Group D – Szeged
SPAIN 10 GREECE 10
Both teams came here with a win and all the players knew this could be the decider for the first spot in the group. Surprisingly, Spain trailed almost all the game and just took the lead one time in the match. Greece prepared really well physically and tactically, too. Both teams operated with lots of shots, but the accuracy wasn’t on a high level. In the last quarter, Greece had a couple of occasions to take a bigger step to win the match with a two-goal difference, but it didn’t use the opportunities. The match ended with a fair draw.
For Spain, Elena Ruiz was the best with four goals and she earned the MVP award. On the other side, the Plevritou twins — Eleftheria and Vasiliki — led the team with three goals each and helped to secure the tie.
Surprisingly, neither of the teams had a turning point or failed to live it. Spain had the ball more, won all the sprints, and Greece was better from actions, but both teams had really bad shot selections, so most of the chances were missed.
Stats don’t lie
Spain was a little bit better in extra-man play (5/13) and Martina Terre had a 64 per cent save efficiency. Greece scored eight goals from 20 actions, and 50 per cent on extra. Both teams’ shot efficiency was about the 30 per cent mark.
Spain will play against Thailand on Friday and try to outscore Greece’s result and Alexia Kammenou’s women will try to do the same against France, because in the last round they have a must win while the goal difference will decide the winner.
THAILAND 8 FRANCE 24
France did the job, but we will remember the match mostly for the outstanding achievement from the Thai women. They scored eight goals and made a 4-4 last quarter against a much stronger and more experienced team. With the win, France had a chance to reach second place in the group, but it needs to be so much better in defence to have any chance against Greece. Still the first steps for the fresh Thai team, but it was pretty clear that it was getting better game after game and most importantly they can play against some of the best teams in Europe.
Kritsana Puangtong led by example for her team, scoring four goals and four other players had their names etched on the scoresheet. Louise Guillet scored six from eight shots and was outstanding in this match.
France started a little slow and Thailand could score really early, but at the end of every quarter France showed good character and scored at least six goals in the first three. The fourth quarter was the best for Thailand.
Stats don’t lie
France took 39 shots and scored 24, which is really accurate (61 per cent). Both teams were more than 60 per cent in the extra-man situations.
The French were really good on attack, but it’s only half of the game, so they need to be good in defence, too, to have any chance against Greece. This is Thailand’s first international experience and it came here with teenagers. Getting better day by day, maybe it won’t finish in last place at the end.
Group Progress Points: Greece 3, Spain 3, France 2, Thailand 0.
Group C – Sopron
AUSTRALIA 11 NEW ZEALAND 2
The winner of the first FINA World Championships (1986) played its second match of the preliminary rounds in Sopron. Australia has entered the pool against trans-Tasman rival New Zealand. The teams last met in 2019. Both of them won their first match, so it was an action-packed clash in the Lover Swimming Pool. The Aussie Stingers’ defence has improved a lot from the first match, with just two goals conceded. The Kiwis played with heart and put everything in it, but failed to make an upset. Australia won 11-2.
The Australian defence. Gabriella Palm can be highlighted, defending six from eight attempts, which was a 75 per cent saving percentage. The top scorer of the game was Bronte Halligan with three goals, but there were seven other Aussie players, who scored at least one.
Australia was not sharp enough in the centre game, as it only managed to score three from nine attempts, but as head coach Paul Oberman said, the players are evolving from match by match.
BRAZIL 6 KAZAKHSTAN 10
The two winless teams faced each other in the second round of Group C. Brazil was beaten by New Zealand 12-8 while Kazakhstan lost 19-6 to Australia. The South-Americans started well and were leading 2-0, but after that Kazakhstan scored three goals in a row. The key period was the closing quarter when the Kazakhs had a one-goal advantage. They scored four in the last eight minutes, while Brazil notched only one and Kazakhstan goalkeeper saved 13 shots from 19 attempts during the whole match. Kazakhstan won a physical battle, and can get ready for New Zealand. Friday’s clash will decide second place in the group.
That’s obvious. Alexandra Zharkimbayeva, who could barely concede a goal this night. She saved 13 from 19 attempts, one penalty attempt and four of the stoppages in the fourth period. Unsurprisingly, she was named player of the match.
Group Progress Points: Australia 4, New Zealand 2, Kazakhstan 2, Brazil 0.
Group B — Debrecen
ARGENTINA 7 SOUTH AFRICA 6
The battle of hope. This can be the marker of the Argentina–South Africa derby in Group B. The two young and enthusiastic teams jumped into the pool to make history. And Argentina did it. The first quarter brought a tough fight in the pool, with only one goal for both sides. The teams were so close in the next eight minutes, but at last, South Africa took a one-goal lead in halftime. After the break, Argentina arrived back to the water with extra motivation and shot three goals in a row. And then, the last quarter was unforgettable. Both teams pushed their limits to grab the two points. At 6-6 on the board, seven seconds remained, when Julieta Auliel received the ball and scored — an historical goal that meant the first victory for Argentina at FINA World Championships.
We have to mention the two goalkeepers, Both Nahir Stegmayer (ARG) and Daniela Passoni (RSA) saved one penalty apiece and performed at the highest level. About the field players, Argentinian Cecilia Leonard scored three goals, while South Africa’s Ashleigh Vaughan scored two nice goals. And Julieta Auliel, of course, with her memorable shot, winning the glory for Argentina, giving her the last two goals of the match, inside the final minute!
The second half — three goals in a row to the Argentinians and then taking the lead before the last quarter.
Stats don’t lie
Brilliant save performance by both keepers — Stegmayer at 57 per cent, Passoni at 60 per cent.
Definitely, it was a three-way match, where Argentina concentrated better until the end. Those who watched Argentina’s celebration after winning the game, will not forget it for a while. Moreover, this victory may help a lot in the country to make water polo more popular. Last, but not least, credit goes to the South Africans for their performance. They were so close, too.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 11 NETHERLANDS 7
Probably the most anticipated Group B match took place Wednesday at the evening in Debrecen. Two water polo flagships — United States of America and Netherlands — met to decide who would be first in the quartet. The first period was equal – 3-2 after eight minutes — then Team USA ruled the match, building a three-goal lead in the first half. The script didn’t change in the next quarter either and the reigning champion managed the match well, not to let the Dutch women come closer. Maddie Musselman was unstoppable in front of the goal and Ashleigh Johnson was phenomenal in the goal. In the final minutes – although Netherlands fought bravely till the end — there was no doubt who would be the winner of this superb match. USA took the 11-7 victory, setting itself up to win the group.
American keeper Johnson stood the team confidently in the back, while the sharpshooters were so efficient, too. Musselman was four from five — no words needed. On the Dutch side, Lola Moolhuijzen and Simone van de Kraats scored twice each, but today it wasn’t enough against the USA.
USA made two irresistible periods in the middle of the match —two and three goals in a row without any Dutch answer. In addition, the powerful defence grinded up Netherlands attacks.
Stats don’t lie
Johnson had 12/19 saves. Relentless. The Dutch extra-player efficiency was also notable —6/11, against the defending Olympic and world champion. Not a bad base for the future.
USA sent a message to the others. Although it’s a young team and it is at the beginning of the road to Paris, USA takes the world championships seriously. Netherlands’ play was encouraging, too, but it has to improve more in every element if it wants to stay a long time in Hungary.
Group Progress Points: USA 4, Netherlands 2, Argentina 2, South Africa 0.
Group A — Budapest
COLOMBIA 2 CANADA 22
Canada turned an 8-2 halftime lead into a 22-2 victory against the inexperienced Colombians. It was an interesting match earlier on when, at 3-1 ahead, Canada was stymied seven times straight by the defensive Colombians. However, goals were hard to come by for Colombia and especially when Canada managed to get into rhythm and keep head coach David Paradelo happy.
Hayley McKelvey was the standout shooter for Canada and gained top-player accolades. Her strongest showing was the three consecutive goals — two from the two-metres line — to open the match and later she added another couple. Verica Bakoc stamped her authority with four goals and Axelle Crevier and Kyra Christmas pumped in three each. Colombian goalkeeper Sara Agudelo made eight saves in a tortuous day.
The opening three goals and, I must say, Colombia’s seven-attack defence, really rattled the Canadians. Canada then went five straight, gave up a penalty to Valentina Restrepo and then swam away with the match.
Stats Don’t Lie
This match was not about extra-man plays, although Canada nailed all three attempts and Colombia missed two. Canada scored four on counter, but generally plundered everything it could around the pool.
Canada now has three points after the heroic 7-7 draw with Italy on day one and can look forward to going deep into the tournament. For Colombia, it is another experience at the highest level.
ITALY 10 HUNGARY 9
It was not the result that the host nation wanted. The full house was rousing throughout, but the noise subsided somewhat in the dying minutes. It was one of the matches for the ages and continues the extremely close nature of this group and the top level of women’s water polo, in particular. Hungary opened the scoring and looked confident at 2-0 ahead. Goals were then traded to 4-3 at the first break. Italy levelled the match at four, five, six (just after halftime) and went into the lead at 7-6 and 8-7. It was Dorottya Szilagyi who scored twice on extra to level at seven and eight with 4:31 remaining. Then the guillotine dropped for Hungary when Sofia Giustini, on extra-man attack, and Chiara Tabani, from about 10m, had the match firmly in Italy’s grip at 3:08. Both teams took a timeout and Hungary twice sent goalkeeper Alda Magyari into the fray with only the second attempt causing any confusion to allow captain Rita Keszthelyi to gain her lone goal with eight seconds remaining for 10-9 — too late to appease the demanding crowd.
Claudia Marletta and Silvia Avegno were the only two multiple scorers for Italy with another six keeping the table secretary busy. But it was the whole Italian defence that was the star of the match, especially at the sharp end of the match as Hungary thrust forward time and again and could not get the ball to the line as often as it wanted.
Two goals at the start of the third period. Italy came up with more zest and chomped into the attack, scoring through Giuditta Galardi and Marletta. From 6-5 down, Italy was 7-6 ahead. Even when Szilagyi was levelling, it looked like Italy was going to take home the two points.
Stats don’t lie
Italy converted seven from nine on extra-man attack and Hungary seven from 13. There is the result of the match. Goalkeeper Caterina Banchelli stopped eight Hungarian shots and Magyari just four.
Italy seemed to want it more. Hungary looked really strong early on and earned the respect of the crowd, but as the match unfolded, Italy was seen picking at the pieces and snapping up goals when needed. Italy will take the group and earn direct access to the quarter-finals, as long as it steps over unbeaten Colombia on Friday.
Group Progress Points: Italy 3, Canada 3, Hungary 2, Colombia 0.