Penalties decided the Budapest 2022 FINA World Championships men’s water polo crown after defending champion Italy came back from 9-6 down in the final quarter to force the shootout after equalising two minutes from time. The fairytale of back-to-back titles did not eventuate as Spain became a three-time champion with a 15-14 victory in sudden-death penalty shootout. For Spain, it came a long time after the previous titles of Perth 1998 and Fukuoka 2001.
6. United States of America
12. South Africa
Most Valuable Player in Final:
Felipe Perrone (ESP)
Most Valuable Goalkeeper:
Uni Aguirre (ESP)
Alexander Bowen (USA) — 21 goals
Media All Star Team
Goalkeeper: Uni Aguirre (ESP)
Centre Forward: Konstantinos Kakaris (GRE)
Field players: Alexander Bowen (USA), Francesco di Fulvio (ITA), Alvaro Granados (ESP), Konstantin Kharkov (CRO), Strahinja Rasovic (SRB).
Classification 1-2 — Budapest
ITALY 14 SPAIN 15 in sudden-death penalty shootout (FT: 9-9. Pens: 5-6)
This was a world class match between two class team who faced each other in the Gwangju 2019 final with Spain emerging the winner. In the round matches, Spain finished 14-12 and it was a repeat tonight but the 15-14 margin was a sudden-death affair. Both teams missed a chance in the five-goal-per-team rotation to enter sudden death. As Spain was the first shooter, it sent in the first two and Italy one. Then Giacomo Canella had his shot rejected by Unai Aguirre and Spain was the champion for the first time in 21 years. Ironically, it will defend its crown in Fukuoka next year when the next edition is staged. Spain could have been forgiven for wanting to celebrate victory much earlier. It led 2-0 and 3-1 early before finishing the first period 3-3. A shutout in the second quarter was telling as Spain raced to 6-3 at the long break. It advanced to 7-3 thanks to captain Felipe Perrone. Italy won the next segment 3-1 to close two goals behind at the final break. Spain punched another goal and the three-goal margin was tantalisingly close to the gold medal. Italy would have none of that and the magical Francesco di Fulvio converted a penalty that appeared to come from an errant button push by the Spanish team when not in possession. You have to own the ball before calling a timeout. Eduardo di Somma felt the pressure too much and was red-carded from the water, leaving Italy one short. Vincenzo Dolce received a rebound ball and scored from deep left for 9-8. Then that master of the long shot, short and everything in between — di Fulvio — blasted from the top at 2:03 for 9-9, which proved to be the deciding factor in the shootout. It was there that Spain excelled and took home the top prize.
Alvaro Granados scored six goals in the victory — four in the regular quarters and two in the shootout. Captain Perrone scored in the third period and twice in the shootout, defying his advancing years and showing why he wants to become a five-time Olympian in Paris.
Spain’s shutout quarter and Italy’s three-goal comeback.
Stats don’t lie
Italy had the better of the extra-man count at five from eight. Spain had five from 10, but obviously did better in the field goals.
Italy did well to make it to the final and come within a whisker of going back to back. Spain deserved to come from the wilderness and win after losing the last final and always being in the realm. Congratulations to head coach David Martin and his full team on achieving something splendid on the world stage. It was reminiscent of those two world titles and the Olympic crown in Atlanta 1996.
What they said
David Martin (ESP) — Head Coach
“Finally, we did it. We played very well and deserved this win. The last quarter was very difficult, because Italy is a great team. That was a great tournament with some quality teams like Greece, Italy, Hungary. I am very proud of my players, and now there is nothing more to do. All my players had a dream to win this championship. They wanted to take revenge for the previous final and fortunately we just did that.”
Eduardo Lorrio (ESP) — Athlete
“Spain is the world champion. It sounds so good. I am very happy and very proud right now. It is a very emotional moment to be part of this winning team. Italy is a very, very competitive team and it turned out once more in this game. We knew that and still, they were strong and fought themselves back to the game. After that we ended up with the penalties and this time luck was with us. We had to win this title, and we achieved that in a dramatic way.”
Alessandro Campagna (ITA) — Head Coach
“It was an amazing match. I am lucky to live this match as a coach. I cannot say any bad words to my players. They gave 100 per cent. They put strength into the water, even if Spain played better in the first two quarters. I believed that we could come back. I believed in it, even if we were very much down. Anyway, congrats to Spain and my players, too.”
Luca Damonte (ITA) — Goal Scorer
“I think Spain played better than us today. They started very well. In the last quarter we did everything we could and the result changed to a draw. As for the penalties, there was not much to do. For me, it was the first championship and I am very happy with this result. Okay, now it is hard because of the loss. But the facility and all things here were great. I like this city because I live here.”