Spain returned to the gold-medal podium after 10 years by downing former champion Greece 10-5 on the final day of the XIV FINA World Women’s Junior Water Polo Championships in Netanya, Israel today.

And that five-goal margin was achieved in the first half while the third and fourth periods were squared. Spain shocked Greece, going from 1-1 to 5-1 in the space of just two minutes with a pair from the top by Ariadne Ruiz, a deep lob from Elena Camarena and a counter-attack conversion from Spanish captain Paula Camus. It set the tone for the rest of the encounter, with no-one in doubt that Spain was going to take gold.

Photography By Gilad Kavalerchik

The second quarter was tight at 1-0 and in the third period, Camus scored consecutive centre-forward goals for 8-3, further cementing the final result.

At 9-4 heading into the fourth quarter, Spain was safe and Olympian Elena Ruiz, named the Most Valuable Player, who scored the opening penalty goal, drilled one from the left for 10-4. Greece responded through Eleni Kanetidou inside the final two minutes for the last score. Camus and Ariadne Ruiz scored three each.

For Spain it has been a terrific year at the elite level with the senior team claiming the silver medal at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. And assisting head coach Jordi Valls was senior coach Miki Oca, himself an Olympic champion. Valls said after the match that it all came down to “training hard, playing hard and being smart”.

Greece’s senior women failed to qualify for Tokyo 2020, but the senior men also won silver in Tokyo.

In the bronze-medal encounter, Hungary was not to be denied, beating Italy 12-10 in a match that was level at all three breaks — 3-3, 7-7, 8-8. Hungary went two up inside a minute, but two minutes later Italy had bridged the gap, only for Hungary to score at 3:17 and then take a timeout and get the subsequent goal via Anna Pocze from deep left on extra-man attack for the bronze-medal sealer at 1:20. Hungarian captain Kinga Peresztegi-Nagy scored in each quarter to lift her Netanya tally to 21 and Italy’s best was Sofia Giustini, also with four and an incredible, Netanya-topping 26 goals.

In the play-off for fifth, outgoing champion Russia swam roughshod over Netherlands, firing in a 7-0 third quarter en route to a stunning 19-8 victory. Russia promised so much, yet failed to make the medal round. This performance showed depth and enthusiasm, which should augur well for coming years in the senior ranks. Russian captain Anastasia Panfilova led the scoring with four goals and Lois den Ouden topped the Dutch scoring with three.

Russia has previously won three gold, a silver and two bronzes and maintains a top-five position since 2009. Netherlands won the inaugural crown in 1995 and also has two silvers and a bronze from these championships.

The play-off for seventh needed a penalty shootout to find the winner, Israel taking the match 14-13 after having to clinch the equaliser to force the penalty flourish, which it won 4-3. Israel held the lead at both the first two breaks, but Serbia turned the tables in the third and headed into the last 9-7 ahead. This progressed to 10-8 and a failed Israeli penalty attempt nearly derailed its dreams until Yahav Farkash became the saviour, scoring action goals at 1:43 and 0:51 to head to the shootout. Serbia failed to score its first shot and it went to 13-14 until Farkash hit the post with Israel’s fifth attempt. Serbian skipper Hristina Ilic had her shot saved and Israel triumphed. Maria Bogachenko, who wasn’t used in the shootout, netted three as did Serbia’s Ilic and Ana Milicevic.

Israel has never played this event and to finish seventh on debut was a remarkable achievement and ensured large crowds turned out to cheer the team on. For Serbia, its only other involvement was in 2017 when it finished 12th.

Day 7 match results:
Classification 7-8: Serbia 13 Israel 14 in penalty shootout. FT: 10-10. Pens: 3-4 (3-4, 3-3, 3-0, 1-3).
Classification 5-6: Netherlands 8 Russia 19 (3-6, 4-2, 0-7, 1-4)
Classification 3-4: Hungary 12  Italy 10 (3-3, 4-4, 1-1, 4-2).
Classification 1-2: Greece 5 Spain 10 (1-5, 0-1, 3-3, 1-1).

Final Standings:

  1. Spain
  2. Greece
  3. Hungary
  4. Italy
  5. Russia
  6. Netherlands
  7. Israel
  8. Serbia
  9. Brazil
  10. Argentina
  11. France
  12. Germany
  13. Uzbekistan
  14. South Africa
  15. Slovakia
  16. Peru

Tournament Awards:
Most Valuable Player: Elena Ruiz (ESP) — Left
Best Goalkeeper: Martina Terre (ESP) — Middle
Highest Goal-scorer: Sofia Giustini (ITA), 26 — Right

Full results can be accessed at: and all matches are available on the FINA Youtube channel.