Spain scrambled into the gold-medal final with a blistering 5-2 final quarter over a dejected Italy, winning 14-12 on the sixth day of the XIV FINA World Women’s Junior Water Polo Championships in Netanya, Israel today.

Italy had all the running, holding a 5-2 lead late in the first period and maintained its aggression and dominance right up until halfway through the final quarter. Spain levelled at 7-7 a minute from halftime and 8-8 at 5:44 of the third and 9-9, but Italy managed to head into the final quarter at 10-9.

Spain equalised with a penalty strike through Olympian Elena Ruiz and left-hander Ariadna Ruiz struck from the top to gift Spain the lead at 3:58. Sara Cordovani backhanded from centre forward for 11-11; Paula Camus looped a shot from two metres for 11-12 and Elena Camarena fired from six metres for the 11-13 advantage at 2:24. Sofia Giustini gave Italy some hope on extra from the deep-left position at 2:14, but Maria Palacio, with her fourth, sealed the match on extra at 1:38. Spain had stolen the match from Italy. Giustini and Dafne Bettini netted three each for Italy.

In the first semifinal, no such drama as Greece nailed Hungary 13-8, thanks to a 2-0 start that became 4-2 at the first break, 7-3 at halftime and 11-7 at the final break. Hungary had no answer to Greece’s clinical play and like other Hungarian teams this year will have to play for bronze. Eleni Kanetidou topped the Greek scoring with three, the same number as Hungary’s Kinga Peresztegi-Nagy.

In the Round 5-8 semifinals, Netherlands topped Serbia 14-4, splitting the halves 7-2. Noa de Vries, Rozanne Vorvelt and Lola Moolhuijzen scored three apiece for Netherlands while Serbia had four different scorers.

Outgoing champion Russia pipped Israel 15-13 and will clash with Netherlands for fifth place on Saturday. Host Israel was hoping for a major upset in its debut showing and came close in the dying minutes.

The first quarter was tied at three and then at four before Russia went 7-4 ahead in less than 90 seconds, only for Israel to chip away at the deficit, trailing 8-7 at halftime. Israel took the lead at 9-8 in the third quarter, only for Russia to grab it back and go into the final period 12-10 up. Russia stretched it to 14-11, Israel came back to 13-14 before Russia took the match 15-13.

Aleksandra Bogdanova was in hyper form for Russia with five goals and Maria Bogachenko and Alma Yaacobi led Israel with three each.

In classification matches, Brazil beat Argentina 11-8 for ninth position and France defeated Germany 18-9 for 11th.

Brazil raced to 6-3 at the quarter and maintained the pressure until the end, fending off a stronger second half by  Argentina. Luana Bonetti top-scored with three goals and captain Leticia Belorio scored twice to lift her tally to a team-best 21 for Brazil. Maylen Sampedro, Magali Bacigalupo and Lucia Ruiz scored twice each for Argentina. Ruiz claimed nine goals for the week. It was Brazil’s 13th appearance at these titles with a best finish of sixth in 1995. For Argentina it was a debut performance.

France’s Ema Vernoux scored five goals for a team-high 22 and Juliette Dhalluin netted four for 20 goals. France was 13th in 2003 and 11th in 1997, its only other appearances.

Germany never overcame the 5-1 opening-quarter deficit, but fought hard in the third period. German captain Sinia Plotz netted three, although Jamie Haas, who scored once, topped her team in Netanya with nine goals.  Germany has appeared eight times previously, but not since 2011 when it was 12th. Its best placings were fifth placings in 2001 and 2003.

Day-seven action is medal time with the gold-medal final and bronze-medal final, preceded by the classification matches for seventh-eighth and fifth-sixth.

Day 6 match results:
Classification 11-12: France 18 Germany 9 (5-1, 4-1, 4-4, 5-3).
Classification 9-10: Brazil 11 Argentina 8 (6-3, 1-1, 3-2, 1-2).
Round 5-8 Semifinals: Serbia 4 Netherlands 14 (1-4, 1-3, 1-3, 1-4), Israel 13 Russia 16 (3-3, 4-5, 3-4, 3-3).
Round 1-4 Semifinals: Greece 13 Hungary 8 (4-2, 3-1. 4-4, 2-1), Italy 12 Spain 14 (5-4, 3-3, 2-2, 2-5).

Saturday programme:
Classification 7-8:
14:30, L41 Serbia v L42 Israel
Classification 5-6:
16:00, W41 Netherlands v W 42 Russia
Classification 3-4:
17:30, L43 Hungary v L44  Italy
Classification 1-2:
19:00, W43  Greece v W44 Spain