Group A — Budapest
ITALY 31 COLOMBIA 5
Italy put itself on top of the group with five points with the last match remaining and Hungary beat Canada to make sure the tiebreaker was not needed. It was Italy all the way, as it should have been, although in the early stages, Colombia looked in with a chance when it tied the match at one and two. That was to be Colombia’s best part of the match until 13 minutes later when it scored with a push in on rebound and added the fourth with a big lob and the fifth with a six-metre strike at 24-5. Italy led 5-2 at the quarter, 12-2 at halftime, 18-4 at the final break and went on counter-attack to extend the lead to 30-5 before converting a penalty foul on the final buzzer for 31-5.
It’s almost too easy to say the best players were the scorers, but it was the multitude of assists with excellent cross passes and sometimes long, scything passes to the attacker racing for goal, who should be given the kudos. In the end, Silvia Avegno rattled in six goals from nine attempts; Sofia Giustini shot five from six; Chiara Tabani four from four and veteran Roberta Bianconi with identical figures. Valentina Restrepo claimed the rebound and six-metre goals for Colombia.
Italy at 2-2 thundering down the pool for 14-2. It set the tempo of the match and showed the void that exists between European and South American nations.
Stats don’t lie
Italy was perfect with its five conversions of extra-man attack and Colombia managed just one from nine. Congratulations to goalkeepers Laura Teani (ITA) with five saves and Colombian Sara Agudela with six.
Italy is one of the teams heading to the finals, having drawn with Canada in a shaky first match and then toppling Hungary 10-9 two nights before. Colombia will be wanting a win in the lower quarter of the draw before heading home.
HUNGARY 11 CANADA 7
A four-goal third period helped put paid to Canada’s hopes of ruining Hungary’s night. The four-goal swing stretched to five early in the final quarter and even a Canadian revival of three straight goals could not stem the tide. The floodwaters had broken and Hungary was swimming away to second place in the group behind Italy. It was 2-1 to Hungary at the first break, 5-4 at the long break and 9-4 heading into the last. Canada showed why it is capable and the resurgence in the last five minutes gave hope with 2:32 remaining. However, Hungary used a timeout and Dora Leimeter converted the extra-man chance at 2:05 and the match was over.
Rita Keszthelyi stood up when most needed, nailing three of those four third-quarter goals. Even when she had a shot rejected, she took it again and blasted in, such is her confidence. She deservedly was named player of the match. Canada’s Hayley McKelvey was dominant at times, turning at centre forward to score in the second quarter and then hammering in the sixth and seventh goals, firstly on extra-man attack and then from the top with a missile. It gave Canada hope at 10-7 down.
The third period, without a doubt. As the pool announcer said: “It is the money quarter.” This was where Hungary nailed its flag to the staff. A possible turn came from Canada in the fourth, but, alas, it was too late as the Hungarian train had left the station.
Stats don’t lie
Italy converted four from eight and Canada four from seven, so not much of a difference there. Alda Magyari made eight saves for Hungary and Jessica Gaudreault just three, showing the defence worked harder for Italy — a huge difference in the final result.
Hungary has an Olympic bronze medal. It wants to show that the one-goal loss to Italy on day two was a glitch that can easily be wiped from the memory. Canada will be left to pick up the pieces, but is capable of forcing its way further up the rankings in the coming week.
Final Points: Italy 5, Hungary 4, Canada 3, Colombia 0.
Group B — Debrecen
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 23 ARGENTINA 3
The gap between these teams is immense. USA needed to win to grab the first place of the quartet, but let’s say, all of us knew who had the real chance to win the match. The Olympic champion started the game how it has to — 6-0 after eight minutes. Adam Krikorian’s women continued their form in the second quarter, too, reaching a demoralising 11-0 result by halftime. But, the enthusiastic Argentinians didn’t give up and arrived at the match. Just a few sparks, some nice shots and two perfect goals by the South Americans in the third period. One remained at the end, while USA didn’t stop until 23. The reigning champion made it into the top eight, but it’s not over for Argentina, either. They also have the chance to qualify to the quarter-final, after achieving the third place in Group B.
Amanda Longan had the opportunity and she took it. The USA goalkeeper saved with 77 per cent efficiency. Denise Mammolito, Bayley Weber and Stephanie Haralabilis were unstoppable in the field, each scoring four goals and the latter was named the player of the match. And let’s mention the three Argentinian scorers, too — Lucia Ruiz Castellani, Carla Comba and Anahi Bacigaculpo. Scoring a goal against USA must be a lifelong memory for them.
Must be the first two quarters — 6-0 and 5-0 — 11 goal advantage after 16 minutes — too much.
Stats don’t lie
Longan’s effective work in the goal, saving the 77 per cent. Moreover, the 67 per cent extra-player efficiency is also notable.
The difference between the teams? USA is another level, but it was a pretty useful match for the opponent, too. Argentina can learn a lot from this match.
NETHERLANDS 22 SOUTH AFRICA 1
Just like the USA-Argentina encounter, the Netherlands-South Africa match seemed a smooth match. And it was. The Dutch team started the match confidently as it wanted to decide essential questions as fast as it could. The machine worked well — 5-1 after the first quarter. Ruby Versfeld scored first for South Africa, but perhaps no one would have thought, that this would be the only one goal achieved by the African team. But it happened. Netherlands was super concentrated and sharp, both front and back. It was 9-1 at halftime, then a 7-0 and a 6-0 period performed by the Dutch army. South Africa also had some opportunities to minimalise the difference, but at last they were done with their strength. Netherlands won 22-1, getting ready to play for the top eight. The tournament is not over for South Africa either, the placement matches are ahead in Szeged.
Lola Moolhuijzen and Simone van de Kraats were the top shooters for Netherlands, scoring five and four goals respectively. The Dutch goalies — Laura Aarts and Sarah Buis — had a nice day, too with Buis delivering a clean sheet!
The entire match was obvious. The hardest was the third quarter for South Africa, letting in seven goals in eight minutes.
Stats don’t lie
The Netherlands exceeded South Africa in every stat. The Dutch shooting efficiency, the defence and the extra-player efficiency were emphatic.
The same situation, like the USA-Argentina pair. The teams are too far from each other, but it’s a happy fact, that teams like the South Africans show themselves in front of the world.
Final Points: USA 6, Netherlands 4, Argentina 2, South Africa 0.
Group C — Sopron
BRAZIL 5 AUSTRALIA 17
The final day of the women’s group stages has come, and in Sopron the first match was between the unbeaten Australia and the winless Brazil. The Aussie Stingers have always won against their rivals in recent years, and that happened yet again. Paul Oberman’s side started well, scoring nine goals in the first half and from now on only the goal-difference was the issue. In 2022, the still unbeaten Australians won 17-5 against Brazil and finished at the top of the group.
The player of this match was Bronte Halligan, who scored five goals from six attempts. She was really in form tonight, and already has 11 goals in this world championships.
Stats don’t lie
The Australians’ defence worked well. Gabriella Palm saved three from four, while pulled down six from 10, so the goalkeepers were hot.
The main problem of the Aussie Stingers during the preliminary rounds was the conversion of penalties. In the first match against Kazakhstan they missed four, now three from five. Oberman said they need to raise the level of concentration.
KAZAKHSTAN 11 NEW ZEALAND 15
The match of the day, as it decided which team finished second in the group. Tension, thrill and a high level of water polo. New Zealand was the better side in the beginning of the match, leading 5-3,and 6-4. After that a turning point came, because Kazakhstan scored five goals in a row and thanks to Alexandra Zharkimbayeva’s performance, her team did not concede any. It was 9-6 to Maret Naurazbekov’s team, when another twist happened. In the second half the Kiwis scored nine goals, while Kazakhstan made many mistakes. New Zealand won 15-11.
Malia Josephson was the leader for New Zealand. She attempted nine shots and scored four, assisting in another two. It was such a great performance from her. But we can highlight the defence as well, conceding just three in the whole second half is a hats-off performance.
Stats don’t lie
Kazakhstan made many mistakes in the third and fourth quarter. It scored only three from eight extra-player situations and lost the ball many times as the Kiwis stole it seven times in the second half.
Final Points: Australia 6, New Zealand 4, Kazakhstan 2, Brazil 0.
Group D — Szeged
THAILAND 2 SPAIN 30
The young and inexperienced Thai women showed good character in the first two matches and faced their biggest test in the last round of the group stage. Spain had to give everything to beat Greece’s score, because it would have been one of the scenarios where this game’s final score mattered for the final ranking. Spain gave no chance to Thailand, scoring 12 unanswered goals in the first half. We have seen the most goals in the third quarter with Thailand finally on the table scoring two, while Spain scored 11, almost as many as in the first half. After four quarters, Spain finished with one goal better in defence, than Greece had against Thailand.
Kritsana Puangtong was the best again, scoring two beautiful goals from outside, and on the other side, Judith Forca scored more goals individually than Thailand — seven from nine attempts.
From the first minute, Spain totally controlled the match and chased a better result than Greece’s against Thailand.
Stats don’t lie
Elena Ruiz scored five from five, Laura Ester kept a clean sheet in goal — five from five. Spain had 75 per cent from extra-man-advantage situations.
Thailand played its first international matches and learnt a lot from those and now can prepare for slightly easier games against almost-same-level teams.
FRANCE 4 GREECE 15
All the Greek women had just one goal before the last game — beating France by at least 11 goals, no matter how. The French side knew it needed a miracle to be in second place in the group. Greece started with rock-solid defence and attack, winning the first two quarters 4-1. France started really awful in attack, scoring just two from 13. In the third quarter, Greece missed its first extra situation and only scored three goals while letting in one, so the difference was just eight before the last quarter. Time was running by but, as in Hollywood movies, miracles can come at the last minute and Greece finally scored the decisive goal and won the group.
Vasiliki Plevritou was the main sharpshooter for Greece three goals from nine shots. Elena Xenaki also scored three from five attempts, were enough for her to win player of the match.
Greece’s hard and effective defence was the key in the first half to outscore France by six goals and took an early lead and also the extremely low shooting efficiency from the French women.
Stats don’t lie
France scored in all four quarters, but could only convert two from 10 on extra and action goals were hard to come by with just four from 29 shots. Greece mostly leaned on extra-man attack (8/10). All three Plevritou sisters scored multiple goals. Ioanna Stamatapoulou finished with 69 per cent saving efficiency.
France needs to be so much better in attack and improve in shooting efficiency, and must now prepare for the crossovers. Greece has more days off and is heading to Budapest and they are in the best eight teams in the world.
Final Points and Ranking: Greece 5, Spain 5, France 2, Thailand 0.