – United States of America vs Hungary
2021, Netanya, Israel – 1. Spain, 2. Greece, 3. Hungary
2019, Funchal, Portugal – 1. Russia, 2. Netherlands, 3. Italy
2017, Volos, Greece – 1. Russia, 2. Greece, 3. Netherlands
2015, Volos, Greece – 1. United States, 2. Spain, 3. Russia
2013, Volos, Greece – 1. United States, 2. Spain, 3. Greece
2011, Trieste, Italy – 1. Spain, 2. Hungary, 3. Australia
2009, Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia – 1. Russia, 2. Netherlands, 3. United States
2007, Porto, Portugal – 1. Australia, 2. China, 3. Hungary
2005, Perth, Australia – 1. United States, 2. Russia, 3. Australia
2003, Calgary, Canada – 1. Canada, 2. United States, 3. Spain
2001, Perth, Australia – 1. United States, 2. Australia, 3. Russia
1999, Messina, Italy – 1. Australia, 2. Canada, 3. Hungary
1997, Prague, Czech Republic – 1. Greece, 2. Australia, 3. United States
1995, Sainte-Foy, Canada – 1. Netherlands, 2. Australia, 3. United States