Dominant USA water polo women squeeze home against Hungary

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 water polo

United States of America showed why it is the best team in the world with a controlled 9-7 victory over host Hungary in the gold -medal final of the FINA World Championships women’s water polo tournament at the crucible of the sport — Budapest’s Margaret Island. It was the fourth consecutive title and seventh overall.


In Tokyo last year, Hungary produced a sublime performance to beat USA, a rare feat indeed. It was in the round play and USA went on to win a third consecutive Olympic crown. Tonight was not the night that USA would slip up again. For the fourth consecutive FINA World Championships, and for the seventh time in history, USA was atop the world and slipping another gold medal around its neck. It was USA’s 10th medal at this level. Only Australia, Netherlands, Italy and Russia have five medals each, so USA’s effort is double. Hungary was a worthy opponent and even though Maddie Musselman and Ryann Neushul were tormenting the host nation with their frequent forays to the Hungarian goal, the home women battled hard at each end. It stopped a lot of USA attacks early on, but USA was relentless and the senior players stepped up. It was only 2-1 at the quarter and 4-3 by halftime and that was after Hungary levelled at two and three. It went 5-3 to the USA and 5-4 and 7-4 by the final break. Neushul scored her second before the intermission and her third afterwards. It was now 8-4 and the Hungarian crowd of more than 6000 (let alone the workers and media) who were upset after the Hungarian men’s disastrous night a day before, was more than a little dismayed. However, an eruption of sound came soon after when Zsuzsanna Mate and Dorottya Szilagyi brought the match within two at 4:11. That last goal caused a furore when a review was made with the VAR system as to whether it was shot within in the allowed time. The decision? Yes! We could progress, after a long five minutes. Then USA called a timeout on extra at 2:54. The resulting pass to goal was intercepted and Hungary had a life. Hungary’s shot was short; USA’s next shot was wide; seven Hungarians were in front of goal as goalkeeper Alda Magyari took a spot up front and Rita Keszthelyi blasted in a cross-cage bouncer for 8-7 at 1:11. Then came high-end drama as a Hungarian defender rode the back of an advancing USA player and the penalty foul was called. Hungarian head coach Attila Biro erupted as he thought it should have been something other than a penalty as another defender appeared to be closer to goal. Either way, the player should not have fouled. Musselman made it five goals with the conversion for 9-7 at 0:47 and Hungary had no way out of jail. It was USA’s night… again.

Final classifications

1. United States of America
2. Hungary
3. Netherlands
4. Italy
5. Spain
6. Australia
7. Greece
9. Canada
10. New Zealand
11. Kazakhstan
12. Argentina
13. South Africa
14. Brazil
15. Thailand
16. Colombia


Most Valuable Player in Final:
Maddie Musselman (USA)

Most Valuable Goalkeeper:
Ashleigh Johnson (USA)

Highest Goal-scorers:
Bea Ortiz (ESP), Judith Forca (ESP) 21 goals.

Media All Star Team
Goalkeeper: Ashleigh Johnson (USA).
Field Players: Judith Forca (ESP), Bronte Halligan (AUS), Rita Keszthelyi (HUN), Lola Moohuijzen (NED), Maddie Musselman (USA), Bea Ortiz (ESP).