WPWL Men’s Intercontinental Tourn., Day 6: Australia, Brazil, USA go 1-2-3

World League

wpausEven without its head coach, Australia took gold over Brazil, 9-6, in the final day of the FINA Men’s Water Polo World League Intercontinental Tournament in Newport Beach, California. Elvis Fatovic was ejected one night earlier in the semifinal shootout against the US, but the Aussie defense was unstoppable on Saturday and stymied a thrilling fourth-quarter rally from the 2016 Olympic host.

In the earlier matches, the US trounced China for the bronze medal, 19-7. Japan defeated Kazakhstan, 15-12, for fifth place by building a comfortable lead early in the game. And Canada routed Argentina, 18-5, to earn seventh place in an epic mismatch that no one had expected to see at the end of group play.

Final standings: (1) Australia (2) Brazil (3) USA (4) China (5) Japan (6) Kazakhstan (7) Canada (8) Argentina.

The top four teams will reconvene at the FINA World League Super Final in Bergamo, Italy, from June 23-28.

GAME 21: 09:00, Classification for 7th/8th Place, ARGENTINA 5 CANADA 18
Quarters: 1-5, 1-5, 1-5, 2-3.

Extra Man: ARG: 2/7/ CAN: 2/7.
Pens: Nil.

ARGENTINA: Hernan Mazzini, Ramiro Velch (2), Carlos Camnasio (1), Andres Monutti, Emanuel Lopez, Tomas Bulgheroni, Juan Pablo Montana, Esteban Corsi, Ivan Martin Carbantes (1), Andres Maroni, Franco Demarchi, German Yanez (1), Diego Malnero. Head Coach: Nahuel Alfonso.
CANADA: Robin Randall, Constantin Kudaba (1), Oliver Vikalo (2), David Lapins (2), Justin Boyd, Scott Robinson (1), Alec Taschereau (1), Kevin Graham (4), Dusan Radojcic, John Conway (4), George Torakis (2), Jared McElroy (1), Dusan Aleksic. Head Coach: Alex Breslin.

Canada never thought it would end up in the game to determine 7th and 8th place. It was undefeated in group play (3-0), then lost a pair of one-goal games when it mattered most (against China in the quarterfinal, and to Japan on Friday). Meanwhile, Argentina was 0-5 when they met.

In the first period, Canada took six shots and scored on five of them to lead, 5-1, after eight minutes. Canada scored five more times in the second period, including Constantin Kudaba’s lob-in with six seconds left in the first half to extend Canada’s lead, 10-2. In the third period, John Conway punctuated yet another five-goal spree for Canada when he stuffed his own rebound into the net with seven seconds to go to make it 15-3. In the fourth quarter, the teams alternated scoring but Canada got the last word when its left-handed captain Kevin Graham scored in the final 21 seconds to cap an 18-5 win for seventh place.

ARG-CAN - Photo credit: Aimee Berg

Robin Randall (CAN) – Canadian Goalkeeper (8 saves)

“We didn’t go into a lot of specifics for this game. We wanted to bring a little more energy that we hadn’t brought in the previous two games and win decisively. That was our plan.”

Nahuel Alfonso (ARG) – Head Coach for Argentina
“We tried to decrease the difference between the first game we play [in Group A, when we lost to Canada, 15-6], but it was not possible. The players are really tired and not enough concentrated.”

GAME 22: 10:30, Classification for 5th/6th Place, KAZAKHSTAN 12 JAPAN 15
Quarters: 2-4, 3-3, 3-3, 4-5.

Extra Man: KAZ: 2/7. JPN: 4/9.
Pens: KAZ: 2/3. JPN: 0/1.

KAZAKHSTAN: Madikhan Mahmetov, Sergey Gubarev (2), Maxim Zhardan, Yevgeniy Medvedev (2), Miras Aubakirov, Aleksandr Godovanyuk (1), Murat Shakenov (1), Anton Koliadenko, Rustam Ukumanov (3), Yulian Verdesh, Ravil Manafov, Branko Pekovich (3), Valeriy Shlemov. Head Coach: Sergey Markoch.
JAPAN: Katsuyuki Tanamura, Seiya Adachi, Atsashi Arai (1), Mitsuaki Shiga (3), Akira Yanase (1), Yuta Hemmi, Yusuke Shimizu (2), Yuki Kadono (5), Koji Takei (2), Kenya Yasuda, Keigo Okawa (1), Atsuto Iida, Tomoyoshi Fukushima. Head Coach: Yoji Omoto.

In the match to determine fifth and sixth place, the first quarter was fairly even. Trailing 2-3, Kazakhstan had a chance to tie the game when Rustam Ukumanov took a 5-metre penalty shot, but Japanese goalie Katsuyuki Tanamura made the save, and Keigo Okawa scored with 1:53 left to give Japan a 4-2 lead instead. In the second quarter, Kazakhstan failed to close the two-goal gap and ended the half trailing, 7-5.

Each team added three goals in the third quarter to keep it a two-point game, 10-8, in Japan’s favor. In the fourth period, Japan scored three consecutive even-handed goals (by Akira Yanase, Mitsuaki Shiga, and Yuki Kadono, respectively) to go up 13-8. Kazakhstan rallied with two even-handed goals of its own (from Sergey Gubarev and Branko Pekovich) to make it 13-10. The teams traded the next four goals of the period – a run that began when Yuki Kadono made his fifth goal of the day, with 2:14 remaining – as Japan claimed fifth place.

KAZ-JPN - Photo credit: Aimee Berg

Yoji Omoto (JPN) – Head Coach of Japan

“We’re a counterattacking team, and last year at the Asian Championships we met Kazakhstan in the final, but we weren’t able to score on our counter attack. So we tried it again, to reinforce precision shooting, and the players did what they were expected to do.”

Sergey Markoch (KAZ) – Head Coach of Kazakhstan
“We slept all the game; we didn’t play water polo. We had many individual mistakes. We played very slowly and Japan was very fast for us.”

GAME 23: 12:00, Bronze-Medal Match, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 19 CHINA 7

Quarters: 7-1, 4-1, 4-2, 4-3.

Extra Man: USA: 5/6. CHN: 1/8.
Pens: USA: 1/1. CHN: 1/1.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: McQuin Baron, Janson Wigo (2), Alex Obert (1), Jackson Kimbell, Ben Hallock (2), Luca Cupido (2), Josh Samuels (2), Tony Azevedo (3), Alex Bowen (1), Bret Bonanni (4), Jesse Smith, John Mann (2), Drew Holland. Head Coach: Dejan Udovicic.
CHINA:  Wu Honghui, Tan Feihu (1), Sha Shi, Yu Li Jun, Liu Xiao, Li Li (2), Chen Zhongxian, Dong Tao (1), Xie Zekoi, Chen Jinghao (1), Zhang Chufeng (2), Liang Nianxiang, Liang Zhiwei. Head Coach: Paolo Malara.

After losing a penalty shootout to Australia, 17-16, just 15 hours earlier, the US quickly hit “refresh” to defeat China, 19-7, for the bronze medal. All told, nine US players on its 13-man roster scored on Saturday. Meanwhile, China was missing its starting center Yu Li Jun because of an injured shoulder and back, according to head coach Paolo Malara.

In the first period, the US converted all three of its power plays to take a 7-1 lead. Luca Cupido opened the match with back-to-back goals. Josh Samuels followed with a solo shot. China got on the scoreboard with 5:21 to go when Chen Jinghao made an easy lob into the net. Tony Azevedo added two in a row, and Bret Bonanni scored on a power play and a penalty shot to close the period.

In the second period, China’s demoralisation continued. Even though Tan Feihu drew a penalty on Alex Obert to enable China’s Dong Tao to put away a penalty shot with 3:31 to go (making it 9-2), the US tally turned into double digits with 2:02 left in the half via Alex Bowen’s easy goal at point-blank range. Mann scored less than a minute later to make it 11-2 for the US at the half.

The US began the third period by scoring three goals in a row (Samuels, Azevedo, Janson Wigo). China retaliated with two goals of its own: one by Zhang Chufeng (the last power play goal of the game for either team) and one from Li Li with 3:03 remaining. Ben Hallock and Wigo then scored their second goals of the game to give the US a 16-4 lead. Each team would score three more times en route to a 19-7 bronze-medal victory for the US.

USA-CHN - Photo credit: Jared Gray

Jackson Kimbell (USA)

“We came out pretty fast and scored a couple quick ones. That took the energy up pretty high. [After last night’s shootout loss to Australia, coach Dejan Udovicic] just said, ‘end on a positive note – and keep moving forward. Don’t move backwards.’ I think today was a step in a positive direction.”

Paolo Malara (CHN) – Head Coach for China
“Not a good result. Video analysis will give me a more precise idea on the future steps for this team of China.”

GAME 24: 20:00, Gold-Medal Match, AUSTRALIA 9 BRAZIL 6 

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

Extra Man: AUS: 1/10. BRA: 1/7.
Pens: AUS: 1/1. BRA: 1/0.

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

The gold-medal match promised to be the most competitive game of the day, but Australia pulled away in the second quarter, and by the third, it had amassed a five-goal lead. Brazil held Australia scoreless in the final eight minutes and nearly closed the gap, but Australia’s defense made it too tough and the Aussies took the game, 9-6, and the gold medal with a perfect record.

Australia was first to score when George Ford buried a shot with 4:32 remaining in the first period. One minute later, Felipe Perrone tied it for Brazil. Tyler Martin scored the go-ahead goal to give Australia a 2-1 edge at the horn. In the last three minutes of the second quarter, Australia pulled ahead to end the half, 6-3 – thanks to a three-goal march by Nathan Power, Richie Campbell, and Jarrod Gilchrist (all at even strength).

In the second half, Bernardo Gomes quickly converted a penalty shot to help Brazil come within two points with 7:32 left in the third. But the rest of that period was all Australia, as Richie Campbell scored on a power play, Rhys Howden put away a penalty shot, and Nathan Power earned his second goal of the game to end the period 9-4. In the fourth quarter, Brazil’s captain Felipe Perrone made it 9-5 with 5:40 remaining. Less than three minutes later, Aussie goalie James Stanton-French wedged himself into the left corner of the goalposts to deny Peronne a shot from about one foot away. With 2:13 to go – plenty of time for a comeback – Paulo Salemi scored a huge goal for Brazil to make it a 9-6 game. With about one minute to go, Bernardo Gomes slammed the ball at the Aussie net but Aidan Roach made a huge block to deny Brazil. With 22 seconds left, Adria Delgado fired another shot for Brazil, but the ball hit the post and the day ended 9-6 for Australia.

The winning team of Australia - Photo credit: Jared Gray

Aidan Roach (AUS) 

“Defense made the difference for us today. They play heavy press and quickly counter. Today we did well to stop that. [Did the absence of your head coach Elvis Fatovic matter?] Of course, but our coach put systems in place. We played the systems and got the results we wanted.”

Vincius Antonelli (BRA) – Brazilian goalie with 11 saves, 3 steals
“It was a very important game for us, to build the Brazilian team to a higher level. We are growing. We had some chances. In the second quarter, we had some situations with counter attack from Australia and we got too far [away] in the score.”