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Men’s Water Polo: Spain and Italy earn gold-medal shot

by ZwemZa on July 26th, 2019

Spain will play Italy in Saturday’s gold-medal final of the FINA World Championship men’s water polo tournament at the Nambu University Grounds in Gwangju.

In reaching the final and finishing ahead of FINA World League champion Serbia — pre-qualified because of the title — both teams earned Olympic berths for Tokyo 2020.

Spain was the first to book a ticket for Tokyo by dispensing with reigning world champion Croatia 6-5. Spain was 2-1, 4-1 and 6-2 up at the breaks and it was the efforts of Maro Jokovic who kept Croatia close with two of his three goals in the final quarter. Blai Malarach scored twice for Spain.

Italy came back from two down in the first quarter of its semifinal to take the match by the scruff and repulse a charging Hungary in the final period for a 12-10 margin.

In the classification 5-8 semifinals, Serbia came from two down to force a penalty shootout against Germany, winning 17-16. The scores were locked at 12-12 with Serbian superstar Dusan Mandic scoring five goals in regular time and one in the shootout. Germany has not beaten Serbia since 2010 and this was probably the closest chance to finally break the drought. Australia will play Serbia for fifth when it outlasted Greece with a lone goal in the final quarter 9-8. It was a torrid encounter where tiredness crept in and where the lead swapped several times.

In classification matches, United States of America scored a last-minute goal to beat a dejected Montenegro 15-14 for ninth position. The lead was a revolving door and the equalisers were also in the stratosphere, it seemed. Japan annexed 11th place with a resounding 15-5 victory over South Africa, who had its equal-best best finish at this level.

Thursday Schedule:

Classification 11-12
Match 39, 9.30, JAPAN 15 SOUTH AFRICA 5

Classification 9-10

Classification 5-8 Semifinals
Match 41, 14:00, SERBIA 17 GERMANY 16 in penalty shootout (FT: 12-12. Pens: 5-4)
Match 42, 15:30, AUSTRALIA 9 GREECE 8

Classification 1-4 Semifinals
Match 43, 17:00, SPAIN 6 CROATIA 5
Match 44, 18:30, HUNGARY 10 ITALY 12

Friday Women’s Schedule

Classification 7-8

Classification 5-6
Match 46, 15:30, RUSSIA ITALY

Classification 3-4
Match 47, 17:00, AUSTRALIA HUNGARY

Classification 1-2

Saturday Men’s Schedule

Classification 7-8
Match 45, 14:00, GERMANY v GREECE

Classification 5-6
Match 46, 15:30, SERBIA v AUSTRALIA

Classification 3-4
Match 47, 17:00, CROATIA v HUNGARY

Classification 1-2
Match 48, 18:30, SPAIN v ITALY

Match 39, 9.30, JAPAN 15 SOUTH AFRICA 5

Classification 11-12

Quarters: 5-1, 4-1, 3-2, 3-1

Referees: Viktor Salnichenko (KAZ), Juan Carlos Menendez (CUB).

Extra man: JPN: 3/7. RSA: 3/5.

Penalties: RSA: 1/1.

Shot conversion: JPN: 15/32. RSA: 5/27.


JAPAN: Katsuyuki Tanamura, Seiya Adachi (2), Haruki Koppu, Mitsuaki Shiga (1), Takuma Yoshida (2), Atsuto Iida (2), Yusuke Shimizu (3), Mitsuru Takata, Atsushi Arai (2), Yusuke Inaba (3), Keigo Okawa, Kenta Araki, Tomoyoshi Fukushima. Coach: Yoji Omoto.

SOUTH AFRICA: Lwazi Madi, Etienne Le Roux, Timothy Rezelman, Nardus Badenhorst, Ethan Coryndon-Baker, Sven Van Zyl, Jason Evezard (2), Nicholas Rodda (1), Dylan Cronje, Mark Spencer (1), Liam Neill, Donn Stewart (1), Keegan Clark. Head Coach: Paul Martin.


Japan and South Africa both have building phases, probably at opposite ends of the spectrum. Japan is hosting the 2020 Olympic Games and the Asian speedsters have been trying hard to break the European fence, without success, South Africa looks like it has the basis for Fukuoka 2021. Four first-quarter counter-attack goals by Japan set the scene and the match was a case of if South Africa could breach the Japanese defence, which it did infrequently. For Japan, 11th position is a slip of one ranking on Budapest and its equal second-best position — Shanghai in 2011. Yusuke Inaba, with three goals against South Africa, finished atop the Japanese scoring with 11 goals, one better than Atsushi Arai.

Playing their final matches for South Africa were Donn Stewart (38) and Mark Spencer (39), both off whom have been captains of the team. For Stewart it was his fifth World Championships while it was the first for Spencer. Ironically, both scored in their swansongs. South Africa, in finishing 12th, equalled its 2015 Kazan finish and four places better than Budapest 2017.


Yoji Omoto (JPN) — Head Coach

“Our biggest goal here was to beat European strong teams, but we haven’t been able to do this. We believe we have gradually improved. We feel we can do that by improving our tactics and strength. During the tournament we were still confused, but we are still trying to go around. Looking to 2020, we will review and fix problems. As you have seen, it was good games against strong teams where we could match them early on, but could not beat them. We still find we need to improve a lot.”

Keigo Okawa (JPN) — Captain

“We haven’t been able to play against the European strong teams and we have not beaten them. Therefore, I think it’s a good chance to learn what our weak points are and what we have to improve.” On the highlight of the tournament: “Personally I had my nose broken. For our team, especially against Germany, we could have beaten them, but they scored and we tied the match. Therefore, our biggest problem is that we haven’t achieved our goal to win the game in the close game. On the other hand, if we had won with a big margin, we could have controlled the game in a much smoother and better way.”

Paul Martin (RSA) — Head Coach

“In this team we have only four players who have played a senior FINA event. At the last two World Championships there are three players only. We lacked a little cohesion and trust because of no game time (before Gwangju). There are positives and it’s looking forward.  If I can keep 11-13 guys together for the next two years I will be very happy. I can’t fault their fitness or individual conditioning.”

Etienne Le Roux (RSA) — Captain

“It’s amazing to come and play against the professional sides. We don’t get to play international games so much, so it takes a while to get used to it, but it just shows us where the level of the world actually is and where we need to work towards in the future.” On the tournament highlight: “Just being part of it. It’s just tough to be able to draw the game with New Zealand and come 12th at the championship. That’s the best we’ve ever done — the same as 2015 in Kazan, so it’s amazing to come out to this competitive game and to get the draw in the group match.”

Russell McKinnon, FINA Media Committee


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