sabato 25 luglio 2015

Kazan 2015 - women's preview

Just a few days left before the 2015 World Championships water polo tournament will be kicked off in the Water Polo Arena in Kazan with the opening day for the women. The 16 teams are set for what promises to be another interesting battle for the gold medal as the top segment of world women's water polo is well-known for being diverse. Title contenders for the gold medal are litterally from around the globe with Spain being the defending champion. Recent results however clearly point at the reinging champion and recent World League winner United States to claim the gold in Kazan. But there's more. A lot more. Runners-up from Barcelona 2013, Australia, hosts Russia, the Netherlands and Hungary can also very well be considered to be among the group of teams expected to fight for the highest podium. Outsiders? Also well represented. The teams from China, 2011 world champion Greece and 2012 European champion Italy can beat any top squad on a given day.


Team USA is the team to beat. The Americans, who recently claimed a 9th World League trophy beating Australia 8-7 in the final in Shanghai, have something to make up for as they finished a dissapointing 5th at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona after falling to later champions Spain 9-6 in the quarterfinals. Their recent play however has the reigning champions back in the role as favourites for the world title in Kazan. But considering the 'depth' of international women's world top water polo, a gold medal for the USA is far from decided. One of the main contenders is Australia. The Aussie Stingers finished runners-up at the 2013 Worlds, the 2014 FINA World Cup and this year's World League Interncontinental Qualification Tournament and Super Final, apart from Barcelona 2013 each time losing to the USA. It proves they are as close as it gets to getting to the highest podium in what would be a first world championship for Australia since the 1986 inaugural edition, in Madrid, Spain.

But the defending champions come from Europe. Spain deservedly went on to take the gold in front of the home crowd in 2013 beating Australia in the final 6-8. The results in the build-up to Kazan however do not feature the convincing results. In this year's World League group play Spain lost matches to the Netherlands and Greece but did earned a berth to the Super Final in Shanghai. However quickly after the final round of the group stage, Spain announced to withdraw from participation in the Super Final stating it would not fit their preparation for Kazan 2015. Instead Spain went their way in completing a balanced programme towards the world championships. Regardless the team should be mentioned among the title favourites. Spain's roster is filled with experience and the core of the team is playing together for quite a while. And leading group A with Canada as expected main rival, the Spanish side could be expected to finish first and ensure a quarterfinals berth straight away.
For Australia that competition during the prelims in Kazan will surely look different with 2011 world champions Greece and revitalised Netherlands squad in their group B. The Stingers actually fell to the Dutch during the 7-nation tournament ahead of the Super Final in Kunshan, China although both teams were testing different line-ups and players.  The Netherlands meanwhile have built confidence during their long but successful preparation. It included wins of their self-hosted Dutch Trophy and Italian 4-nation Syracusa tournament as well as claiming the bronze medal at the World League Super Final, their best World League result. And so after their disappointing 7th place at the 2013 World Championships, the Arno Havenga coached side is ready to reach its goal in Kazan which is making it to the semifinals. A more than decent follow-up of the 2014 Europeans silver medal from Budapest last year.

Group C features not only Team USA but also 2012 European champions Italy, Brazil and Japan. Especially Italy will be looking to take a swing towards the likely US-top spot in the group. The Italians made it to the quarterfinals of the World League Super Final in Shanghai before being eliminated for the medals by the Netherlands who won 8-7. And again did so during a 4-nation friendly tournament in Sicily (Syracusa) recently where the Dutch claimed the overall victory. During the Super Final a following loss to Russia and big win over Brazil had the Italian women finishing this year's World League in 7th place. For Brazil and Japan it could come down to battling for 3rd place which will keep them in the race for the quarterfinals as then a crossover round will follow. But looking at the tight and highly competitive group D, a possible first-place finish could avoid a crossover-round clash with either Hungary, Russia or China. That means there's something to play for in group C.

As mentioned in group D three teams, on paper, will be fighting to finish first in the group stage. Hungary meets familiar foe Russia while usual Super Final hosts China joins them, to be completed by the young but up-and-coming France squad. Russia and Hungary already met this year during the World League prelims in which the Russians won the clash at home 13-11 on penalties while Hungary struck back three rounds later beating the Russians 13-12. As Russia finished 2nd and Spain withdrew, the Russian ladies even made it to the Super Final... where China was drawn in their group. Russia finished pointless as home team China topped the Russians 9-7 in the final group game. China went on to make it to the semifinals after topping Canada 6-5 in the quarterfinals before Australia proved too strong: 3-5. But this group is expected to be a close one delivering some interesting match-ups, with a tough prediction to make on who is to claim the top spot out of these four teams. 

Who to watch:

Rita Keszthelyi (HUN)

Photo: Marcel ter Bals.

Ashleigh Southern (AUS)

Photo: Johan Opperman.

Kami Craig (USA)

Alexandra Asimaki (GRE)

Ekaterina Prokofyeva (RUS)

Photo: Johan Opperman.

Maica Garcia (ESP)

Lieke Klaassen (NED)

Photo: Johan Opperman.

2015 FINA World Championships
Kazan (RUS)



Group A
Canada, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Spain

Group B
Australia, South Africa, Greece, Netherlands

Group C
Brazil, Japan, USA, Italy

Group D
Hungary, Russia, China, France


Sunday, 26 July (women)

09.30: Canada vs. New Zealand
10.50: Kazakhstan vs. Spain
12.10: Australia vs. Greece
13.30: South Africa vs. Netherlands

17.30: Brazil vs. USA
18.50: Russia vs. France
20.10: Japan vs. Italy
21.30: Hungary vs. China

Tuesday, 28 July (women)

09.30: Netherlands vs. Greece
10.50: Australia vs. South Africa
12.10: Italy vs. USA
13.30: Brazil vs. Japan

17.30: France vs. China
18.50: Hungary vs. Russia
20.10: Spain vs. New Zealand
21.30: Canada vs. Kazakhstan

Thursday, 30 July (women)

09.30: Brazil vs. Italy
10.50: Japan vs. USA
12.10: Hungary vs. France
13.30: Canada vs. Spain

17.30: Kazakhstan vs. New Zealand
18.50: Russia vs. China
20.10: Australia vs. Netherlands
21.30: South Africa vs. Greece

Saturday, 1 August (women)

10.50: A4 vs. B4 - W25
12.10: 4C vs. 4D - W26
13.30: 2A vs. 3B - W27

17.30: 3A vs. 2B - W28
18.50: 2C vs. 3D - W29
20.10: 3C vs. 2D - W30

Quarterfinal round

Monday, 3 August (women)

09.30: L W25 vs. L W26 - W31 (15th/16th place classification)
10.50: W W25 vs. W W26 - W32 (13th/14th place classification)
12.10: L W27 vs. L W29 - W33
13.30: L W28 vs. L W30 - W34

17.30: 1A vs. W W29 - W35
18.50: 1B vs. W W30 - W36
20.10: 1C vs. W W27 - W37
21.30: 1D vs. W W28 - W38

Semifinal round

Wednesday, 5 August (women)

10.50: L W33 vs. L W34 - W39 (11th/12th place classification)
12.10: W W33 vs. W W34 - W40 (9th/10th place classification)

15.30: L W35 vs. L W36 - W41
17.00: L W37 vs. L W38 - W42
20.15: W W35 vs. W W36 - W43
21.45: W W37 vs. W W38 - W44

Final round

Friday, 7 August (women)

14.00: L W41 vs. L W42 - W45 (7th/8th place classification)
15.30: W W41 vs. W W42 - W46 (5th/6th place classification)

20.30: L W43 vs. L W44 - W47 (3rd/4th place classification)
22.00: W W43 vs. W W44 - W48 (1st/2nd place classification)

N.b.: times mentioned are local time.

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