Concurrently with last week’s European Water Polo Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, FINA has held the draw for the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament, which will determine the final four spots into the Olympics for men and women.
In the men’s tournament, each team will play every other team in their own group, with the top four advancing to the knockout stages. Once in those knockout stages, the winners of each first round matchup will have earned their qualification to Rio. At that point, there is still an important battle for seeding that will take place.
The favorites in the tournament are the Italians, who won silver at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games and were the 2011 World Champions. They finished just 7th in the 2015 World League in front of a home crowd, and a spread-out qualifying system means that their bronze medal wasn’t good enough to take the one available spot (which went to silver medalists Montenegro – Serbia already had qualified as the World League champions).
Hungary, who lost to Italy in that bronze-medal match and was 5th in London, was also relegated to the qualification tournament, as was 2012 6th-place team Spain. Kazakhstan is the only other team in this tournament that played in London.
|GROUP A||GROUP B|
|A1 – RUS – Russia||B1 – ITA – Italy|
|A2 – SVK – Slovakia||B2 – RSA – South Africa|
|A3 – FRA – France||B3 – ESP – Spain|
|A4 – HUN – Hungary||B4 – NED – Netherlands|
|A5 – ROU – Romania||B5 – GER – Germany|
|A6 – CAN – Canada||B6 – KAZ – Kazakhstan|
The tournament will be held in Trieste (ITA) on April 3-10, 2016
The women’s tournament will be a brutal battle if anybody hopes to grab one of the coveted spots remaining in the Olympic tournament. Once again, the top 4 in each group will advance to a knockout stage.
What makes this group particularly challenging is that the Americas didn’t receive an automatic berth for the 2016 Olympics, nor did last year’s World Champions. That means the best team in the world in 2015, the United States, had to earn a Pan Am Games gold to even make this tournament. Americas silver medalists Canada are also in this qualification tournament.
Likewise relegated to the qualifiers is the Netherlands, who will enter the tournament with momentum: they took silver at last week’s European Championships (only one Olympic spot was available there) and play in front of a home crowd. They finished 2nd at last year’s World Championships.
In fact, all three medalists (including Italy) from the World Championships are in the qualification tournament, meaning that the top three spots will be very challenging to break. World Championships 6th-place team Greece are the favorites to join them.
|GROUP A||GROUP B|
|A1 – JPN – Japan||B1 – FRA – France|
|A2 – ESP – Spain||B2 – ITA – Italy|
|A3 – RSA – South Africa||B3 – NZL – New Zealand|
|A4 – CAN – Canada||B4 – RUS – Russia|
|A5 – GRE – Greece||B5 – CUB – Cuba|
|A6 – USA – United States of America||B6 – NED – Netherlands|
The tournament will be held in Gouda (NED) on March 21-28, 2016