The series of this year’s summer competitions for the national teams will begin in Athens tomorrow.
The Super Final of the FINA Women’s World League will take place in the Olympic Aquatic Centre in Athens between June 14 and 19.
The 17th edition of the Women’s World League started a year and a half ago. The first matches of the European qualifications were played in autumn 2019. The coronavirus pandemic interrupted the League, but the competition has been continued this year.
As usual, four European and four non-European teams will play at the Final Eight.
Group A: Canada, Hungary, Japan, Russia.
Group B: USA, Spain, Kazakhstan, Greece.
Six of them will play at the Olympic Games. Only Kazakhstan and host Greece didn’t qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Each team will play six matches in as many days. After the group stage, all eight teams will continue the tournament in the knock-out round, starting with the quarterfinals on June 17.
The team of the United States has been a heavy favorite at all inter-continental female water polo competitions in the last several years. Nothing has changed since the previous major tournament – the 2019 World Championships. The Americans arrived in Athens to win the title. Team USA has won 13 gold medals in the World League, which was launched in 2004. The Americans didn’t win gold in 2005 (they finished 5th), in 2008 (lost to Russia in the final) and in 2013 (finished 3rd).
Canada, which has won two silver medals (in 2009 and in 2017), is among the teams which could reach the semifinals. The remaining two non-European teams – Japan and Kazakhstan are underdogs that dream of surprises.
As for the Europeans, all four teams are medal contenders. All four teams secured their spots at the Final Eight through qualifications (the Inter-continental qualification tournament has been postponed, the four non-European teams have been selected by other criteria).
Hungary finished 1st in the European Qualifications and won silver at the 2020 European Championship. Spain is the reigning European champion, and it was the runner-up at the 2019 World Champion. Russia, the silver medalist at the 2020 European Championship, and Greece are the only two European teams that have won the gold in the World League. But that happened a long time ago. Greece climbed the highest step of the podium in 2005. Russia clinched the gold medal in 2008, but it has been a regular semifinalist since 2017 (the Russians won bronze medals in 2017,2018, and 2019).
Two strong European teams are missing. Italy, the silver medalist in the 2019 World League, withdrew from the qualifications. The Netherlands, which took silver in 2018, didn’t qualify this time.
Australia, the bronze medalist from the 2019 World Championships, withdrew. The “Aussie Stringers” are focused on the Tokyo Olympics.
Although a few strong teams will be missing, the list of the participants promises an interesting tournament.
The finalists will qualify for the 2022 World Championships in Fukuoka.
The United States has played eight friendly matches in the preparations for the Athens tournament in the past month and recorded as many victories. The Americans hosted Canada in three games and collected three convincing wins (13:8, 17:5, 15:7). Late in May and early in June, Team USA and Hungary worked at common preparations in California. The Americans beat the Hungarians four times (14:9, 14:7, 12:6, 12:7). The United States arrived in Europe a few days ago. They had common training with Spain. On Wednesday, the USA faced the team of Catalonia (the team was composed of the players of the Spanish national team) in Manresa. The Americans recorded a narrow 13:12 win.
The last official encounter between Team USA and Spain was the gold-medal match at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju. The Americans won by five goals (11:6)
Preliminary Round, Day 1(June 14)
Group A: Hungary – Japan (16:45), Canada – Russia (18:30)
Group B: Spain – Kazakhstan (15:00), USA – Greece (20:15)
Preliminary Round,Day 2 (June 15)
Group A: Canada – Japan (15:00), Russia – Hungary (16:45)
Group B: USA – Kazakhstan (18:30), Greece – Spain (20:15)
Preliminary Round,Day 3 (June 16)
Group A: Hungary – Canada (15:00), Japan – Russia (18:30)
Group B: Spain – USA (16:45), Kazakhstan – Greece (20:15)
Quarterfinals (June 17)
OF 1: A2 – B3 (15:00)
QF 2: A3 – B2 (16:45)
QF 3: A1 – B4 (18:30)
QF 4: A4 – B1 (20:15)
Semifinal day (June 18)
Semifinals 5th – 8th place: losers QF 1 – QF4 (15:00), losers QF 2 – QF 4 (16:45)
Semifinals 1th – 4th place: winners QF 1 – QF4 (18:30), winners QF 2 – QF 4 (20:15)
Final day (June 19)
7th-place match (15:00)
5th-place match (16:45)
3rd-place match (18:30)
All times are local
All winners – 2004 USA; 2005 Greece; 2006 USA; 2007 USA; 2008 Russia; 2009 USA; 2010 USA; 2011 USA; 2012 USA; 2013 China; 2014 USA; 2015 USA; 2016 USA; 2017 USA; 2018 USA; 2019 USA; 2020-21 ?