The new Olympic cycle in water polo begins tomorrow.
The Division 1 of the first-ever Men’s World Cup, which replaces the World League, starts with the first-round matches in Zagreb (Group A) and Podgorica (Group B)
The best 12 teams in the world will take part in the tournaments in the capitals of Croatia and Montenegro that will be held between March 8 and 14..
Why does the road to Paris begin in Zagreb and Podgorica?
Three teams from each group will qualify for the Final tournament in Los Angeles (June 30 – July 3).
The finalists of the contest in sunny California will qualify for the World Championships in Doha. And the Doha tournament is the last and maybe the most important competition in the qualifications for the Olympic Games because four tickets for Paris will be allocated at the 2024 World Championships.
Besides the six qualified teams from division 1, the best two teams from Division 2 will play at the Final tournament in Los Angeles.
Group A (Zagreb)
Less than six months after the end of the European Championships in Split, Croatia will host another big water polo event.
Group A of the World Cup Division 1 will be held in Zagreb in Mladost’s. Croatia will host Italy, the USA, Hungary, Japan, and France.
Water polo lovers will have the opportunity to enjoy clashes between great teams.
I The tournament in Zagreb will be a combination of high-class water polo and fun. The hosts want to keep a high level of water polo events organization reached in Split. After each game, the party will be staged.
Three champions of major competitions in 2022 will play at the tournament.
Croatia won gold at the Europeans in Split.
Italy triumphed in the 2022 World League. That was the last edition of the World League, but Italy can be considered the reigning champion since the World Cup is the replacement for the World League.By winning 1st place in the 2022 World League, Italy added the only gold medal that was missing in the treasury of the national team. The “Settebello” were Olympic, European, and world champions, they won the former FINA World Cup, but until the last year, only the World League gold medal was missing.
Japan took the gold medal at the last year’s Asian Championships.
Besides these three teams, Hungary and the USA reached the podium at big competitions in 2022. The USA finished 2nd in the World League, while Hungary won silver at the European Championships in Split after a loss to Croatia.
France is the only of the six participating teams that didn’t win a medal last year. However, the 2024 Olympic Games hosts have played better in the previous few seasons. Last year, the French finished 4th in the World League and 6th at the European Championships. France beat Serbia in the knockout round in Split.
Since the USA will organize the Super Final (June 30 – July 2), the Americans are directly qualified for the F8. The other five teams will battle for the remaining two berths. As usual, European powerhouses Croatia, Italy, and Hungary are the favorites, but France and Japan have caused many surprises in the last few years. So a lot of interesting and exciting games are in sight.
Italy’s head coach Alessandro Campagna didn’t have many headaches while composing the team for the tournament in Zagreb. He called up all of Italy’s best players. Leftie Gonzalo Echenique, who didn’t play at the European Championships due to surgery, returned. Campagna added one name to the team announced several days ago. A young Brescia center-forward Tommaso Gianazza was added to the roster recently.
Unlike Campagna, Croatia’s coach Ivica Tucak and his colleague on Hungary’s bench Zsolt Varga, had to change some plans due to injuries. Tucak can’t count on defender Hrvoje Benic, who got injured last weekend. Tucak had to change the roster announced last week at the last moment and replaced Benic with Dario Rakovac.
Hungary arrives without Denes Varga, which was planned, and leftie Gergo Zalanki stayed in Budapest due to injury. Still, Zalanki is on the extended roster and will come to Zagreb if necessary.
Despite the problems with injuries, Croatia and Hungary, are, without any doubt, the favorites, along with Italy.Hungary won the former FINA World League in 2003 and 2004. Croatia triumphed in 2012.
However, France and Japan aren’t the teams to underestimate. France, which has three left-handed goal-getters on the roster now, has been progressing from year to year, as mentioned. The Japanese have proved many times in the last several years that even the best world team couldn’t beat them with ease.
Last but not least – Team USA. The Americans won’t hunt for the Final Eight berth because they are already qualified. Still, they didn’t come to Zagreb to be just participants. Most of the members of Team USA play in Europe. The matches in Division 1 are an excellent opportunity for them to test their capabilities and prove that they can stay among the top world teams.
Day 1 (March 8)
Italy – Japan (17.30)
Croatia – USA (19.00)
France – Hungary (20.30)
For the full schedule, live scores and statistics, visit Total Waterpolo Arena
Group B (Podgorica)
We have three champions from the 2022 competitions in Group A in Zagreb,
The group in Podgorica is also strong despite only one team that won gold in 2022. Great squads arrived in the capital of Montenegro. Most of them have been at the world’s top for years. Unlike the tournament in Zagreb, three teams will take their tickets for Los Angeles at the end of the tournament in Podgorica.
Besides Montenegro, the participants are world champion Spain, Olympic gold-medalist Serbia, then Greece, which won Olympic silver in 2021 and bronze at the World Championships last year, the second-best non-European team Australia and Georgia, which made significant progress in the past few seasons.
Serbia is the reigning Olympic champion, but since the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the team has been rejuvenated significantly. Besides, one of the new generation’s best players, Nikola Jaksic, wasn’t allowed by his club to join the national team. Everything that has happened regarding the „Jaksic case“undoubtedly disrupted the atmosphere in the squad. Therefore, new head coach Uros Stevanovic will have a demanding task to return the most decorated national team in the 21st century to the right track after a bad summer in 2022. Serbia isn’t a favorite for 1st place in Podgorica.Serbia is the record-holder of the World League, with ten gold medals (2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019). Serbia and Montenegro, as one country, won two World Leagues (2005 and 2006)
Spain and Greece are contenders for 1st place.
The Spaniards were the most successful national team last season, winning the world title and bronze medals in the World League and at the European Championships. Spain will play without Alvaro Granados and Marc Larumbe, but the team with 11 players who won gold in Budapest, headed by Felipe Perrone, is not afraid of anyone.
Greece comes with all of its best players. Captain Ioannis Fountoulis and goalkeeper Emmanouil Zerdevas, who missed the Europeans, are back. Besides them, there are a lot of experienced aces. The duel between the Greeks and the Spaniards, which is on the schedule tomorrow, will be the derby of the tournament.Spain and Greece never won World League.
A young team of Montenegro, with a returnee Djuro Radovic, is a team that can surprise the favorites. The home field will be a significant advantage. The Montenegrins haven’t won a medal at a major competition since they took 1st place in the 2020/21 World League. Maybe a time for a new trophy has come. The Montenegrins have a chance of qualifying for the Final in Los Angeles.Montenegro won the World League twice as part of Serbia and Montenegro (2005 and 2006) After gaining independence, Montenegro triumphed thrice (2009, 2018, 2020/21)
Australia can enter the battle for the top three places, even though it will play without Aaron Younger. After a long period without big competitions (since the 2022 World League final), the “Sharks” are eager for new challenges.
Georgia is an underdog in this group. However, the Georgians reached the quarterfinals of the European Championships in Split, and finished 10th in the World Championships, deserving a spot among the best 12 teams in the world. They had the right to dream of surprises.
Australia – Serbia (15.30)
Greece – Spain (17.30)
Montenegro – Georgia (19.30)
For the full schedule, live scores and statistics, visit Total Waterpolo Arena
One of the crucial changes is a new 2m zone. The 2m meter rules will apply in the shorter area (in front of the goal, and two meters from the left and the right goalpost).
There will be changes regarding the penalty shots, yellow and red cards, etc. Find out more about the new rules HERE.
All medal winners in the World LeagueThe ex-Yu countries won all World League titles between 2005 and 2021.
2002: 1. Russia, 2. Spain, 3. Hungary
2003: 1. Hungary, 2. Italy, 3. USA
2004: 1. Hungary, 2. Serbia and Montenegro, 3. Greece
2005: 1. Serbia and Montenegro, 2. Hungary, 3. Germany
2006: 1. Serbia and Montenegro, 2. Spain, 3. Greece
2007: 1. Serbia, 2. Hungary, 3. Australia
2008: 1. Serbia, 2.USA, 3. Australia
2009: 1. Montenegro, 2. Croatia, 3. Serbia
2010: 1. Serbia, 2. Montenegro, 3. Croatia
2011: 1. Serbia, 2. Italy, 3. Croatia
2012: 1. Croatia, 2. Spain, 3. Italy
2013: 1. Serbia, 2. Hungary, 3. Montenegro
2014: 1. Serbia, 2. Hungary, 3. Montenegro
2015: 1. Serbia, 2. Croatia, 3. Brazil
2016: 1. Serbia, 2. USA, 3. Greece
2017: 1. Serbia, 2. Italy, 3. Croatia
2018: 1. Montenegro, 2. Hungary, 3. Spain
2019: 1. Serbia, 2. Croatia, 3. Australia
2020/2021: 1. Montenegro, 2. USA, 3. Greece
2022: 1. Italy, 2. USA, 3. Spain