The United States, the Netherlands, and Hungary have virtually secured their places in the quarter-finals as they head into the final round of group stage fixtures in the World Championships.
Reigning Champions Team USA has been in top form, securing two wins out of two with a spectacular 9-6 victory over Australia in Group A. The Netherlands crushed Kazakhstan with an impressive 30-2 scoreline, guaranteeing their spot in the final eight. Meanwhile, Hungary engaged in an intense battle against Japan in a thrilling 47-goal game, ultimately prevailing with a 26-21 victory over the tournament hosts.
The biggest question mark ahead of the last round of fixtures revolves around the battle for the top spot in Group C between Greece and Italy. Both teams showcased their offensive prowess, putting up 20-plus goals against their respective opponents today (Argentina and South Africa). They will face each other in a decisive showdown on day three, with the winner advancing directly to the quarter-finals.
As Italy and Greece have secured the top two spots in Group C, albeit with their order still unknown, South Africa’s match against Argentina will carry high stakes as both teams vie for a chance to play in the cross-overs and secure a top twelve finish.
Spain and France have also positioned themselves favourably for the cross-over matches in the next round of the tournament, securing their spots through different pathways. Spain secured a resounding 22-5 victory over Israel, solidifying their second-place position. On the other hand, France needed a comeback effort to secure a thrilling 12-11 win against China in the last match of the day.
Team USA once agains showed why they are considered the the overwhelming favourites for a fifth consecutive World Championship title, outplaying Australia 9-5.
As ever, the United State’s trump card was its outstanding defensive work, swarming and frustrating the Aussie Stingers – who showed much promise in the first quarter. So relentless was the American’s defence that the Australians could only muster a measly 16% shot conversion (5 from 31 shots), and failing to convert any of their powerplay opportunities. Adam Krikorian opted to remind everyone that he has the best goalkeeper pairing in the world, resting Ashleigh Johnson for Amanda Longan – who thrived with an excellent 13 saves.
In attack, it was Tara Prentice’s day, who dominated at Centre-Forward. Stanford duo Jenna Flynn and Ryann Neushul made the shots from the perimeter, with two scores each.
For Australia, it was a disappointing performance. They were capable of matching up with USA, but a total lack of belief and conviction in attack piled unnecessary pressure on themselves.
Meanwhile, in the last game of the day, France came from behind in the final quarter to secure a brilliant 12-11 victory over China, keeping their hopes of another top-8 finish at the World Championships alive.
Throughout the match, both sides held the lead at certain moments, but China’s two-goal advantage heading into the last period seemed decisive (9-7). However, the French team never lost faith and relied on their most effective strategy to find goals – utilising powerplays. Three extra-player goals in the last quarter, including two from Hungarian-born Orsolya Hertzka, turned the tide in favour of the French, granting them a two-goal lead (12-10). With only two minutes remaining, China had opportunities, but the French defense held firm, securing Theo Lorantos his first victory as French coach.
Left-handed superstar Juliette D’halluin emerged as France’s highest scorer, contributing four goals to their triumph.
The second round of fixtures played in Group B had an anticlimactic feel, as the two dominant teams emphatically obliterated their opponents. In the first game at Marina Messe Hall, the Dutch displayed their superiority by putting thirty goals past Kazakhstan (30-2). Simone Van de Kraats showed why she is one of the most feared strikers in world water polo, scoring an unstoppable eight goals.
The Kazakhs were in trouble right from the start, conceding ten goals within the opening eight minutes. Marina Pertseva’s young side couldn’t withstand the constant barrage from the Dutch, as every player in Blue and Orange found the target. Sarah Buis was called into action eight times but spent most of the match as a mere spectator. De Zaan’s Maxine Schaap also had an outstanding performance, scoring five goals and making four steals.
After losing to the Netherlands on the opening day, Spain bounced back with a convincing 22-5 victory over Israel. Ariadna Ruiz and Paula Camus led the way for the European Champions, each scoring four goals in a game they were never going to lose. While Israel showed some positive signs scattered throughout the match, they couldn’t cope with the Spanish threat, especially on the 2m line. Miki Oca will be relieved to put the defeat to the Netherlands on day one behind them.
Italy and Greece secured victories with exceptional ease in their first group games, and both teams continued their dominant form in their second matches. Each side scored 20+ goals against their opponents, while conceding only twice in 32 minutes.
The Setterosa defeated South Africa by 22 goals, handing them their second successive 24-2 defeat in Fukuoka. For eight minutes, things were going well for the Africans, who only trailed by a single goal. However, after an injection of urgency from their animated Head Coach, Carlo Silipo, the Italians shifted into 5th gear, scoring 8 consecutive goals and ending the game as a competitive spectacle. The whole team played a strong game, but the spotlight was on Italy’s two youngest players – Sofia Giustini and Dafne Bettini – who controlled the game for the Setterosa, with each of them scoring four times.
Greece looked in good shape as they cruised past Argentina 21-2. The Greeks were ready to go from the start, scoring four goals from their first four attacks. While Anahi Bacigalupo scored well for the Argentines towards the end of the first quarter, five unanswered conversions in the second quarter gave the Greeks an unassailable 10-score lead at half-time. A third-quarter hat-trick from Foteini Tricha sealed the deal for Alexia Kammenou’s side. Alongside Tricha, eight players scored twice.
Now, Italy and Greece face each other in their first real test. The winner will secure an automatic quarter-final berth, making it one of the games of day 3 – a game with high stakes.
Hungary is set to finish at the top of Group D and automatically progress to the quarter-finals after eventually overcoming Japan in an extremely entertaining 26-21 goal-frenzy.
The free-scoring Magyars were unstoppable at times when attacking, but they couldn’t quite shake off a highly dynamic Japanese forward line, led by a magnificent seven-goal haul from Yumi Arima. Hungary consistently held the lead, but they were scarcely comfortable until the end of the third quarter. However, during that critical period, five consecutive goals from the Hungarians opened up a significant gap between the two sides, which persisted until the final whistle.
UVSE’s Kata Hajdu was the leading scorer of the game with five goals, while three of Hungary’s wingers – Gurisatti, Valyi, and Szilagyi – ended the match with four goals apiece.
Canada can finish second in the group, so long as they defeat Japan tomorrow. Today, they edged past New Zealand
The Canadians are grateful for their first win in Fukuoka with a hard fought 13-11 win over the Kiwis. The Maples came into the game as favourites, but it was anything but easy for David Paradelo’s team, who had to work hard to secure maximum points from the game.
Canada controlled the game at the beginning, and led 4-1 in the first, maintaining a three-point advantage first half. The Kiwis put up a resilient fight and managed to narrow the gap just before halftime, with the score standing at 8-7. The game, however, was won in the third period, with a trio goals in as many minutes (McKelvey, Crevier and Paul) to put the Maple’s in the driving seat. New Zealand rallied late, but Canada stood their ground.