After day five of the 2023 Women’s World Championships, a new world champion crowned for the first time in ten years.
The cliche goes that anyone can beat anyone, and that was certainly the case today, as three of the four teams to finish top of their preliminary round groups have been knocked out.
Many saw the United States winning this tournament as a formality, but after four consecutive gold medals, their dynasty has finally fallen, after suffering a 8-7 defeat to Italy in the quarter-finals. Meanwhile, Australia stifled Greece in a similar fashion to what Italy did to the USA, as a 9-8 win takes Australia to their first semi-final since Gwangju in 2019. Hungary are the third giant to fall, with their quest to go one better than last year is in tatters after falling to a classy Spanish side 12-9.
The Dutch were the only nation to have a care-free day at Marine Messe, with a healthy 17-10 win over Canada.
The semi-final pairings have added intrigue to the competition, with Italy and the Netherlands set to meet in a re-match of the 1998 final held in Perth. Meanwhile, Australia will face Spain in a noteworthy encounter, as interestingly, this marks the first World Championship final since Barcelona in 2013, where the USA was not present.
Italy vs Netherlands
Australia vs Spain
Team USA had not failed to reach the podium at any major tournament (20) in the last ten years (World Championships 2013)
2013 – World Championship – 5th place
2012 – Olympic Games – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal
2013 – World Championship – 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Bronze medal 2013 – World League – 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Bronze medal
2014 – World League – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal
2015 – Pan American Games – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal 2015 – World Championship – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal 2015 – World League – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal
2016 – Olympic Games – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal 2016 – World League – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal
2017 – World Championship – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal 2017 – World League – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal
2018 – World League – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal
2019 – Pan American Games – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal 2019 – World Championship – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal 2019 – World League – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal
2020 – Olympic Games – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal 2020 – World League – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal
2022 – World Championship – 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold medal 2022 – World League – 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Bronze medal
2023 – World Cup Finals – 1st place – 2023 – World Championships – ??
Quarter-finals, 24th July
In a stunning upset in the first quarter-final of the day, Italy delivered a remarkable performance, securing an 8-7 victory over the reigning champions, the United States, effectively ending their eight-year reign as world champions.
The Italians exhibited both passion and bravery throughout the match, capitalizing on an uncharacteristically wasteful display by Team USA. One telling statistic that highlights the difference in their performance was the powerplay conversion rate, with Italy converting an impressive 80% (4 out of 5), while the United States struggled at a mere 14% (2 out of 14).
Despite the United States’ reputation for relentless defending, it was their opponents who were masterful at the back. USA found themselves challenged by exceptional goalkeeping from Caterina Banchelli, who proved pivotal in propelling Italy to a second consecutive world championship semi-final. The disappointment for the United States, who have secured gold in the last four competitions, was compounded by the Italians’ gritty defense, leaving them empty-handed in Fukuoka.
Italy led 3-2 after eight minutes, and consolidated well in the second period, going into the half-time break even at 4-4. The American’s led briefly in the third period 5-4, but the teams were still tied heading into the last section of the game. An early lob in the fourth from Picozzi gave the Italians their lead back, before Chiara Tabani’s sensational lob put Italy up by two to win the game.
On both sides, there were standout performances, with Maggie Steffens putting forth a valiant effort to lead her team with four goa
ls and earning five exclusions. However, it was the Italian team that truly impressed, notably with Sofia Giustini’s outstanding performance, lighting up the game with three goals.
The Netherlands confidently secured their spot in the semi-finals with a convincing 17-10 victory over Canada.
The Dutch team got off to an impressive start, capitalizing on a challenging opening four minutes from the Canadians. In that brief period, Eva Doudesis’ side efficiently converted four goals from their initial four attacks, setting the tone for a comfortable afternoon. It appeared that the Canadians found themselves somewhat overwhelmed by the well-balanced Dutch outfit, who likely drew motivation from witnessing the USA’s elimination in the preceding game.
As the match progressed, Canada showed signs of improvement, executing some commendable attacking movements. However, they were never able to close the gap to within six goals after the second quarter. Laura Aarts played a pivotal role for the Dutch team, delivering an exceptional performance as goalkeeper with 13 crucial stops throughout the game.
Three Dutch players—Sleeking, Van de Kraats, and Joustra—each netting hat-tricks.
Australia has secured a spot in the World Championships semi-finals for the first time since 2019 following an exhilarating 9-8 triumph against Greece.
From the outset, the match promised captivating entertainment, and it lived up to expectations as an epic contest unfolded. Throughout the game, the balance teetered on a knife-edge, with both teams unable to find the back of the net within the last twelve minutes. However, the Stingers, demonstrated exceptional resilience, displaying brilliant blocking and benefiting from Gabi Palm’s excellent saves during their man-down situations.
Undoubtedly, Australia’s victory was well-deserved, as they showcased their superiority in the first half and concluded with a late surge, scoring two crucial goals in the final minute before the halftime break. Although the Greek team fought back and effectively halted the Australian momentum, they found themselves trailing by only one goal (9-8) heading into the last eight minutes of the game. Nevertheless, the Australians’ outstanding defensive efforts in the last quarter proved instrumental in maintaining their offensive advantage and ultimately clinching the victory.
Noteworthy performances emerged from both center-forwards, Tilly Kearns from Australia, and the left-handed Greek player Eleni Xenaki, who bagged a hat-trick.. Four Stingers, Halligan, Arancini, Williams, and Kearns, each scored two goals during the game.
In the final quarter-final of the day, Spain demonstrated their superiority, securing a notable 12-9 victory against Hungary, extending their impressive winning streak to eight consecutive wins.
The reigning European Champions displayed a remarkable level of finesse, posing a constant threat on every attacking move. Hungary found it challenging to contain Judith Forca on the right side, as she proved instrumental in Spain’s success, netting five goals. Despite Hungary’s efforts to create scoring opportunities, they struggled to capitalize on them throughout the match.
Spain took control early in the game, establishing a 3-1 lead in the first quarter, and maintaining a two-goal advantage at halftime (6-4). In the third quarter, the Spaniards further widened the gap to four goals, reaching scores of 9-5 and 10-6, courtesy of double strikes from both Forca and Camus. Although Hungary made a valiant effort to stage a comeback in the last quarter, narrowing the deficit to two scores with seven minutes remaining, a crucial four-minute dry period hindered their ability to gain momentum and mount a successful comeback.
Attila Biro’s team faced challenges generating momentum and lost impetus in the final period, ultimately succumbing to Spain’s dominant performance.
Two of Europes fasting growing water polo nations – Israel and France – have both confirmed a top-10 finish at the World Championships with wins on day five in Fukuoka.
Debutants Israel will be thrilled to defeat New Zealand for a second time in a four weeks with. a deserved 15-12 win.
Throughout the game, the Israeli team demonstrated remarkable poise, seizing their opportunities with remarkable consistency. As a result, they managed to build an insurmountable seven-goal lead heading into the final quarter, a lead they maintained despite an admirable last-quarter rally from the Kiwis.
Israels number seven, Shunit Strugo, led the game for goals with four converted strikes. A top-10 finish is about as good a result as anyone could have expected for Israel prior to the competition, confirming that they are a serious program in the ascendency.
Meanwhile France have secured a second consecutive top-10 finish at the World Championships, with the next Olympic hosts proving too strong for South Africa 19-6.
The game was a stroll in the park for Theo Lorantos’ team, taking an 4-1 lead, which was extended to 10-1 at the half-time after a 6-0 second period. The French let up in the second half, allowing the Africans to find something to cheer. Ema Vernoux made a mark on her first start at the competition, firing five goals home.
Israel and France will now face-off in the 9th place play-off, with France wanting revenge for their defeat at the last European Championships in Split.
China concluded their tournament in Fukuoka on a commendable note, securing a 13th place finish by defeating their Asian rivals, Japan, with a final score of 18-10.
Impressively, every outfield player from Charis Pavlidis’ team contributed to the scoreline, building a four-point lead heading into the last quarter. Four consecutive goals in the final moments of the game further solidified China’s statistical dominance. Meanwhile, the hosts Japan has to settle for the 14th position in their home tournament.
Kazakhstan managed to avoid the last place finish by securing their first win in Fukuoka – a narrow 10-8 victory over Argentina, relegating the latter to the 16th position.
The difference in the game was evident in the early stages, with Argentina missing three penalties, and Kazakhstan capitalising with three unanswered goals. Despite Argentina’s comeback in the second half, they could not breach the solid defense of Kazakhstan.