World Aquatics Championships – Fukuoka 2023
Men’s Pool Play
The 16 nations vying for the men’s water polo title at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships kicked off their competition on Monday, July 17. The teams are divided into four pools: Group A, Group B, Group C, and Group D. Within each group, the four teams will play a round-robin, meeting each of the other three teams once. At the conclusion of pool play, the standings in each group will determine seedings for the elimination round of the tournament.
- United States
- South Africa
Day 1 Results
The United States got off to a strong start with an 18-5 win over Kazakhstan in round 1. The Americans outscored the Kazakhstanis 5-1 in the first frame, but the Kazakh team came back to tie USA with 4 goals each in the second. USA shut out Kazakhstan over the second half, while tallying 9 more goals of their own to finish with a 13-point differential. Tyler Abramson put 5 in the net for USA; Johnny Hooper scored 3. Kazakhstan’s goalkeeper Temirlan Balfanbayev, son of former Olympic referee Alan Balfanbayev, made 10 saves, while teammate Dushan Markovich scored 3 goals.
Greece fought hard and finished with a 5-3 run in the fourth quarter to beat Australia, 13-9. Tied at 2-2 after the first quarter, Greece won the next period by 2 goals to head into the second half with a 5-3 lead. Greece and Australia each marked 3 in the third period. Australia pulled within 1 goal twice in the final frame, trailing 8-7 and 9-8, before Greece shut it down by scoring 3 unanswered goals. The final score of 13-to-9 was a huge improvement for Australia, who had received a 20-5 drubbing from Greece in February in the World Cup qualifier. Nathan Power led Australia’s effort with 4 goals; Stylianos Argyropoulos netted 3 for Greece.
Canada and China played a tight match but the Canadians’ shut-outs in the first and fourth periods proved decisive as they beat China, 13-10 in round 1. Canada got off to an aggressive start, scoring 4 unanswered goals in the first frame. China scored 4 of the first 5 goals in period 2, before giving up 2 goals to make it 7-4 for Canada. The Canadians held off China in the final period to win by 3. China’s Jiahao Peng netted 4, including the goal that pulled China within 1 goal at 11-10. Nicolas Constantin–Bicari and Aleksa Gardijan each scored 3 for Canada.
France and Italy played two matches: one, a cat-and-mouse first half with France answering each of Italy’s 5 goals and the other, a lopsided second half that saw Italy pummel France, 8 goals to 1, as France struggled to keep up with their Mediterranean neighbors. Andrea Fondelli led the Italian squad with 3 goals, while France’s Ugo Crousillat and Enzo Kharz each put 2 in the net.
Both Group C matches were landslides, as Croatia downed Argentina, 24-5, and Hungary beat Japan, 16-8. Croatia got off to an early lead against Argentina, scoring 4 goals off the bat, giving up 2, then scoring 4 more to finish the first frame with a 6-goal lead. The Croatians went up 12-2 in the second period before Argentina answered, ending the half at 12-3. Croatia outscored Argentina 12-2 over the second half, as well. Marinic Kragic accounted for 5 of Croatia’s goals, while teammate Ante Vukicevic scored 4.
The Hungary – Japan matchup began very differently, however, with the two squads going into the first break tied at 4, and separated by only 1 goal at the half. The Hungarian side outplayed the home team over the second half, holding Japan to 1 goal in each of the two periods while scoring 9 of their own. Gergo Zalanky and Szilard Jansik led with 4 goals each for Hungary. Japan’s Toi Suzuki and Mitsuru Takata scored 2 apiece.
Montenegro dominated all four periods of its first-round match against South Africa, yielding a final score of 35-10. Despite trailing at the half 16-1, South Africa came back with an explosive third period, scoring 5 goals to cut into Montenegro’s massive lead. South Africa put another 4 in the net in the final frame, but Montenegro’s 19 goals over the second half kept them well in front. Dura Radovic scored 7 goals from 7 attempts and Bogdan Durdic netted five from five. For South Africa, four players each scored twice.
Spain edged Olympic-champions Serbia, 16-14, in a hard-fought first-round match. Serbia scored the opening goal but Spain’s Alvaro Granados found the net 3 times in the first period and the Spaniards led 3-2 at the break. Spain opened the second period with 4 unanswered goals, and Serbia took a timeout to regroup. Spain led 8-5 as they headed at the half. Period 3 was a nailbiter, with each team earning 5 goals. Spain opened the final frame by pulling ahead to 16-10. Serbia responded with a furious attempt at a comeback, and they nearly got it. The Serbians scored 4 goals in a row and had only a 2-goal deficit with :57 to go. Serbia’s Strahinja Rasovic led the match with 6 goals, while Granados finished with 5 goals for Spain.