The Men’s Water Polo Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) has been rescheduled for February 2021, the Dutch aquatics federation announced on Wednesday.
From February 14-21, 2021, 12 teams will travel to the Rotterdam Swimcenter, which seats 1,000 spectators permanently (and can be expanded for major events) in its main competition pool. Those teams will be competing for 3 spots at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The tournament was originally scheduled for March, 2020, also in Rotterdam. No new dates have yet been confirmed for the women’s qualification tournament, which was most recently scheduled in Trieste, Italy for May.
Both tournaments, and the Olympic Games, were postponed amid the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.
- Netherlands (qualified as hosts)
- Canada – 2019 Pan American Games
- Brazil – 2019 Pan American Games
- Montenegro – 2020 European Championships
- Croatia – 2020 European Championships
- Greece – 2020 European Championships
- Russia – 2020 European Championships
- Germany – 2020 European Championships
- Georgia – 2020 European Championships
- Romania – 2020 European Championships*
- Turkey – 2020 European Championships
- France – 2020 European Championships
*Romania was added after Argentina withdrew from the tournament in mid-February.
These teams will try to join Japan, Serbia, Italy, Spain, the United States, Australia, South Africa, Hungary, and Kazakhstan in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
After a draw in February in Lausanne, Switzerland, teams were split into 2 groups of 6 teams each.
- Teams will play a single round robin against all other teams in their group.
- The 4 teams that emerge with the best records from the group state will advance to a single-elimination knockout bracket.
- A gold medal game will be played, albeit for bragging rights as both teams will qualify; a 3rd-place game will also be played to determine the 3rd qualifier.
|Group A||Group B|
The obvious favorites in the tournament are Montenegro out of Group A and Croatia out of group B.
Croatia won the Olympic gold medal in 2012 and Olympic silver medal in 2016, and bronze at the 2019 World Championships, finished 4th at the European Championship in January. Only the winner of the European Championship earns an automatic Olympic bid, though Spain and Hungary were already qualified based on their finishes at the World Championships.
That also leaves another traditional power Montenegro, who were 3rd at the European Championships, in this qualifying tournament. Montenegro has finished in 4th place at each of the last 3 Olympic Games. They were only 10th at the World Championships, the victims of some upsets in pool play and a shootout loss to a surprising Australian team in a bracket play-in game.
If either of those nations were to miss the Olympics, that would leave a lot of disappointment. The battle for the 3rd is open, with Greece (7th at Worlds) and Germany (8th at Worlds) playing front-runners. Germany struggled at the European Championships, while Greece performed well in a tough schedule. That included pushing Croatia to 14-11 in the quarterfinals – playing them even for the last 3 quarters of the game after making a substitution in goal for the struggling Emmanouil Zerdevas.
Brazil is also looking for a return to the Olympics after making the most out of their host spot at the 2016 Games by finishing 8th. That was in large part because one of the greatest in the sport’s history Ratko Rudic took over the program as coach, and thanks to the addition of Serbian Slobodan Soro as the team’s goalie after earning bronze at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics with his native born country.