Greece beat Hungary 10-9 and United States of America walloped Italy 18-9 in the semifinals of the FINA World Women’s Youth Water Polo Championships in Belgrade on Sunday, setting up an exciting gold-medal final on Monday. In the classification 5-9 semifinals, Australia defeated New Zealand 12-5 and Spain overcame Netherlands 9-8. Croatia came from 10-7 to beat Canada 15-13 for ninth position and Kazakhstan claimed 11th spot, winning 12-7 over Uzbekistan.
Day 7 Programme
16.00 Match 45 New Zealand v Netherlands (7-8)
17.30 Match 46 Australia v Spain (5-6)
19.00 Match 47 Hungary v Italy (3-4)
20.30 Match 48 Greece v United States of America (1-2)
Classification 1-4 Semifinals
Photos courtesy of Sandic Photography
HUNGARY 9 GREECE 10
Greece gave up a five-goal advantage at three-quarter time and was kept scoreless by Hungary in the final quarter before time ran out and Greece was the winner. Hungary was 2-0 and 3-2 ahead in the first quarter before Greece moved level and 4-3 ahead on an extra-man-attack goal by the close of the period. Hungary levelled with a 10m missile, however, Greece had the 6-4 halftime advantage. A 4-1 the third period had Greece well and truly in command. The 10th goal came after Hungary sent its goalkeeper into attack. Greece stole the ball and sent in the moon shot, still with 1:32 on the clock. Consecutive goals at the top of the fourth had Hungary sniffing victory. The third came on counter at 4:01 and now it was 10-8. A penalty conversion at 3:18 drew Hungary within one. The defences took over and the best chance to force a shootout came 10 seconds from time when Tekla Aubeli blasted the extra-player shot into goalkeeper Eftychia Konstantopoulou to close the match. Greece now has a chance to emulate its 2012 result of gold and go higher up the victory dais than the third place four years ago. Hungary, a silver and bronze medallist, will now play Italy for bronze.
Foteini Tricha (GRE) was best in pool with a spectacular five goals when needed most. It brings her Belgrade tally to 15 goals. Panni Szegedi netted three for Hungary. Greece was sharper on extra-man attack with six from 10 compared to Netherlands’ four from 11. This statistic alone proved the difference.
What they said
Eftychia Karagianni (GRE) – Coach
“Congratulations to both teams. We played fantastic defence for the first three quarters, but in the last one we lost our concentration in the offence and the defence also, that’s why the score was like that.”
Foteini Tricha (GRE) – Five Goals
“It was an extremely difficult game. I think you can see it in my face. We hit some weak ones, and that’s how we reached our goal, which was the win.
Marton Benczur (HUN) — Head Coach
“It was an amazing game. Greece absolutely deserved to get into the final. For three quarters we played like beginners who started playing water polo two days ago, but it happens, it’s semifinals. They are young, nearly kids; we have some really young players, so it happens. I think it was an amazing game, you could not win all the time. We used to talk about it with the coaches — sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I think we can be proud of ourselves because we did everything we could. Today we were not so good, I think it happens; much better and much more experienced team than us. Congratulations to Greece.”
ITALY 9 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 18
USA was the 2014 champion from Madrid in its only trip to the championship match, but on the strength of today’s effort against Italy, USA will be hard to beat in Monday’s finale. Italy twice had the lead in the first quarter at 1-0 and 3-2 before USA steadied the ship and an 11m Julia Bonaguidi harpoon gave USA the 7-3 first-break lead. Three of those goals came on extra-man attack, at which USA excelled. Another came from penalty while Italy had its penalty attempt blocked. Italy won the next quarter 3-2 with an excellent centre forward backhand shot from Paola Di Maria making it 9-5. USA won the third 6-2 with the six-on-five plays dominating and the final quarter went 3-2 for the victor. USA won it on extra-man plays and faster connections. Greece, plays a similar style, so the final will prove to be a cracker. Italy, was in the final at the last iteration, so will now try and equal the bronze-medal effort of 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand where it beat Netherlands.
Jenna Flynn (USA) added another award and five more goals to her tally, now leading the tournament by three with 26 goals. Bonaguidi netted four to go to 17 in Belgrade. Italy’s Aurora Longo sent in three goals to sit sixth equal on the ladder with 21 goals. USA had the better of the extra-man shooting, converting 10 from 14 while Italy shot six from eight.
What they said
Ethan Robert (USA) – Head Coach
“We are very proud of our girls and I thought we played great tonight in all areas, shot the box extremely well. Very good Italy team, so we are very proud of the girls tonight.”
Jenna Flynn (USA) – Player of the Match
“I had a really fun time playing this game today. I think our team has really come together so much over this past week, and I think we are getting better every single game. This game was really great to play because I felt like we can see the pieces start to come together and I am just excited for our next game.”
Giacomo Grassi (ITA) – Head Coach
“It was really hard match, but we knew it was going to be like that before the game. Congratulations to USA, it’s a very strong team, physically, swimming and shooting. We can try, but we have to work very hard to improve our game.”
Classification 5-8 Semifinals
AUSTRALIA 12 NEW ZEALAND 5
It was the trans-Tasman clash of Oceania neighbours and the Commonwealth “title” was on the line. Australia came out on top thanks to an improved extra-man-attack conversion rate, better skills in front of goal and teamwork. The 2-0 opening quarter helped, building to 5-2 at halftime and 10-3 at the final break. Thus, the second and fourth periods showed that New Zealand was not there making up numbers. The Kiwis were hopeful with the first goal of the second quarter, but a VAR decision showed it had not crossed the line. Two Kiwi goals came from centre forward and Australia had the benefit of a free goal at the end of the third period when the goalkeeper came into attack. Australia stole the ball and sent it skipping into goal with two seconds remaining. The teams could not be separated in the final eight minutes, Australia opening and closing the period with the Kiwis scoring from the top and on extra in between.
Tayla Dawkins (AUS) was named best in pool with four goals, lifting her to 10 goals for the tournament. New Zealand’s Millie Quin struck back three times for equal second spot on the scoring ladder with 23. Australia converted three from eight — not high, but one of the better ones for the Aussies — and New Zealand one from five.
What they said
Tayla Dawkins (AUS) – Player of the Match
“It was a good game for both teams. I think we came out looking for what we wanted to do and we did it pretty well.
Agatha Weston (NZL) – Player
“It’s 10 times more gutting when you lose to the neighbouring country, but it is what it is. We are sad that we lost but we did our best.”
NETHERLANDS 8 SPAIN 9
Spain edged into the play-off for fifth with Australia, thanks to a Daniela Moreno centre-forward strike soon after Netherlands had levelled through Feline Voordouw on extra. Moreno’s goal came three minutes from the final buzzer and it was the last score of the match. Spain led 3-2, 6-3 and 8-5, so Netherlands’ plucky 3-1 final quarter was admirable. There were some crucial moments in the match with Netherlands hitting the right upright on a penalty attempt that could have made the score 7-5; the 8-4 centre-forward goal for Spain was reviewed by VAR, even though there were three seconds on the clock and the ball had embedded itself in the in-goal netting; and at 6:11 in the final period, Alba Munoz blew a chance for a goal on counter, hitting the crossbar when it could have been 9-6. Then there was the last-gasp Dutch lob from deep left on full time, that creased the crossbar.
Lola Moolhuijzen (NED), a senior international, was the star of the show as she battled hard to keep her team in the match with four goals — 19 for the tournament — including the 8-7 goal on extra-man attack. Spain’s Queralt Bertran was the only multi-scorer for Spain with three as seven players made the sheet. Spain converted one from four on extra-man attack and the Dutch two from five.
What they said
Elisa Ana Portillo (ESP) – Player
“I think we played very well; the last part was very hard, but we defended well, and we won, so, that’s the score.”
Lisa Backer (NED) – Goalkeeper
“I think we could have done better, yet, it’s just sad, disappointing, that this is how it ended for us. Well, tomorrow is another match and we just have to try our best to win the last one and end this tournament in a good way.”
CROATIA 15 CANADA 13
Canada blew a three-goal advantage in the third period and then gave Croatia the 11-10 go-ahead goal. It was the second time Croatia had led after being 1-0 and 2-1 earlier in the match. Its determination proved that the first quarter was not a blip and equalising and then making Canada come back to level twice in the final period was astonishing. At 13-13, Croatia scored on extra-man attack from point blank for 14-13. Canada went to a timeout and the every-reliable Serena Browne had the shot, but smacked the ball into the left upright. Croatia was not finished as it worked for an extra play and lobbed from the deep left for 15-13 with 16 seconds left on the clock. It was Croatia’s day and not Canada’s. Croatia should be proud of its ninth placing in its first visit to this level of international play. Canada has finished fifth, second, 11th and 10th in previous editions before today’s 10th.
Ana Goreta (CRO), claimed the top-player award for her four goals, the same number as Iva Rozic. Jelena Butic scored twice and finished the team’s highest scorer with 22. For Canada, Browne also scored four and was probably one of the best players in the tournament, closing her scoring tally with a second-ranked 23. In the extra-man plays, Croatia sent in five goals from five attempts and Canada three from six.
What they said
Ana Goreta (CRO) – Player of the Match
“We worked really hard for this; it was a tough game but in the end we prevailed. We didn’t take this as an easy game; we prepared ourselves that this is going to be the hardest match in this tournament and we played really good.”
Josie Hlohovsky Andrist (CAN) – Player
“I think it was a tough game for us. We came out ready, and then we slowly went down over the course of the game, and Croatia was a good fight. They fought really hard for their win. It’s a good game.”
UZBEKISTAN 7 KAZAKHSTAN 12
Kazakhstan repeated what it did in 2018 and that was beat Uzbekistan for 11th place. The five-goal advantage flattered Kazakhstan despite the 3-0 opening quarter. Uzbekistan levelled the second period at four and kept Kazakhstan to just the one goal in the third quarter — the lowest-scoring quarter all tournament. Uzbekistan opened the fourth with a shot from the left side of the pool to narrow the margin to one. Kazakhstan responded with two from the field and one from centre forward for 10-6 before Uzbekistan brought up its seventh goal. Goals from centre forward and the penalty line rounded out the scoring and their tournaments. It completes three 12th placings for Uzbekistan, following 2018 and 2012. It was Kazakhstan’s second visit to the event.
Ugiloy Abdulkhaeva (UZB) was the leading scorer with four goals and finished with 15, equal best for her country with Ulyana Umurzakova who scored three today. Kazakhstan’s Daria Pochinok and Alina Ozkaya netted three each in the victory. Pochinok was the team’s best scorer in Belgrade with 13 goals.
What they said
Viktorya Kaplun (KAZ) – Player of the Match
“It was difficult, we fought till the end, as much as we could. We gave all we had.”
Ugiloy Abdulkhaeva (UZB) – Four Goals
“We didn’t like this match, but we enjoyed every moment and every second of this tournament, and we are thankful for our team and coaches. We are so happy to be here.”