Hungary led from start to finish to usurp Spain and grab the gold medal on the eighth and final day at the Olympic Swimming Pool Centre in Coimbra on Friday. Hungary, a first-day loser, downed the unbeaten reigning champion 13-10 with two-goal leads at the first two breaks and four up heading into the last quarter. Netherlands was equally as dominant in the bronze-medal final, defeating Italy 13-11.
The Hungarian victory was made even more special as it completed a triumphant year for the crucible of world water polo. The senior men are world champions; the under-20 men are world champions; the junior women are now world champions; women’s under-17 women are European champions; and the under-15 boys are European champions.
Hungary now has the elusive junior women’s crown in its burgeoning trophy cabinet to go with the two silvers and four bronzes, one of which came two years ago. For Spain, it was a first loss in three finals while it also has a bronze in the collection.
In the bronze-medal match, Netherlands beat Italy 13-11 and collected its second bronze to go alongside one gold and two silver medals at this level and leap-frogged three positions from 2021.
In other classification matches, United States of America came from four down to beat Greece for fifth; Israel rolled New Zealand 15-6 for seventh; Australia bested Brazil 16-10 for ninth; Croatia had the better of Canada 12-7 for 11th; Japan led all the way until France fired in five goals to take un unassailable lead in the final quarter for 19-17 and 13th position; and Kazakhstan denied Portugal a fourth win, taking 15th position with a 10-6 scoreline.
SPAIN 10 HUNGARY 13
Hungary claimed the world crowd by never being headed, let alone being equalled. Hungary knew the best way to beat Spain was to go on the offensive early and this it did with the first two goals through captain Panni Szegedi. Those goals proved crucial and established Hungary as the team to beat.
Hungary lost a nail-biting shootout on day one and has spent the rest of the week tweaking its game, making sure of sweeping aside its opponents en route to the final. Hungary survived the constant Spanish assault, closing at 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 6-5 and 7-6 after Hungary led 6-3 early in the second quarter. With the margin at 8-6 by halftime, Hungary slipped out to 10-6 and a Spanish revival was becoming less likely.
The margin stretched to 12-6 — a most unlikely score against the reigning champion, but there it was. Spain went more than six minutes without a goal as Hungary slotted five with Szegedi netting her third. It was the tournament’s most valuable player, Elena Ruiz, who struck back twice for her fourth and fifth goals to close the gap to four (12-8) at the final break.
Maria Palacio sent Spain to only three behind at the top of the fourth quarter. It was sometime later that Eszter Varro backhanded a goal from two metres nearly eight minutes after the previous Hungarian goal. At 13-9, the chasm was too much, although Isabel Piralkova drilled from the top on extra-man attack for a consolation goal at 3:32. It was the last goal and Hungary had won an incredible final as the pacemaker, not the hunted.
Ruiz was the heavy hitter with five goals — two from the penalty line — amassing 22 goals in Coimbra and deservedly taking the trophy for the best player. Varro and Szegedi scored three each for Hungary
Those two opening goals that set the stage for Hungary’s triumph.
Hungary proved that a first-day loss can be the fulcrum for better things and the closeness of the competition means that no one team went through undefeated.
NETHERLANDS 13 ITALY 11
Netherlands made sure of the bronze medal by always keeping its nose in front and gained a fifth medal at this level. The victory follows hot on the heels of the senior women’s world championships victory in Fukuoka last July. A handful of those world champs were on hand for the Dutch in Coimbra.
Netherlands opened the scoring and allowed Italy to level at one and two before going to the first break at 4-2. Goals were traded to 6-5 with the Dutch turning at 9-5 ahead — a very healthy and commanding position. This became 11-6 before a VAR decision confirmed a Dafne Bettini goal to see Italy four behind at the final break at 11-7. It became 11-9 and 13-10 with the final strike from Vittoria Sbruzzi at 0:34 — too little, too late.
The Italians were held together by star Setterosa Sofia Giustini all week and her three goals — including a 10m bullet — kept Italy in with a chance.
Noa de Vries scored the second and third goals from two metres — and had 10 for the week — to set up her team for victory and Aniek Roekevisch scored three later in the match to lift her tally to 11.Lois van Ouden netted twice for 12 and Lola Moolhuijzen scored two of the last three Dutch goals for a team-high 16. Italian Giustini grabbed three goals for a team-high 22 — two more than Bettini who scored twice today.
De Vries with her two centre-forward strikes for the 3-1 advantage.
This win clearly establishes Netherlands as the leading women’s nation on the planet if you count the elite and under-20 competitions.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 14 GREECE 13
From 6-2 down, United States of America forced its way back into the match to snatch the three-quarter-time lead and race to victory. USA opened the scoring with Italy equalising soon after for the only two scores of the first quarter. Dionysia Koureta was the Greek scorer from centre forward and in the second quarter she sent in two more as USA struggled to contain her. That 3-1 lead became 4-1 and 6-2 with USA’s best shooter Jenna Flynn converting a penalty to close the first-half action.
USA needed a strike force and Ava Stryker provided the punch with three of the next four USA goals and Rachel Gazzaniger a pair to level at 8-8. Greece replied and Flynn fired in her 23rd goal for 9-9. Julia Bonaguidi gave USA a second taste of the lead a minute out from the buzzer from the right-hand-catch position.
Stryker garnered her fourth; Bonaguidi needed a VAR decision for her second goal and Stryker pummelled in her fifth for an unassailable 13-9 advantage. Foteini Tricha collected her third and fourth goals for 13-12 with Koureta grabbing the 11th and 13th Greek goals — the last seven seconds from time — 11 seconds after Emma Lineback scored her second and most crucial goal for USA.
Stryker for her five goals (11 overall) and Gazzaniger with three (12). Koureta tried all she could to get Greece back into the match and her five goals took her tally to 17. Tricha showed why she is a senior international with four goals.
USA coming from four down to take the lead at the final break. Courageous stuff.
USA will be ruing it penalty shootout loss to Netherlands, which consigned it to the five-eight play-offs, but can be proud of its fourth victory.
ISRAEL 15 NEW ZEALAND 6
Israel scored its second win over a team from Oceania after defeating Australia 13-10 earlier in the week. A 3-1 lead became 3-2 at the first break and 6-3 by halftime. An excellent third period almost shut out the Kiwis 4-1 and by early in the final quarter the advantage was 12-4. Goals were traded and Israel finished the better at 15-6.
Noa Sasover had three of the first four goals for Israel and Alma Yaacobi, who went on to score four goals, nailed her first from the penalty line. Dar Menakerman scored three was beautiful lob to close the first-half scoring and then sending in the last two Israeli goals with the first from the top on extra-man attack. New Zealand went nearly 18 minutes with just the one Darcy Spark score on extra to break the drought.
Yaacobi has been in the thick of it all week and her four goals boosted her total to 18. Sasover’s three gave her seven in total and Menakerman’s triple showed her obvious shooting skills. Spark scored twice for a team-high 17 while Aggie Weston, with 14, was kept under wraps.
Israel going from 3-3 to 8-3 and onwards to 12-4.
Israel was seventh two years ago, so to maintain that position is credit to the women’s programme with consistency in the coaching of the junior and senior teams. New Zealand would be happy with making the top eight with those first four victories. The Kiwis were 14th four years ago.
AUSTRALIA 16 BRAZIL 10
Australia gained a flattering six-goal victory thanks to a 7-1 run in eight minutes straddling the final break. Brazil opened the scoring with Australia going to 2-1, and Rebecca Moreira levelling at two. Brazil levelled again at three, four and five with Moreira snatching the fifth goal on the halftime buzzer. Australia led 4-3 at the first break although it could have been higher as it failed to converted two penalty attempts to go with Sienna Green’s earlier conversion. Brazil won the second period 2-1.
Green converted a second penalty as Australia went to 7-5 before Brazil scored from the top and on extra-man attack for 7-7 — the sixth even score. However, Australia went on the rampage and the seven-goal rush included a third penalty goal to Green and two goals each to Tayla Dawkins and Kate Blew. Green missed a chance for 14-8 from the penalty line. Moreira netted her third for Brazil for 14-10 and Emma Putt made it 15-10 at the final break.
The final quarter was more subdued with defence the key as only Australia scored and that coming eight seconds from the end of the match through centre forward Taafili Taoso.
Dawkins with her five goals elevating her to 15 for the week, two behind leading Nioka Thomas who scored just the one goal today. Green’s four made her the team’s best scorer with 20. Moreira’s three gave her 10 for the tournament.
The 7-1 Aussie dash that took the match out of reach of the Brazilians.
Australia has seven medals from this tournament and would have been hoping for a top-eight finish. However, five wins from six matches was an excellent effort, just losing to Israel by three goals the only blemish. Australia joins Spain and Hungary as five-match winners in Coimbra.
CANADA 7 CROATIA 12
Croatia had its best payday with a five-goal win over a traditional women’s water polo nation, especially after trailing 2-1 and 5-4 after the first two periods. It was tied at all the numbers to five with the last via a Ria Glas extra-man goal scored off a near pass to the left-post position. It was the first of three consecutive goals with Iva Rozic and Glas each scoring their second goals.
Senior international Serena Browne converted a penalty foul for Canada only for Croatia to score the next four as the 8-6 third-break scoreline blew out to 11-6. Browne lobbed for 11-7 with Magdalena Butic bookending the scoring from her customary centre-forward position.
Magdalena Butic, with three goals — all from two metres — led the scoring with Rozic gaining the player-of-the-match award for her two with a centre-forward drive and on counter for the 6-5 advantage. Jelena Butic scored the second and third for a final tally of 19. Alia Burlock was kept to one goals for 15 in total.
Croatia going from 7-6 to 11-6 with little more than three minutes remaining.
Croatia was 16th at its previous outing in 2017, so this year’s advance to 11th with a second win was a giant step in the right direction.
JAPAN 17 FRANCE 19
In an incredibly high-scoring match that did not go to a shootout, Japan can look back with pride but dissatisfaction that it did not come out a victor, especially as it controlled the match right up until the final four minutes. The match was tied at one, five, six, eight, 14 and 16 in a breath-taking encounter.
Japan led 5-3 at the quarter, 9-8 at halftime and 15-14 at the final break. It went 16-14 ahead to start the final eight minutes and then seemed to flag as France rattled in five unanswered goals, levelling at 16-16 by 5:46 and annexing the lead for the first time at 3:59. Two more goals came as Ema Vernoux drove and lobbed in the attacking zone for 19-16. Japan’s response came from Maho Kobayashi at 0:53 for the two-goal loss.
Maho Kobayashi scored five goals to bring up 22 and Momo Inoue four as she attained 13. Momoka Nishiyama was kept to one, although grabbed 16 in Coimbra. Valentine Hertaux finished her campaign with three goals and Camelia Bouloukbachi, so strong at centre forward, finished with 18. Vernoux’s one goal pushed her out to 21 for the tournament. Juliette Dhalluin netted three for 19.
Those five goals in the final quarter.
France was 11th in Netanya two years ago and 13th in 2003. Japan was 13th in 2019 when it was last played in Portugal.
PORTUGAL 6 KAZAKHSTAN 10
Kazakhstan went home with three victories while Portugal was already home with three. Portugal was hoping for a fourth victory and scored first, but Kazakhstan was on form and fired in the next six goals, turning at 6-2. By the third break it was 9-4 and the result beyond doubt. Portugal sent in the first three of the final quarter with Carolina Fernandes scoring her second after she missed the penalty attempt. However, Olga Vorontsova closed all scoring, giving Kazakhstan the 10-6 margin of success.
Madalena Lousa made it 26 goals for the tournament when she scored three today. Joining her with five goals was Fernandes. For Kazakhstan, Viktoriya Kaplun scored twice to finish with 12; Milena Nabiyeva also scored twice for 10 and Angelina Lemachko netted two.
Turning 1-0 down to 6-1 ahead.
Kazakhstan filled the same position in 2019 when there were just 16 teams, as did Portugal at 16.
- United States of America
- New Zealand
- South Africa
Most Valuable Player:
Elena Ruiz (ESP)
Boglarka Neszmely (HUN)
Madalena Lousa (POR), 26 goals
Coach of the Tournament:
Marton Bancsur (HUN)
Media All Star Team
Boglarka Neszmely (HUN)
Noa de Vries (NED)
Jenna Flynn (USA)
Sofia Giustini (ITA)
Madalena Lousa (POR)
Elena Ruiz (ESP)
Panni Szegedi (HUN)