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© Gertjan Kooij

USA, Australia, Netherlands, Italy in semis - Kazan day 9

Japan finishes the 2015 World Championships in 15th place. In the classification match on Monday morning in Kazan South Africa was beaten 7-15 to claim the penultimate place in the final rankings. Japan held South Africa scoreless in the first half as the African representatives had trouble finishing their chances. In an eleven-goal third quarter the South Africans managed to come on the board but saw Japan walking away even further. Goals were exchanged in the final period to raise the score even more but Japan's win and 15th place finish was ensured by then.
In the next game it was New Zealand who topped France after a close finish 7-6 to take 13th place. A nice completed run of two wins to conclude the tournament is what the New Zealand side can take home with them. And the victory over France was hard-fought. Two consecutive goals scored in the final period by the Kiwis actually turned around the score as France for three quarters looked to be underway to victory, despite the game going back and forth. In a tense final two possessions for the French the defence by New Zealand hung on and avoided a penalty shootout but instead could celebrate the win and the 13th place finish.

Hungary won a physical game over Canada 7-10 to now be playing for 9th place. Canada, now going for their worst World Championships result, actually held on quite nicely in the first half. Hungary had trouble imposing their playing style which allowed Canada to score their goals and stay close to their favourite but uninspired opponents. Thins went different in the final period, though, with score tied at 6-6. Hungary now came out in a different intensity, tightening their defence and decided the game by scoring thrice in a row. Standout once for the Magyar women was Rita Keszthelyi who scored 4 goal and looks a serious contender for the tournament top goal-scorer title. Now Hungary awaits Brazil for 9th place while Canada meets Kazakhstan to play for 11th place on Wednesday.

Brazil walked away to a controlled 5-10 win over Kazakhstan in the final match of the early session on Monday in Kazan. Thanks to simply more firing power from outside it was Brazil who grabbed hold of the contest in the second period scoring four unanswered goals as the young and little Kazakhstan side was held scoreless for the quarter. That dominance continued in the third session where Brazil could establish a decisive 7-goal advantage that even allowed them remain without a goal in the final period but still win by 5: 5-10. Izabella Chiappini once more topped Brazil's scorers list netting 3 while Anastassiya Mirshina did the same for Kazakhstan.

Quarterfinals

The highly anticipated quarterfinals of the 2015 World Championships got underway in the evening session on Monday with perhaps the biggest match-up on paper as defending champion Spain took on reigning World Cup, World League and Olympic champion USA. A world title for the Americans however last happened in 2009 in Rome, but very well could be achieved here in Kazan. Team USA put up a convinving performance, virtually shutting down the talented Spain offence in the first half to win the top match-up 5-8 and qualify for the semifinals. Key in the win, as basically always in the big games, was the defence by Team USA. Their zone shut down the passes to ever-dangerous centre forward Maica Garcia from Spain and in the first half Spain simply did not had an answer for it. Around the big break things changed for Spain when head coach Miki Oca came out with different tactics which included more movement and dynamic play which resulted in some goals as Spain suddenly looked for the comeback. But it was right there, the score at 4-5, when USA came up big in response as Kami Craig scored one for the big blow to end the third period leading 4-6. In the fourth, Maica Garcia, having a tough game, managed to score on an man-up from the left wing to put Spain back to trailing just a single goal but Rachel Fattal replied just 20 seconds later and when veteran Courtney Mathewson scored a trademark goal from the left wing on extra man with 4.26 remaining, USA looked to have decied the outcome. Spain's resistance was broken and in the final minutes no goals were scored so that in the final minute the USA bench could already start cheering on the big win over the defending champion moving on to the semifinals in the quest for a first world championships gold medal since 2009.

Netherlands caused somewhat of an upset in the second semifinal by eliminating hosts Russia for the medals. In a convincing display in the first half, the Dutch held on in the final stages of the game to beat Russia 9-10 and advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1998. The home team's main weapon, its lightening quick counter attack, was put to a hold in the first two quarters as a well-organised Netherlands defence but also offensive plan showed patience and vision. It even led to 1-4 and 2-6 scores before after the big break Russia could finally force the Dutch to more sloppy play on offence. Their earlier shooting at times was punished quickly by the Russian ladies who swam away to a comeback up until the point where Elvira Karimova levelled the score at 7-7 midway through the third quarter. At was there that the Dutch side finally managed to settle down in attack regaining the control they had throughout the first half while Russia struggled in their set play on offence. The game still got into a tense final though as the Netherlands took a two-goal lead twice in the third and final period but Russia responded, the second time through Evgeniya Ivanova who scored with just over a minute remaining reducing Russia's decifict back to single margin: 9-10. The Dutch got an excellent shot to seal the deal but could not convert as Yasemin Smit's attempt was blocked and Russia looked to have their final shot for the equaliser. Goalie Anna Karnaukh however threw the ball at teammate Anna Timofeeva who was surprised by Dutch standout Maud Megens turning around and anticipating the pass which was eventually intercepted leading to an exclusion for Timofeeva as she blocked Megen's way to a counter attack. The Netherlands played out the clock and started celebrating their almost historical semifinal berth also knowing they met the goal set before the tournament. Now the winner of Italy-Greece awaits on Wednesday.

Yasemin Smit (NED) - Captain
''One of Russia's weapons is their counter attack. We controlled that greatly in the first half but let it slip in the third quarter. And when they scored a couple of goals out of that, the nerves on offence started to grow, allowing even more. Until the point that we could settle down and be more patient in attack. I felt that from that point on we were the better team again.''

Ekaterina Prokofyeva (RUS) — Captain
“What are emotions when you lose. Total frustration. Firstly frustration at my play and how I couldn’t help the team and could have done better. We tried to fight until the end.” On being four goals down and coming back to level: “We displayed our wares so in spite of the game being lost we struggled to the end and didn’t want to be defeated.”

Yet another thriller was on display in an too empty Water Polo Arena in Kazan where Australia secured their spot in the semifinals by edging China 12-10 on penalties. Goalkeeper Lea Yanitsas was one of the heroes for the Aussie Stingers saving a penalty shot from China top scorer Guannan Niu followed by hits from her team-mates Bronte Halligan and Zoe Arancini to decide the outcome in their favour. It marked the positive end to a tough game for the Australian women. China actually had the better of the score from the beginning and proved hard to be overtaken. Active helping defence and standout goalkeeper Jun Yang caused Australia trouble throughout. It was not until late in the third quarter that the Stingers finally managed to level after Rowie Webster converted a penalty shot for the 6-6 score. China shooter Donglun Song was the first to strike again for the Chinese with just 4.50 to play in the game but Glennie McGhie quickly responded on the other end scoring on the acounter just twenty seconds after. Both teams pushed for the win but sloppy play and tight defences prevented each side from scoring a pontential winner. The best of opportunities even came for China but they could not fire in the final seconds of regulation so that a penalty shootout had to decide the outcome. Here one save by goalie Yanitsas proved enough for the victory as the Stingers five penalty takers all hit so that now USA is up next in a huge semifinal on Wednesday.

Greg McFadden (AUS) — Head Coach
“I was pretty disappointed in our performance. Credit to China, they played fantastic. Our extra-man defence was terrible. Our extra-man offence was terrible.” On the shootout: “You’re never confident. It’s a lottery. It’s terrible to lose a game like that.” On scoring all five goals in a shootout under his tenure: “Probably not. All the girls stepped up — Bronte Halligan and Zoe Arancini, it was gutsy to take the last shot and she blew it away.”
 
Rick Azevedo (USA) — China Head Coach
“It was a good game. We played Australia seven times this year and the first was a nine-goal loss. Today we tied so that’s progress. We made a couple of mistakes in the third period that I am not happy with.” On the shootout: “Both teams are good shooters so when it gets to a shootout, just let’s get the ball wet.”

Italy was the final side to join the semifinalists of the 2015 World Championships as they held off Greece in one of two all-European quarterfinals in Kazan on Monday. Stellar defence and standout captain Tania di Mario lifted the Italians over the tactical Greek who fell behind in the second period, managed to come back to utterly close distance for two times in the second and third session but ultimately had to let the 2012 European champion Italy go in the second half of the third period in which Federica Radicchi and Roberta Bianconi scored two beautiful goals for the 7-4 lead. However the Greek still weren't done as leftie Stefanie Charalampidi scored twice in the third and final quarter, Italy's response didn't took long. And it was captain Tania di Mario who struck first scoring with under 7 minutes remaining in the match for the final blow, especially after less than a minute later Arianna Garibotti scored for the 9-6 score. Despite that still 6 minutes were to be played, the Greek resistance looked broken as the solid Italian defence remained perfect in the final minutes. Italy wasn't lucky in attack either but knew the victory was at hand and now the Netherlands are the next opponents, on Wednesday.

Fabio Conti (ITA) — Head Coach
“I’m happy with the result, not so happy with how we played. We made different mistakes and on six on five. My players feel so much this game. Every year we play Greece in some important match. Now we have the important games of the World Championships. Congratulations to Greece because every times they are a strong team.”

Georgios Morfesis (GRE) — Head Coach

“It was not good this game. We didn’t find solutions in offence. We didn’t have the patience and Italy was better. I think we had a good tournament up until now. I’ll have to make sure we continue to get the highest we can in this tournament.” On the main point for the loss:  “We had no clear mind on offence.”


2015 FINA World Championships
Kazan (RUS)

Quarterfinal round


Monday, 3 August (women)


South Africa (L W25) vs. Japan (L W26) 7-15 (0-2, 0-2, 3-8, 4-3) - W31 (15th/16th place classification)
South Africa scorers: Kelsey White 2, Ruby Versfeld, Megan Schooling, Amica Hallendorff, Kimberly Kay, Deborah O'Hanlon.

Japan scorers: Yumi Nakano 4, Chiaki Sakanoue 2, Ayaka Takahashi 2, Mitsuki Hashiguchi 2, Tsubasa Mori 2, Moe Nakata, KanaHosoya, Marina Tokumoto.



New Zealand (W W25) vs. France (W W26) 7-6 (1-2, 3-2, 1-2, 2-0) - W32 (13th/14th place classification)
New Zealand scorers: Jasmine Myles 2, Sarah Pattison, Danielle Lewis, Sarah Landry, Caitlin Lopes da Silva, Liana Dance.

France scorers: Estelle Millot 2, Marion Tardy 2, Louise Guillet, Geraldine Mahieu.



Canada (L W27) vs. Hungary (L W29) 7-10 (1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 1-4)
- W33
Canada scorers: Emma Wright 2, Monika Eggens, Joelle Bekhazi, Carmen Eggens, Christine Robinson, Stephanie Valin.

Hungary scorers: Rita Keszthelyi 4, Dora Kisteleki 2, Barbara Bujka 2, Gabriella Szücs, Anna Illes.



Kazakhstan (L W28) vs. Brazil 5-10 (1-2, 0-4, 2-4, 2-0) (L W30) - W34
Kazakhstan scorers: Anastassiya Mirshina 3, Anna Turova, Oxana Saichuk.

Brazil scorers: Izabella Chiappini 3, Melani Dias 2, Marina Zablith, Mariana Duarte, Amanda Oliveira, Viviane Bahia, Gabriela Mantellato.



Spain (1A) vs. USA (W W29) 5-8 (0-2, 2-3, 2-1, 1-2) - W35
Spain scorers: Anni Espar 2, Paula Leiton, Judith Forca, Maica Garcia.

USA scorers: Rachel Fattal 2, Kiley Neushul 2, Maggie Steffens, Courtney Mathewson, Kaleigh Gilchrist, Kami Craig.

Russia (1D) vs. Netherlands (W W28) 9-10 (1-4, 4-3, 2-1, 2-2) - W38
Russia scorers: Evgeniya Ivanova 3, Elvina Karimova 3, Ekaterina Prokofyeva 2, Ekaterina Lisunova.

Netherlands scorers: Maud Megens 3, Lieke Klaassen 3, Sabrina van der Sloot 2, Yasemin Smit, Marloes Nijhuis.



Australia (1B) vs. China (W W30) 12-10 (2-3, 0-1, 4-2, 1-1; penalties: 5-3) - W36
Australia scorers: Hannah Buckling, Bronwen Knox, Rowie Webster, Glennie McGhie, Zoe Arancini, Ashleigh Southern, Bronte Halligan.

China scorers: Donglun Song 2, Zihan Zhao 2, Guannan Niu, Weiwei Zhang, Xinyan Wang.



Italy (1C) vs. Greece (W W27) 9-6 (1-0, 3-3, 3-2, 2-1)  - W37
Italy scorers: Tania di Mario 4, Arianna Garibotti 2, Roberta Bianconi 2, Federica Radicchi.

Greece scorers: Stefania Charalampidi 3, Christina Kotsia, Alexandra Asimaki, Triantafyllia Manolioudaki.




Quarterfinal round

Tuesday, 4 August (men)

09.30: China (L M25) vs. Argentina (L M26) - M31 (15th/16th place classification)
10.50: Russia (W M25) vs. Japan (W M26) - M32 (13th/14th place classification)
12.10: Canada (L M27) vs. Kazakhstan (L M29) - M33
13.30: Brazil (L M28) vs. South Africa (L M30) - M34

17.30: Croatia (1A) vs. Montenegro (W M29) - M35
18.50: Greece (1B) vs. Australia (W M30) - M36
20.10: Hungary (1C) vs. Italy (W M27) - M37
21.30: Serbia (1D) vs. USA (W M28) - M38

Semifinal round

Wednesday, 5 August (women)


10.50: L W33 vs. L W34 - W39 (11th/12th place classification)
12.10: W W33 vs. W W34 - W40 (9th/10th place classification)

15.30: Spain (L W35) vs. China (L W36) - W41
17.00: Greece (L W37) vs. Russia (L W38) - W42
20.15: USA (W W35) vs. Australia (W W36) - W43
21.45: Italy (W W37) vs. Netherlands (W W38) - W44

N.b.: time mentioned is local time.

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