Courtesy: World Aquatics
While the four best teams in the world will battle for supremacy and bragging rights, the second-tier four best teams — on current form — will play for the final two Division I spots in the World Aquatics Women’s Water Polo World Cup finals series in Long Beach, United States of America when they clash in Athens, Greece this week. The top four have already qualified while Spain, Greece, Australia and China will determine which two nations will also qualify for the finals.
There is a chasm being created between the top four women’s water polo teams and the rest. However, it could be said that before this year is out, about 10 nations could be touted as possible Olympic champions such is the closeness of competition on the day. Paris 2024 looms large in everyone’s minds and coaches are eagerly seeking the right combinations as a never-seen-before year of international competition unravels.
Not only is there the restructured World Cup; we have the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan this July and then again in Doha, Qatar next year before Paris 2024. The Europeans have their championships later this year; the Asians will compete in the Asian Games in September-October; and the American nations will contest the Pan American Games in October-November.Nations outside these realms will need to find adequate competition to keep up their skills.Netherlands, USA, Hungary and Italy are the four leading nations and they will compete in Group I in Athens, carrying through their points from the first round in Rotterdam, Netherlands last week. Netherlands won three straight for nine points, USA had a shootout loss and has seven points while Hungary and Italy emerged with two wins each for six points.
In the second tier, Spain brings with it a valuable five points and almost certain qualification; Greece is in the box seat with three points and Australia and China have zero points from three losses each, thus needing a super showing to leapfrog the top two.All teams have had a beneficial start to the season with such high-level competition in Rotterdam and the quality of play is expected to rise further in Athens. Greece, in particular, will be looking for some home-town 2004 magic when the national team collected silver at those Olympic Games.
All eyes will be on Olympic, World and World Cup champion USA and if it can go through undefeated, considering its rare loss last week.There are three days of competition, starting Wednesday, with final positions determining rankings for the June finals in Long Beach.With the top four decided and the fifth and sixth places qualifying this week, the last two places will come from the Division II tournament in Berlin, Germany early next month.
14:00, Group 2, Spain v Australia
16:00, Group 1, Netherlands v Italy
18:00, Group 2, Greece v China
20:00, Group 1, USA v Hungary
14:00, Group 2, Spain v China
16:00, Group 1, Netherlands v Hungary
18:00, Group 2, Greece v Australia
20:00, Group 1, USA v Italy
14:00, Group 2, Australia v China
16:00, Group 1, Netherlands v USA
18:00, Group 2, Greece v Spain
20:00, Group 1, Hungary v Italy
Group 1: Netherlands 9, USA 7, Hungary 6, Italy 6.
Group 2: Spain 5, Greece 3, Australia 0, China 0