USA edges Netherlands to win women's final - Kazan day 13

Spain has finished the 2015 world championships in 7th place after knocking off hosts Russia  on the penultimate day of the water polo tournament in Kazan, on Friday. After a goal-scoring festival in the first half, the Spanish ladies grabbed control in the third period and could consolidate in the final stages of the match-up. Even drawing multiple extra man posessions, Spain could come away with not finishing these. Russia could not come away with their counter attacks as Spain has a good swimming team themselves and looked prepared. The Russian ladies did end up making one more man-up in the final period but did not looked too determined in the final minutes to turn things around. Their 8th place finish marks the worse finish in recent years not having been ranked lower than 4th since the 2003 edition in Barcelona. Spain meanwhile went from top to bottom and back having finished 11th in Shanghai in 2011 before winning the gold in Barcelona two years ago, only to take 7th place in the 2015 edition, here in Kazan.

China took 5th place beating Greece on penalties after a game that got ignited in the second half and went onto a close and exciting finish. The match didn't appeared to be that much of an exciting battle. The scoring was marked by Greece who came back seven times but were never in the lead. China had the upper hand but was simply unable to shake off the resillient Greek side, who was led by Alexandra Asimaki. In a tight second half the centre forward scored 3 of the 4 goals in the comeback that Greece made to hang on. They even got a shot at the winner but Antigoni Roumpesi's attempt came off the upright as the game went into a shootout with the score tied 9-9. Here neither team could stay perfect but Greece simply missed one more shot as Christina Tsoukala's attempt was saved by China's goalkeeper Jun Yang who also saw Eletheria Plevritou missing. But the latter one came straight after China's top scorer Guannan Niu couldn't defeat Eleni Kouvdou for Greece so two penalties later, it was lefthander Jing Zhang for China who scored the decisive penalty shot as the Chinese ladies claimed 5th place, their 2nd-best result, following the silver medal in 2011, while Greece settled for 6th place, equalling their ranking at the last edition in Barcelona. Both teams met in the final in 2011 with Greece taking the gold medal there.

Bronze medal

The match got underway with Australia straight having the opportunity to open the score, but as Nicola Zagame intercepted a pass and could went straight onto the Italian goalie Giulia Gorlero, the looked uncertain whether to have a free throw and missed the chance. Two attacks later the Aussie Stingers did score when Zagame feeded Rowie Webster at centre forward who scored with a backhand. Australia went on as Ash Southern drew an exclusion at centre forward and scored it nicely from outside for the 2-0 lead. Italy needed a timeout halfway throught the quarter to regroup as their offence was kept far away from the Aussie goal. It worked straight away with Roberta Bianconi scoring from outside on an man-up, after Brownen Knox received her 2nd major foul already. A minute later it was another extra man that got Italy a goal and the tie: 2-2. Aria Garibotti saw an opening and hit. By now Italy looked to have found the answer. Roberta Aiello got the ball at centre forward on a counter attack and wasted little time turning around to score. With under a minute remaing the first quarter ended up with Italy in the lead 2-3. Australia could quickly level in the second quarter as Rowie Webster hit from the left wing but with exclusions following up quickly, Italy already got the lead back on the other end, thanks to Tania di Mario who shot nicely from outside just being given to much space. Both defensive organisation were well established by now and more turnovers to be seen until Di Mario delivered one of the game's highlights by scoring a trademark semi-lob in the near corner from 8 metres out to get Italy up 3-5 late in the first half. The Setterosa's deep defence caused trouble for the Stingers who didn't looked too confident to shoot. It led Australia scoreless until the big break where the 3-5 score was still displayed.
The Stingers needed another almost half quarter to find the net. Nicola Zagame used the first man-up of the second half for the Aussies to score and perhaps help herself over the burden she created by missing the first minute chance and another close opportunity early in the third. What begane to occure now was the tightened Australia defence managed to get some stops and got rewarded when Ash Southern swam a counter attack with a minute remaining in the quarter, stopped at 6 metres to turn and ship the ball far corner for the tie: 5-5. With man-ups on either sides in the final minute, the chances were there but no goals so the game went into the final period with a balanced 5-5 score and Italy without a goal for 10 minutes. Australia struck first in the final period as Glencora McGhie shot a desperation attempt at the end of the attack from the right side, not handled well by Gorlero who fumbled it into her goal. The following man-up was well defended by the Aussies but less than a minute later captain Di Mario did manage to find the back of the net, being left too open again. The extra man posession were becoming a huge factor now as the Greg McFadden coached squad responded in the following attack nicely freeing Hannah Buckling on the post for the 7-6 lead and 3.50 remaining. But the final stage of the game stayed close. Once more on an extra man it was Italy's Roberta Aiello who scored and tipped in the equaliser (7-7). Now with 2.35 on the clock the game went more tense each team knowing the next goal could become of a decisive proportion. Australia missed a man-up through Southern whose tip-in was blocked but Italy's next attack led to a turnover at centre forward. The next three attacks, including a man-up for the Aussies, led to nothing, with tensions rising high. In the final seconds Italy swam a tired counter attack and had Arianna Garibotti in the position to shoot but her attempt missed power and was blocked so the thriller now went to penalties. Here the thrilling continued. Just one miss proved enough. Hannah Buckling saw her series penultimate penalty shot being saved by Italy's back-up goalie Laura Teani, substituted for Gorlero ahead of this attempt, followed by Arianna Garibotti scoring on the other end for the win and bronze medal match at the 2015 World Championships.

Fabio Conti (ITA) — Head Coach
“The key to our game was the penalties. It may be that the penalties go another way.  Some go in and some don’t. We played a very, very good game. When we play against Australia it is a very difficult game. Australia is very difficult, very strong and very physical. Today we came and played with a big heart.”

Elisa Queirolo (ITA)
“It was a very, very good finish. We won this medal. After the match against Netherlands we organised our ideas, did a very good game and we finished in a better way. We deserved it.”

Greg McFadden (AUS) — Head Coach
“We didn’t make the most of our opportunities early. We could have put the game away early, especially when 2-0 up. We let them back. It was positive that we were in for the fight, but I said it before, it’s a shit way to lose. We’re really went out to win, but we didn’t perform to our expectations. Now we have to debrief and see what’s the best way to move forward.”

Ashleigh Southern (AUS) — Two goals in action
“We were feeling pretty confident for the shootout, but it’s all about what happened in the game. We were unlucky. It was always going to be physical. There were some missed opportunities that could have been scored.”


The game got off to a nervous start. Each time eager to set up its defence and not take too many risks on offence led to a silent and patient start of the big final. The deadlock was finally broken by Dutch captain Yasemin Smit who was left open on a counter attack with 2 minutes remaining and scored right past USA goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson. The two next attacks for each time were ended by turnovers but USA got their first man-up in the final seconds but an attempt from Maggie Steffens was well saved by young Netherlands goalkeeper Laura Aarts to maintain the 0-1 advantage after the opening quarter. The score went levelled however in the early stages of the next quarter, and this time on man-up for the USA as Rachel Fattal scored on the team's second attempt that posession. And the American women got the lead for the first time not much later. A shot by Smit for the Netherlands was saved and in the breakaway Maddie Musselman held off Dutch Nomi Stomphorst to score the 2-1 goal. And as the Dutch missed a man-up in the following attack USA could look to extend their lead. The chances kept coming for Team USA. In two more offensive posession they couldn't score, including a man-up, but with 4.27 on the clock yet another exclusion was called on the Dutch defence so that after a timeout the USA could go for another try. This time however, Fattal's shot went over past the goal and in the counter attack Dutch top shooter Lieke Klaassen finished to level the score 2-2 with 3.55 to go in the first half. The Dutch side however kept having trouble setting up their offence agains the physically superior American ladies who kept them far away from goal. It led to another silent phase with exclusion but also saves and no goals so that the defensive battle saw a 2-2 score half-time.

Striking first in the second half was USA, and standout Rachel Fattal who scored on man-up straight away to get the Americans leading 3-2. It took the Netherlands nearly 3 minutes to level, though. Two attacks by the USA were denied and in the following extra man, Maud Megens scored the equaliser as 5 minutes were remaining in the quarter. USA responsed quickly though as Kiley Neushul came through with an action goal from the right side to get her team in front, again. And it could have got worse for the Dutch but a certain looking goal was not called by the line judge. And the Dutch defence withstood another man-up not much later as they now looked to get in foul trouble conceding another exclusion. But with no goal from the US team, any damage was not yet made. But on the other end scoring proved harder and harder for the Arno Havenga coached squad. Whenever a shot was fired, goalie Johnson looked more and more certain adding save after save agains the, mostly contested, shots from the Dutch. Scoring got through finally with just 0.35 to go in the quarter, but it was veteran Courtney Mathewson who did it. She hit from outside for an important goal as now Team USA established a 2-goal lead. The Netherlands had its chance to reduce the deficit in the final moments of the quarter but Smit's goal was blocked by the tight USA defence to withstood another attack and kept its 5-3 lead intact for the final term. Things looked better and better for Team USA whose defence kept holding the Dutch far away from goal and let it slipped just once as Maud Megens went for the drive and earned the penalty, with under 4 minutes remaining, only to see Sabrina van der Sloot's attempt being saved by USA goalie Johnson. The goal for the Netherlands still came in the following attack where Maud Megens got room on the left wing and quickly shot and scored. Now three minutes to go, the tension got back again and Netherlands got fired up for the equaliser. It led to two great chances on counter attack, each of them on man-up, but goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson, once more, was there to make the save and ultimately get USA the 5-4 win as they held on in the final seconds and could celebrate their 4th world championship.

Chris Oeding (USA)_ — Assistant Coach
“The Dutch came out with tempo and physical play and we had trouble early on with forced errors and we were out of synch and were made to work for every goal that we got. There were little nerves on both sides and trading goals early on. What gave us the game was Ashleigh (Johnson) in goal. She gave us a lot of confidence in those moments when most needed. “ On holding all four world trophies at once: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I was involved in the last couple and it’s incredible and each is unique in its own way. We have so many new kids on the team. It’s their first.”

Rachel Fattal (USA) — Tournament MVP as voted by Media
“It was surreal. We played well together, we were balanced and our defence we nailed. Ash Johnson is just an amazing player and we played as a team the whole time. If you have an amazing goalkeeper behind you in defence it leads to  (good) offence. There are a lot of newcomers to the team.” On how long she would celebrate the victory: “Just tonight.” On how many of the four crowns she holds: “Three of the four; I did not play the Olympics (London). Hopefully next year will be the cherry on the top.”

Arno Havenga (NED) — Head Coach
“Unfortunately it was not a good evening. I think we played well, but we were not strong enough. I think we can be really satisfied this tournament. Every game we got a bit better. Now we look for the next step and the European Championships in Belgrade, then to Rio (Olympics). We will set new goals.”

Maud Megens (NED) — Daughter of 1991 World Champion Patricia Libregts (NED) and named to Media All Star team
“I get advice from her every game and what I can do better. I have learnt so much from her.” On if she spoke to her mother before the match: “Yes. She wished me luck. She is a nice mother who’s proud of her daughter. I get a lot of that.”

Laura Aarts (NED) — Goalkeeper
“If I look back now I am really pretty happy as we have a very young team and we did a great job. It’s a big shot for us for the future.”

2015 FINA World Championships
Kazan (RUS)

Final round

Friday, 7 August (women)

Spain (L W41) vs. Russia (L W42) 15-10 (5-3, 3-4, 4-1, 3-2) - W45 (7th/8th place classification)
Spain scorers: Roser Tarrago 4, Laura Lopez 3, Jennifer Pareja 2, Judith Forca 2, Anni Espar, Matilde Ortiz, Pilar Peña, Maica Garcia.

Russia scorers: Evgeniya Ivanova 3, Anastasia Simanovich 2, Ekaterina Lisunova 2, Ekaterina Prokofyeva, Elvina Karimova, Evgeniia Abdriziakova.

China (W W41) vs. Greece (W W42) 13-12 (4-2, 1-3, 2-1, 2-3; penalties: 4-3) - W46 (5th/6th place classification)
China scorers: Guannan Niu 5, Zihan Zhao 3, Weiwei Zhang.

Greece scorers: Alexandra Asimaki 4, Stefania Charalampidi 3, Eleftheria Plevritou 2.

Australia (L W43) vs. Italy (L W44) 10-12 (2-3, 1-2, 2-0, 2-2; penalties: 3-5) - W47 (3rd/4th place classification)
Australia scorers: Rowie Webster 2, Ashleigh Southern 2, Hannah Buckling, Glennie McGhie, Nicola Zagame.

Italy scorers: Tania di Mario 3, Rosaria Aiello 2, Arianna Garibotti, Roberta Bianconi.

USA (W W43) vs. Netherlands (W W44) 5-4 (0-1, 2-1, 3-1, 0-1) - W48 (1st/2nd place classification)
USA scorers: Rachel Fattal 2, Maddie Mussleman, Courtney Mathewson, Kiley Neushul.

Netherlands scorers: Maud Megens 2, Yasemin Smit, Lieke Klaassen.

Final round

Saturday, 8 August (men)

14.00: Australia (L M41) vs. USA (L M42) - M45 (7th/8th place classification)
15.30: Montenegro (W M41) vs. Hungary (W M42) - M46 (5th/6th place classification)

20.30: Greece (L M43) vs. Italy (L M44) - M47 (3rd/4th place classification)
22.00: Croatia (W M43) vs. Serbia (W M44) - M48 (1st/2nd place classification)

N.b.: time mentioned is local time.

Final rankings

1. USA
2. Netherlands
3. Italy
4. Australia
5. China
6. Greece
7. Spain
8. Russia
9. Hungary
10. Brazil
11. Canada
12. Kazakhstan
13. New Zealand
14. France
15. Japan
16. South Africa

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