WPWL Men's Intercontinental Tourn., Day 1: Australia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Canada win opening matches

World League

wpEight nations from three continents produced high drama in the opening night of the FINA Men’s Water Polo World League Intercontinental Tournament at Corona Del Mar High School in Newport Beach, California. With an average of 21 goals scored per game, and all four games sandwiched back to back (with a colourful yet concise Opening Ceremony after the third match) the action never seemed to ebb. 

The night began with the back-and-forth domination of Australia and Brazil (in a match that Australia ultimately won, 13-10) and ended when a young U.S. team barely fell to Canada 10-9. In between, Kazakhstan topped China 10-9, and Japan overtook Argentina 14-9.

When the tournament concludes on Saturday, the top four teams will advance to the FINA World League Super Final in Bergamo, Italy, from June 23-28.

Quarters: 2-3, 4-4, 5-1, 2-2

Extra Man: AUS: 7/12. BRA 3/4
Pens: Nil

AUSTRALIA: James Stanton-French, Richie Campbell (2), George Ford, Johnno Cotterill (3), Nathan Power (2), Jarrod Gilchrist (2), Aidan Roach (2), Lachlan Edwards, Joel Swift (2), Tyler Martin, Rhys Howden, Billy Miller, James Clark. Head Coach: Elvis Fatovic.
BRAZIL: Vincius Antonelli, Jonas Crivello, Guilherme Gomes, Ruda Franco, Paulo Salemi (1), Bernardo Gomes (1), Adria Delgado (2), Felipe Silva (1), Bernardo Rocha (2), Felipe Perrone (2), Gustavo Guimaraes (1), Danilo Correa, Thye Mattos. Head Coach: Ratko Rudic.

Australia took the early 2-0 lead, but Brazil quickly woke up and scored five consecutive goals (by five different players, including three on power plays) to open a 5-2 lead with 5:24 remaining in the second quarter. By halftime, however, Australia narrowed its deficit and trailed 7-6. In the third quarter, Australia gained the lead with on a five-goal spree similar to the one Brazil had exhibited earlier. This time, five different Aussie players scored (also on three power plays, including one that gave Johnno Gilchrist his third goal of the day). Entering the final period, Australia led 11-8. Each team scored twice more, and Australia beat the 2016 Olympic host, 13-10. 

While Australia had more turnovers (20, compared Brazil’s 12), Australia was able to convert seven of its 12 power plays. Brazil only had four power plays (converting three). Each team took 24 shots.

AUS-BRA - Photo credit: Aimee Berg


Ratko Rudic (BRA) - Brazil head coach

“You see the scoreboard and how many exclusions we get and how many Australia get. Very strange with this referee[ing]. There are a lot of situations with the brutality against us. Maybe we have to try to apply different kind of water polo for this game. It was a good game for us, to get experience. I hope that we will adapt better. [Did you like what you saw from any of your Brazilian players?] A few players, but when you lose a game, there is no individual player.”

Johnno Cotterill (AUS) – Three goals
“It was a really hard game to start with. Brazil’s put in a lot of hard work, they’re really fit, they’re energetic and they’ve got a lot of motivation. We’re lucky. We got away with a win – probably not as well as we wanted to play. But personally, I’m pretty happy just to contribute and put some goals on the board.”

Quarters: 2-5, 4-3, 2-0, 2-1

Extra Man: KAZ: 4/11, CHN 3/16
Pens: KAZ: 1/1, CHN: 1/2

KAZAKHSTAN: Valeriy Shlemov, Sergey Gubarev (2), Maxim Zhardan, Yevgeniy Medvedev (1), Vladimir Ushakov, Aleksandr Godovanyuk (1), Murat Shakenov, Anton Koliadenko, Rustam Ukumanov (3), Yulian Verdesh, Ravil Manafov, Branko Pekovich (3). Head Coach: Sergey Markoch.
CHINA:  Wu Honghui, Tan Feiihu (3), Sha Shi, Yu Li Jun, Liu Xiao, Li Li, Chen Zhongxian, Dong Tao (1), Xie Zekoi, Chen Jinghao (1), Zhang Chufeng (3), Liang Nianxiang (1), Liang Zhiwei. Head Coach: Paolo Malara.

China controlled the first half, 8-6, never letting Kazakhstan take the lead. The second half was markedly more physical, and became a defensive showcase featuring dynamic saves by both goalies, Valeriy Schlemov and Wu Honghui, and hard body blocks by defenders. In the third quarter, Kazakhstan held China scoreless and erased China’s lead with two goals of its own, including an unassisted outside shot on a power play by Yevgeniy Medvedev with 5:13 to go. The fourth quarter began with an 8-8 tie. Kazakhstan took the lead with 5:45 left, on Rustam Ukumanov’s third goal of the day. About a minute and a half later, Tan Feihu tied it for China, but Kazakstan’s Branko Pekovich scored the game winner with 3:49 remaining (also earning him a hat trick).

Neither team was able to capitalize on powerplays, however. Kazakshtan converted just 4 of 11. China only scored on 3 of its 16 chances with an extra man.

KAZ-CHN - Photo credit: Aimee Berg


Sergey Drozdov (KAZ) – Kazakhstan assistant coach

“We started very bad, but after the second period we started playing better, and the last period we played very good defense. Team China is a young but a strong team. We are happy we won today. It’s difficult because [when the game ended at 6 p.m. local time] in Kazakhstan now it’s 7 o’clock in the morning. Thirteen hours different time is difficult for players.”

Paolo Malara (CHN) – China head coach

“If you lose all the time [with an] extra-man, you lose normally the match. [The takeaway from today?] One day, one match. Another day, another match. Step by step. [Will you change your strategy?] I don’t know. Tonight we’ll see the video.”

Quarters: 4-4, 5-1, 2-1, 3-3

Extra Man: JPN: 2/7. ARG: 3/6.
Pens: JPN 0/1.

JAPAN: Katsuyuki Tanamura, Seiya Adachi (2), Atsashi Arai (1), Mitsuaki Shiga, Akira Yanase, Yuta Hemmi (1), Yusuke Shimizu (3), Yuki Kadono (1), Koji Takei (1), Kenya Yasuda (1), Keigo Okawa (4) Atsuto Iida, Tomoyoshi Fukushima. Head Coach: Yoji Omoto.
ARGENTINA:  Hernan Mazzini, Ramiro Velch, Carlos Camnasio, Andres Monutti, Emanuel Lopez, Tomas Bulgheroni, Juan Pablo Montana, Esteban Corsi, Ivan Martin Carbantes (2), Andres Maroni (2), Franco Demarchi (1), German Yanez (4), Diego Malnero. Head Coach: Nahuel Alfonso.

In a rare match between Asian and South America teams, Japan and Argentina were tied at four at the end of the first quarter. In the second period, Japan scored four consecutive goals before Ivan Martin Carbantes interrupted with a power play goal for Argentina to make it 5-8 with 1:01 remaining in the half. Kenya Yasuda netted another goal for Japan just 10 seconds before halftime to make it 9-5 Japan at the game’s midpoint. In the second half, German Yanez would score twice more for Argentina (giving him four goals for the night), but Keigo Okawa also scored twice for Japan (producing another four-goal tally) and Argentina never caught up. All told, Japan took nearly twice as many shots as Argentina (30, compared to 16).

JPN-ARG - Photo credit: Aimee Berg

Yusuke Shimizu (JPN) – Three goals

“It was difficult because this pool is 25 metres. My game is speed and counterattack. But it’s short …and I want longer swims. And Argentina today is our first game. I don’t have a lot of data with Argentina. Who’s a good player, who is a good shooter – I don’t know.”

Nahuel Alfonso (ARG) – Argentina head coach

“We have problems because we had a lot of turnovers [19]. We have mistakes in passing. We need to have a little more concentration and the organisation of the attack.”

Quarters: 4-2, 3-1, 0-5, 3-1

Extra Man: CAN: 4/14. USA: 4/11
Pens: CAN: 1/2. USA: 1/1

CANADA: Robin Randall, Constantin Kudaba, Oliver Vikalo (1), David Lapins, Justin Boyd (1), Scott Robinson (2), Alec Taschereau, Kevin Graham (2), Dusan Radojcic, John Conway, George Torakis, Jared McElroy (4), Dusan Aleksic. Head Coach: Alex Breslin.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: McQuin Baron, Janson Wigo (1), Alex Obert, Jackson Kimbell (1), Ben Hallock, Luca Cupido (3), Josh Samuels, Tony Azevedo (2), Alex Bowen (2), Bret Bonanni, Jesse Smith, John Mann, Drew Holland. Head Coach: Dejan Udovic.

Canada scored first on Scott Robinson’s power play goal. Four-time U.S. Olympian Tony Azevedo tied it at 1 apiece with 4:21 remaining in the first period, but Canada continually surging ahead to prevent the US from taking the lead. By halftime Canada led 7-3, and the clear difference was that Canada had scored on four of its four power play opportunities, while the US had drawn six exclusions and converted on none.

In the third quarter, the US ripped out five unanswered goals, including a slammer by Alex Bowen over Canadian goalkeeper Robin Randall’s head to tie it at 7. A solo shot by Luca Cupido gave the US its first lead of the game with 44 seconds to go in the third, making it 8-7. In the fourth quarter, American Alex Bowen extended the US lead, 9-7, but CAN scored the next three, and the U.S. was unable to tie it in the last 2:36, although Cupido took a shot with about 6 seconds to go, but it sailed over the top of the goalpost, and Canada won, 10-9.


Alex Breslin (CAN) – Canada head coach

“To be honest, I didn’t have any expectations result-wise. We have certain target goals, some strategic and tactical approaches. I was looking more toward it than the results – how we are able to execute in certain situations. [What did you accomplish tactically?] Some small things, but there is a lot for us to work on. I cannot be unsatisfied but, still, this is just a process prior to the summer Pan American Games and world championship.”

Dejan Udovicic (USA) – US Head coach
“It’s obviously a bad performance by us in the first two quarters. We are still trying to adjust to a 25-metre pool because it’s new for us. We lost our rhythm and made some turnovers.”

Jesse Smith (USA)

“It was a pretty exciting game to play and to watch. We have a really young team. Canada seized the opportunities and they won.”