Italy claimed its first FINA World League Super Final crown after beating United States of America 13-9 in the gold-medal final in Strasbourg, France on Wednesday. The gold medal goes alongside three silvers and a bronze, completing the set in what was the 20th edition of the event inaugurated in 2002. For USA, it was consecutive gold-medal losses and a fourth silver medal. World champion Spain took the bronze medal with an 11-8 margin over host France. Serbia beat Montenegro 8-6 for fifth position and Australia downed Canada 13-9 for seventh classification.
2. United States of America
16 Giacomo Cannella (ITA)
15 Alberto Barroso (ITA)
15 Alex Bowen (USA)
14 Maxwell Irving (USA)
14 Luke Pavillard (AUS)
14 Thomas Vernoux (FRA)
13 Ugo Crousillat (FRA)
13 Reuel D’Souza (CAN)
13 Dorde Vucinic (SRB)
12 Kanstantsin Averka (MNE)
12 Hannes Daube (USA)
12 Edoardo Di Somma (ITA)
12 Mehdi Marzouki (FRA)
Best Goalkeeper: Hugo Fontani (FRA)
Most Valuable Player: Giacomo Cannella (ITA)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 9 ITALY 13
Italy saved its best water polo until last, winning by four goals after being seven ahead at one stage. It was a sublime performance and carried on from the silver medal at the FINA World Championships earlier this month. While it opened the scoring, USA went 2-1 up by quarter time. Italy levelled and USA again took the lead through Ben Hallock on extra-man attack with a near-post turn. Italy sent in two for the 4-43 lead and Jacob Ehrhardt equalised with a lob shot 19 seconds from the turn. Three unanswered goals by Italy transformed the match with Hannes Daube scoring from the left for 7-5. In what seemed the blink of an eye, Italy raised the scoreboard to 12-5 at 5:56 in the last quarter and then settled into a winning format. USA came back with four straight, including a hat-trick to Alex Bowen in two minutes. Nicholas Presciutti had the honour of the tournament’s final goal from the top on extra-man for a commanding 13-9 outing.
Luca Damonte shined through with three goals in the third period that took his team five ahead. Giacomo Cannella, the tournament’s highest scorer with 16 goals, gained three of those in the first half.
The three-goal assault at the top of the third period, breaking the 4-4 halftime deadlock. Then came a five-goal blast from midway in the third until nearly midway in the fourth, that had the Italian advantage out to seven.
Stats don’t Lie
Italy shot 32 times to USA’s 23. Italy converted six from nine on six-on-five attack and USA a more economical five from six.
Finally winning a Super Final is something that Italy will cherish, filling the gap in the cabinet. It was fourth in Tbilisi, Georgia last year and second in its previous appearance before that in 2017. USA was second last year and now has the dubious honour of the most silver medals behind Hungary, which has five. USA also has a bronze, but the gold medal eludes it. While Cannella was Italy’s best scorer, USA’s Bowen finished in second-equal spot with 15.
History was created when Diana Dutilh Dumas (NED) officiated the final with Nenad Peris (CRO). She became the first woman to referee a senior men’s FINA final. She previously refereed the women’s final at Budapest 2017. Peris is no stranger to major events, refereeing the women’s final at Tokyo 2020, the 2021 men’s Super Final finale last year and the 2019 women’s final in Gwangju, South Korea.
FRANCE 8 SPAIN 11
World champion Spain had to settle for bronze and was made to work by a dogged French team that impressed with its play during the week and reaching a medal final for the first time. Spain started the scoring and France levelled at one, two and three by the quarter buzzer. Spain lifted to 5-3 at halftime and 9-6 by the final break, going 10-6 ahead at the start of the fourth and onward to victory.
Hugo Fontani, named the tournament’s best goalkeeper, dragged down 14 shots, finishing a fantastic week for him and coming so close to a medal. Spain’s best was big centre forward Roger Tahull who scored three goals, one on extra, another with a backhand and the third from two metres when heavily guarded.
Three two-goal bursts — in the second quarter, third and either side of the final break.
Stats don’t Lie
Spain shot 37 times and France only 24. Spain scored four from seven on extra-man attack and France was none from three. Spain converted its three penalty attempts and France one. No further explanations needed.
Spain was unlucky not to make the final, but glad to be at the Super Final, having finished fourth at its last outing in 2019. Spain now has three silvers and two bronzes from nine visits to the big stage. France stepped up from seventh place in 2021 and sixth in its only other appearance in 2006. Spain’s top shooter was Alberto Barroso with 15 goals and France’s Ugo Crousillat netted 13.
MONTENEGRO 6 SERBIA 8
Serbia turned the tables on Montenegro who won the first-day encounter 16-8. It was a solid effort built on a 2-0 opening quarter and managing to hold on to a 3-2 halftime advantage. Thanks to three goals to Dorde Vucinic — who hit the post on his first-quarter penalty attempt — Serbia led 5-2. Then Dusan Matkovic scored either side of the long break for 5-4 down. Two Serbian strikes had the margin back to three at 5:33. Goals were traded for 8-5 by 4:45 and it was not until 11 seconds from time that the next goal came via Stefan Vidovic on the deep left on extra-man attack.
Vucinic took out the MVP honours with his triple, while Montenegrin goalkeeper Lazar Andric enjoyed his turn in the cage with 13 saves.
Vucinic’s three goals straddling the first break that took the match from 2-2 to 5-2, a margin Montenegro could not bridge.
Stats don’t Lie
Serbia shot 32 times compared to Montenegro’s low 20. Serbia made 10 steals to five, another telling statistic. On the extra-man-attack front, Serbia converted five from 10 and Montenegro four from 10.
Serbia is on the rebuild and finds itself unaccustomed to fifth place after 10 titles. However, this is a completely new line-up and the team will be strengthened come September’s European Championships. Montenegro will be unhappy at losing its title, but a year after the Olympics is a huge rebuilding phase for all teams. Montenegro’s best match was probably the shootout loss to Spain in the group stage. Vucinic was the leading Serbia scorer with 13 goals and Montenegrin Kanstantsin Averka netted 12.
AUSTRALIA 13 CANADA 9
Australia was returning from the wilderness and Covid restrictions after winning bronze in 2019. However, today it was the battle of the Commonwealth teams, and Australia was looking for a second victory after downing Montenegro on day two. Canada was winless and after a first victory. It was not to be as the Aussie Sharks led 3-1, 4-3 and 10-6 at the breaks, finishing 13-9 with the last goal coming from international newcomer Matthew Oberman — his first international goal — son of dual Olympian Mark Oberman and nephew of the Aussie Stingers women’s head coach, Paul Oberman, also an Olympian. Canada levelled at three, four, five and six, but gave up four unanswered goals in the third, which proved expensive.
Charlie Negus scored pairs in the first and third periods for four goals to gain the MVP award. Captain Blake Edwards chimed in with three more. Goalkeeper John Hedges was given a full match and produced a superb 13 saves. Reuel D’Souza was the Canadian standout with four goals — the first two and then the last two for his team.
The four-goal surge in the third period that took the match beyond Canada’s reach after drawing level at six and then watching in horror as the three-quarter finish showed 10-6 on the scoreboard.
Stats don’t Lie
Australia had the better of the extra-man count at four from seven to Canada’s excellent three from four.
Australia, a three-time World League bronze medallist, produced an interesting week, arriving at Wednesday after losing to Spain by three, beating Montenegro by one, losing to Serbia 14-7, losing 12-11 to USA in the quarter-finals and then to Montenegro 9-6. Canada went six straight with its best a 15-13 loss to USA. Leading scorers were Luke Pavillard (AUS) with 14 goals and D’Souza with 13. Canada’s previous Super Final outing with also eighth, in 2019.