USA Women’s Water Polo Looks to Three-Peat at World Championships

World Aquatics Championships – Women’s Water Polo

The women’s water polo field at the 2019 World Aquatics Championship is made up of 16 teams, six from Europe, four from Asia, three from the Americas, two from the Oceania region and one from Africa.

The teams have been divided into four pools of four teams each. The winner of each pool will earn a free pass to the quarterfinals. The second and third place teams from each pool will move on to the playoff round with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals.

The draw was held on April 9, 2019.

The Field

Headlining the field is the two-time reigning Olympic and two-time reigning World Championships from the United States. All told, the USA has collected five FINA World Championship titles in women’s water polo (2003, 2007, 2009, 2015 and 2017). The Americans are playing for a repeat, although the team already punched its ticket to the 2020 Olympics by winning gold at the FINA World League Super Final in June.

The Americans announced their roster, including 10 members of the 2017 Worlds team and nine who played at the 2016 Olympics. Maddie Musselman, who was tabbed as MVP of the World League Super Final last month as well as of the 2017 Worlds, is among the 13-member roster.

Spain and Russia rounded out the podium at the 2017 World Championships, with the USA topping Spain 13-6 in the final. Meanwhile, Russia bested Canada 11-9 for the bronze.

Italy was runnerup to the Americans at the World League Super Final, followed by Russia, the Netherlands, Australia, Hungary, Canada and China.

Group A

The Americans are the favorite in the group, but must face an unpredictable Dutch side, which struggled (finishing ninth) at the 2017 World Championships, but two years later are now the reigning European champs.

  • South Africa – finished 16th at the 2017 World Championships
  • New Zealand – finished 12th at the 2017 Worlds
  • Netherlands – finished ninth at the 2017 Worlds, reigning European champions
  • United States – won fifth World Championship title in 2017; reigning Olympic champion; earned 2020 Olympics berth with World League Super Final win in June 2019

Group B

The “Group of Death” features the third, fourth and fifth place teams from the 2017 World Championships in Russia, Canada and Hungary. As a result of this group, at least one team that is a medal contender is going to have to really dig out of a hole in the elimination stages.

  • Canada – finished fourth in 2017
  • Hungary – finished fifth in 2017; fourth place at the 2016 Olympics
  • South Korea – earned berth at host nation
  • Russia – finished third in 2017; won bronze at the 2016 Olympics

Group C

2017 Worlds silver medalists Spain should have an easy road in the group, although international upstart Cuba is a bit of an unknown. Spain was upset by Greece in the European semifinals last season, though, so they can’t be too lackadaisical in the opening round. Kazakhstan, which placed 15th, round out the group.

  • Cuba
  • Greece – finished seventh in 2017
  • Kazakhstan – finished 15th in 2017
  • Spain – finished second in 2017

Group D

Italy was fifth at the last World Championships, while Australia was eighth followed by China (10th) and Japan (13th). This group is full of unpredictable teams that at their best are top five in the world, but at their worst are losing in blowouts to top five teams in the world.

  • Japan – finished 13th in 2017
  • Italy – finished sixth in 2017; runnerup at the 2016 Olympics; most recently finished sixth at the European Championships in 2018
  • China – finished 10th in 2017
  • Australia – finished eighth in 2017

Players to Watch

Italy’s Roberta Bianconi was the top goal scorer of the 2017 Worlds with 20. Joining Bianconi and Musselman on the All-Star team were: goalkeeper Laura Ester and center forward Paula Leiton from Spain, Monika Eggens from Canada, Rachel Fattal from the USA and Rita Keszthelyi from Hungary.

Joining Bianconi atop the goal ledger was Eggens (18), Australia’s Rowie Webster (17), Musselman (16), Keszthelyi (16) and Spain’s Bea Ortiz (16), Fattal (14), Australia’s Keesja Gofers (14), Japan’s Yumi Arima (14) and the Netherlands’ Sabrina van der Sloot (14).

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