© Marcel ter Bals

USA, Netherlands in the final - Kazan day 11

Canada has concluded the 2015 World Championships by cruising past Kazakhstan 20-4 to finish in 11th place. The result marks Canada's worst finish at world championships. On the positive note, the tournament was finished with an easy win topping the previous result between the two teams, on day 2 of the championships, when Canada triumphed 17-4. Like then the small Kazakhstan ladies could also not cope with the bigger, physical Canadian women on Wednesday morning. It led to a struggle on offence for Kazakhstan who saw Canada racing away for the easy victory on either turnover by the Asian represenatives or shot that could easily be saved. Monika Eggens used the big win to make a legitimate shot at finishing the tournament's top goal-scorers ranking top 3 having finished with 16 goals. Sister Carmen Eggens added her part going 4 for 4.

The following match saw Hungary grabbing 9th place concluding their 2015 world championships with a runout 22-7 win over Brazil. The Magyar side's final ranking shows the inconsistency of the team who also finished 9th at the 2011 world championships but made it to 3rd in Barcelona 2 years ago before now falling to 9th again. Story of the day was the active Rita Keszthelyi who was obviously making a push to claim the tournament's top goal-scorer trophy which she is likely to get after swimming away to a game-high 5 goals to finish with a total of 21. Not only Keszthelyi was strikingly active, so were her team-mates who looked determine to push the score to at least 20 pressing hard on the Brazilian girls before running out on the quick counterattacks throughout the match. It led to Dora Czigany, Barbara Bujka and Dora Kisteleki adding 4 goals each to the victory.

The dissapointment for the defending champion is not over, yet. Spain lost the 5th-8th place classification semifinal against China by just a single goal (9-10) and will now play for 7th place on Friday. The Chinese team got away from Spain in the third period after a well-balanced first half. Finally in the third period China could establish a 2-goal lead that would set the tone for a second half in which China got up to 2, and even 3 goals in the 4th quarter, while Spain fought hard to get back and overcome that deficit which proved to be too hard in the end. After one of the standouts of the tournament for China, Donglun Sun, got China up 7-10 from outside with 5 minutes to play, Spainish head coach Miki Oca tried to ignite a rally for the little comeback in the final minutes. It led to several kickouts for China on defence but only on the third ocassion could Spain score, through lefty Judith Forca. Her next attempt was saved by China goalkeeper Jun Yang, who looked good yet another time, but had to concede one more goal. Again Forca was successful on man-up but time became an other opponent as just 1.40 were remaining in the match. As the China defence tightened and worked, Spain couldn't even force anymore but instead saw centre forward Paula Leiton being excluded. China's Weiwei Zhang missed but in the final minute China held on despite shots from Forca and Roser Tarrago, which were both saved. Now the Rick Azevedo coached side will play for 5th place on Friday while Spain awaits either Greece or Russia for 7th place.

A close match was on display in Kazan in the fourth encounter on Wednesday. Here home team Russia overcame an early 4-0 deficit but ultimately fell to Greece on penalties 16-15. A bitter loss, the Russian ladies fought hard to overcome their slow start and looked to succeed as they grabbed the lead in the second period on an incredible 0-6 run. It typed the back-and-forth game this was as came back nicely in the third period after some tactical instruction from head coach Georgios Morfesis. The zone defence by the Greek troubled Russia who were kept away far from goal while the Greek offence started to work as the game got closer and closer. Tied at 7-7, it was Russia's Evgeniya Ivanova who scored twice in row getting the home team up 7-9. Greece responded through young Margerita Plevritou from outside, but the Russian ladies pushed through in early stages of the final period. Evgeniiya Abdriziakova, Ekaterina Prokofyeva and Ivanova again scored straight to get Russia leading 8-12 with just under 5 minutes remaining in what looked to have become a certain win. Perhaps they thought so themselves as Greece could start a late comeback in the 4 remaining minutes. There a variety of goals not only displayed the different options of the Greek attack, from an outside shot by veteran Antigoni Roumpesi to a strong centre-forward goal by back-up Eleni Xenaki got the score to just 11-12 with still 2 minutes to go. Chances on either side could not be converted. Up until the very last seconds... Ivanova got excluded and Alkisti Avramidou saved the day for Greece tying the score with just a single second on the clock. Prokofyeva tried a desperate long-range final attempt but that was saved easily so a penalty shootout was to determine the winner. Here, Greece veteran Christina Tsoukala was the first to miss hitting the upright on her attempt but Russia could not cheer just yet as they eventualy missed the final two attempts of the first series, including the decisive last one by Tatiana Zubkova, saved by Eleni Kouvdou as Greece upset the home team and home crowd and will now play for 5th place facing China on Friday.


USA was the first to make it to the final of the 2015 World Championships, their 5th in team history, after beating Australia 8-6 in the semifinal on Wednesday. A balanced attack and strong team defence, established more and more as the game went on, forced a turnaround, domination of the score in the second half and an eventual victory over the Aussie Stingers for the Americans.

The game got off to an expected balanced start, despite Australia drawing multiple kickouts but only scoring once on extra man as Keesje Gofers converted. On the other end centre forward Kami Craig made quick work to score and after Maddie Musselman did later in the quarter, the teams were tied 2-2 at quarter time. It continued in the second period as Nicola Zagame tipped in a nice man-up on the post for Australia while USA had trouble coping with the Stingers' left-side zone defence. The Americans however tried to compensate by swimming their counter attacks even more fierce and had success by drawing exclusion and first, Maggie Steffens scoring from the right wing to tie the score 3-3 halfway through the 2nd session. And they even got up on another counter as Mackenzie Fischer drove down the left wing and finished for Team USA. Austrlia's response didn't last long as Ash Southern got the to the centre-forward position and swinged one at USA goalie Ashleigh Johnson for the equaliser. As back and forth as the game went it was Australia who got up in front again as Glencora McGhie got too much space fromthe USA zone defence, to hit from outside with over 2 minutes remaining in the first half. The shots for USA weren't falling in the final minutes hitting the post ones and missing a couple of others while the American defence starting to work better leaving the Australia centre forwards without a pass to receive while outside shots weren't much taken by the Aussies before USA ran a set play in the final seconds to see Rachel Fattal score at the buzzer to level the score at 5-5 at half-time.

The third period saw both organisation being established even better. Goals became harder to score and it was Maggie Steffens who broke the deadlock by driving and receiving the pass for the goal to get her team leading 6-5 halfway through the third quarter. The Aussies meanwhile kept having trouble even getting decent shots of against the active American defence. A man-up finally drawn after 5 minutes led to a turnover as Rowie Webster's posession was stripped by the returning USA player onto the pitch. A second extra man was missed by Ash Southern whose shot smuttered in the defensive blocks but USA couldn't convert in the following posession on man-up which led to a turnover, also due to fierce defending. And with both teams unable to score in the final minutes, the teams went into the final 8 minutes with a 6-5 score in favour of USA. That period was kicked off beautifully by Rachel Fattal who fired home a long-range shot from the left side in the very first posession as Team USA took a 7-5 lead. An important advantage as the minutes ticked away with Australia kept having trouble coming close to the goal of goalie Johnson. Instead the shots from outside, often well-deflected, were an easy target to save. A big blow followed with under 3 minutes remaining as Melissa Seidemann fired a shot from way out at the end of the 30 seconds attacking time which went in via Aussie goalie Lea Yanitsas as USA now led 8-5. Australia head coach Greg McFadden took a timeout and run a set play that got the Aussies a penalty shot but Zoe Arancini's attempt was saved by Johnson. The American goalkeeper continued her impressive play in the following posession denying Gemma Beadsworth scoring from the left side. Arancini eventually got Johnson to capatalise though scoring on man-up from the left wing after quick passing. Time however ran out on the Aussies who saw USA playing out the clock. And when standout Johnson saved a late Ash Southern attempt, the victory and finals berth for USA was secured. Opponent for the Adam Krikorian coached side will be either Italy or the Netherlands, who will play the second semifinal.

Adam Krikorian (USA) — Head Coach
On what led to the win: “Our defence in the second half. We made some adjustments at halftime as we were out of sorts in the first half. All credit to Australia for this. For us to hold them to one goal in the second half is fantastic.” On the pressure of being a favourite for the title: “Pressure is a privilege, you must be doing something right. You have to put yourself in a position to be successful. We lost to Italy and I think they are playing the best in the tournament. We know it will be extremely hard (final) and Holland is just getting better. It will be a tough final.”

Rachel Fattal (USA) — Two Goals
I think we played very good in defence We talked about it before the game and being able to use our counter and set up our offence.” On knowing Australia so well: “It’s good to know who we play, their tendencies and such. It’s good and bad. We don’t want to become too comfortable. I love playing them because they always give us a good game.”

Bronwen Knox (AUS) — Captain
“In the second half we made some individual mistakes. We worked hard on defence and then individual areas let us down. There were also missed opportunities in attack.” On the word from the coach before the match: “We were looking for desperation in defence. Gradually our lapses gave them goals, some easy goals, especially the one just before halftime. It was annoying.”

The next semifinal up saw Italy taking on the Netherlands. In the first quarter the balance of the match became quickly visible. The Dutch ran a defence that proved a hard nut to crack for Italy who only saw a handful of extra-man situations being the best possibilities to score but were denied all times by young debuting Netherlands goalkeeper Laura Aarts. On the other end the Netherlands came out swimming fast counter attacks and through two opportunities scored twice as Sabrina van der Sloot and Maud Megens got on the scoreboard for the 0-2 lead at quarter time. The offensive problems continued in the second period for Italy. The active Dutch zone defence did let some room in the '2nd line' but several Italian shots from outside were either saved by goalie Aarts, hit the crossbar or simply missed target. As the Netherlands on offence was also running into the usual well-organised Italian defence, it took 5 minutes to break the deadlock. It was done by Maud Megens who finished a man-up after she had drawn it herself. And Megens continued her stellar play by scoring a back-handed centre-forward goal after a quick drive with over a minute remaining in the first half. Italy finally came on the board with half a minute to be played in the 2nd quarter as Federica Radicchi saw a deflected shot from outside getting past Aarts. But there was Megens again. The standout of the first half didn't hasitate on a free throw and blew it past Italian goalkeeper Gorlero, her 3rd goal already, for the 1-5 score at half-time, as the Netherlands looked well underway to writing history as a possible finals berth would be the first at world championships since the 1998 edition in Perth where the Dutch finished 2nd.

The scenario looked to be continued in the third period. Both defences were well established and made life hard for the opposing teams. Italy got two more man-ups but were denied by the active Dutch defence again. The deadlock this time lasted for almost the entire quarter before Arianna Garibotti scored from outside for the 2-5 score. But a further comeback was denied. A minute later, Garibotti saw her shot flying past the Dutch goal to let down another chance for the Setterosa on man-up. With the score at 2-5 before the final period started, Italy's chances of an upset got smaller and smaller. A surge could be expected of the Fabio Conti coached side and came in the final period. The Italian women started to swim their counter attacks faster, played more physical and tightened the defence, for as much as possible. It led to an early goal by Ferica Radicchi who blasted an outside shot as Italy came back to 3-5 with 6 minutes to play. The Netherlands struggled on the other end on set plays. A turnaround could be in the making and certainly got more form a minute later as an exclusion for Yasemin Smit was quickly finished off by Elisa Querilo as now the deficit for the Italians was just a single goal: 4-5 with over 3 minutes to go. What was occuring got confirmed now as the momentum was in Italy's hands and got rewarded by Rosaria Aiello after a wasted man-up for Italy scoring a centre-forward goal to tie the teams at 5-5. A thrilling finish was up at hand as just 2.30 minutes were to be played. Either teams got their shots to glory but several outside shots could be saved or flew past the goals. Italy got the best oppertunity drawing an extra man but could not score either as the score was leveled 5-5 at the end of regulation so a shootout was to decide this thriller.

The shootout was nail-biting on itself. Both Italian goalies rose to the ocassion as shots by Dagmar Genee and standout Maud Megens were saved. But as young Dutch goalkeeper Laura Aarts, in just her 3nd major international start, came up big as well by denying Emmolo and Radicchi the scoring. Aarts went on to even decide the shootout when the sudden-death phase entered. Here Lieke Klaassen and Sabrina van der Sloot hit for the Netherlands, and captain Di Mario did for Italy before lefty Emmolo had to take another shot. And again Aarts saved it, ending the series and winning the match for the Dutch side who advances to the final for the first time since 1998, playing USA on Friday.

Arno Havenga (NED) - Head Coach
''Our first two quarters were simply phenomenal. But in the second half the basic problem was te score. I believe that if we had done that in the third, we could have decided the game by then but instead, playing a smart team as Italy, it hurts you in the end. But the girls have showed great resillience. And as we had prepared possible penalties very well, we knew that even in a shootout we had very good chances to win. Even this morning I got a tape of the penalty series Russia-Italy at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, so we were aware of what was coming by the time the shootout started. Now USA in the final. A very, very good team. But we will be prepared. My team is gaining confidence every match this tournament so far and we'll see how good we are on Friday.''

Fabio Conti (ITA) — Head Coach
“We were no good in the first half of the game and we didn’t start faster like other games. In the second half I liked the energy of my team and arrived at the last quarter in a more interesting position. The penalty shootout is a lottery. I just want to see a glass full and not half empty.”

2015 FINA World Championships
Kazan (RUS)

Semifinal round

Wednesday, 5 August (women)

Canada (L W33) vs. Kazakhstan (L W34) 20-4 (4-1, 5-1, 5-2, 6-0) - W39 (11th/12th place classification)
Canada scorers: Monika Eggens 5, Carmen Eggens 4, Shae Fournier 3, Christine Robinson 2, Stephanie Valin 2, Krystina Alogbo, Emma Wright, Joelle Bekhazi, Dominique Perreault.

Kazakhstan scorers: Anastassiya Mirshina 2, Aizhan Akilbayeva, Anna Turova.

Hungary (W W33) vs. Brazil (W W34) 22-7 (5-2, 6-2, 6-0, 5-3)  - W40 (9th/10th place classification)
Hungary scorers: Rita Keszthelyi 5, Dora Czigany 4, Barbara Bujka 4, Dora Kisteleki 4, Dora Antal 2, Gabriella Szücs, Orsolya Takacs, Krisztina Garda.

Brazil scorers: Marina Zablith 2, Izabella Chiappini 2, Amanda Oliveira, Melani Dias, Gabriela Mantellato.

Spain (L W35) vs. China (L W36) 9-10 (3-3, 2-1, 2-4, 2-2) - W41
Spain scorers: Judith Forca 3, Laura Lopez 2, Anna Espar, Jennifer Pareja, Roser Tarrago, Maica Garcia.

China scorers: Donglun Sun 4, Zihan Zhao 4, Xiaohan Mei, Dunhan Xiong.

Greece (L W37) vs. Russia (L W38) 16-15 (4-3, 1-4, 3-2, 4-3; penalties: 4-3) - W42
Greece scorers: Antigoni Roumpesi 3, Christina Tsoukala 2, Stefania Charalampidi, Margarita Plevritou, Alkisti Avramidou, Alexandra Asimaki, Triantafyllia Manolioudaki, Eleftheria Plevritou.

Russia scorers: Evgeniya Ivanova 4, Ekaterina Lisunova 3, Ekaterina Prokofyeva 2, Elvina Karimova, Evgeniia Abdriziakova, Anna Timofeeva.

USA (W W35) vs. Australia (W W36) 8-6 (2-2, 3-3, 1-0, 2-1) - W43
USA scorers: Rachel Fattal 2, Maggie Steffens 2, Maddie Musselman, Melissa Seidemann, Makenzie Fischer, Kami Craig.

Australia scorers: Holly Lincoln-Smith, Keesja Gofers, Glencora McGhie, Zoe Arancini, Nicola Zagame.

Italy (W W37) vs. Netherlands (W W38) 9-10 (0-2, 1-3, 1-0, 3-0; penalties: 4-5) - W44
Italy scorers: Federica Radicchi 2, Arianna Garibotti, Elisa Queirolo, Rosaria Aiello.

Netherlands scorers: Maud Megens 4, Sabrina van der Sloot.

Semifinal round

Thursday, 6 August (men)

10.50: Kazakhstan (L M33) vs. South Africa (L M34) - M39 (11th/12th place classification)
12.10: Canada (W M33) vs. Brazil (W M34) - M40 (9th/10th place classification)

15.30: Montenegro (L M35) vs. Australia (L M36) - M41
17.00: Hungary (L M37) vs. USA (L M38) - M42
20.30: Croatia (W M35) vs. Greece (W M36) - M43
22.00: Italy (W M37) vs. Serbia (W M38) - M44

Final round

Friday, 7 August (women)

14.00: Spain (L W41) vs. Russia (L W42) - W45 (7th/8th place classification)
15.30: China (W W41) vs. Greece (W W42) - W46 (5th/6th place classification)

20.30: Australia (L W43) vs. Italy (L W44) - W47 (3rd/4th place classification)
22.00: USA (W W43) vs. Netherlands (W W44) - W48 (1st/2nd place classification)

N.b.: time mentioned is local time.

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