WPWL Men’s Intercontinental Tourn., Day 4: Brazil, USA, China, Australia make Semis

World League

WP coronaA major upset came early as eight teams battled for semifinal berths on Day 4 of the FINA Men’s World League Intercontinental tournament in Newport Beach, California.

In what should have been a lopsided quarterfinal between China (who hadn’t won a game) and Canada (who hadn’t lost one), China took a massive 6-1 lead in the first period and defeated the North Americans, 11-10. The upset not only set up China’s semifinal meeting with Brazil (who beat Japan 11-8), but it also gave China automatic entry into the FINA World League Super Final in Italy in late June.

In fact, all four winners of Thursday’s quarterfinals earned berths in the World League Super Final.

That means that the US (who defeated Kazakhstan today, 17-11) and Australia (who beat Argentina, 14-5) will not only face each other in Friday’s semifinal in Newport Beach, but they will join China and Brazil at the Olympic qualifying event in Europe in June.

GAME 14: 15:30, BRAZIL 11 JAPAN 8

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

Extra Man: BRA: 2/4. JPN: 2/11.
Pens: Nil.

BRAZIL: Vincius Antonelli, Jonas Crivello (1), Guilherme Gomes, Ruda Franco, Paulo Salemi (1), Bernardo Gomes (3), Adria Delgado (2), Felipe Silva, Bernardo Rocha, Felipe Perrone (4), Gustavo Guimaraes, Danilo Correa, Thye Mattos. Head Coach: Ratko Rudic.
JAPAN: Katsuyuki Tanamura, Seiya Adachi, Atsashi Arai (1), Mitsuaki Shiga (1), Akira Yanase, Yuta Hemmi, Yusuke Shimizu, Yuki Kadono, Koji Takei (2), Kenya Yasuda (1), Keigo Okawa (3), Atsuto Iida, Tomoyoshi Fukushima. Head Coach: Yoji Omoto.

In the Brazil-Japan quarterfinal, the teams were almost even on shots taken (24 for Brazil, 21 for Japan), but Japan was unable to convert nine of its 11 power plays and had 24 turnovers (compared to Brazil’s 20).

In a brisk first period, Japan earned a 3-2 lead, thanks to two goals by Koji Takei’s and one from Keigo Okawa. Then, 30 seconds into the second period, Felipe Perrone tied it at 3 for Brazil with his second goal of the night – a gorgeous sharp-angled shot from the right side of the net. Bernardo Gomes scored twice more for Brazil, and completed a hat trick with 55 seconds to go in the first half (interrupted only by Keigo Okawa’s second goal for Japan). Brazil led 6-4 at halftime.

In the second half, Brazil continued its streak with two more goals to go up 8-4. Then Okawa blasted a goal that knocked the cap off Brazilian goalie Vincius Antonelli and earned him a hat trick. Mitsuaki Shigo scored next, making it 8-6, until Brazil’s Paulo Salemi snuck in a goal with 1:30 left to end the period 9-6. In the fourth period, each team added two goals in alternating fashion, effectively cancelling each other out to seal an 11-8 victory for Brazil and send the 2016 Olympic host to the World League Super Final in June.

Brazil will meet China in the semifinals on Friday.

BRA-JPN - Photo credit: Aimee Berg

Felipe Perrone (BRA) – Scored four goals for Brazil

“We didn’t have that pressure [of Olympic qualifying], but for us it’s really important for us to qualify to the finals in Bergamo. [How did you neutralise Japan’s speed?] They have a completely different way of water polo from Europe’s style but I think we were focused the entire game. I want to congratulate the Japan team because they are not so big guys and they play amazing. It’s beautiful to see them play.”

Yoji Omoto (JPN) – Head coach of Japan
“Before the game, I told the players to shoot when they had a chance. But I guess the players knew how important this game was so they were very cautious when they took the shots. [Also] the fundamentals like ball handling and the ability to shoot well from the perimetre, it’s always been a problem for the Japanese.”

GAME 15: 17:00, CHINA 11 CANADA 10

Quarters: 6-1, 3-3, 2-3, 0-3

Extra Man: CHN: 4/10. CAN: 4/10.
Pens: CHN: 1/1. CAN: 1/1

CHINA: Wu Honghui, Tan Feihu, Sha Shi (1), Yu Li Jun (1), Liu Xiao, Li Li, Chen Zhongxian (1), Dong Tao, Xie Zekoi, Chen Jinghao (1), Zhang Chufeng (5), Liang Nianxiang (2), Liang Zhiwei. Head Coach: Paolo Malara.
CANADA: Robin Randall, Constantin Kudaba (1), Oliver Vikalo, David Lapins, Justin Boyd, Scott Robinson (3), Alec Taschereau, Kevin Graham (2), Dusan Radojcic, John Conway (3), George Torakis (1), Jared McElroy, Dusan Aleksic. Head Coach: Alex Breslin.

Canada hadn’t lost, and China hadn’t won – until Thursday’s quarterfinal.

Canada’s defense unraveled in the first period as China built a 6-1 lead that featured three goals by Zhang Chufeng – including one at the horn to end the period. In the second period, the teams were even on scoring so China maintained its five-goal advantage, 9-4, at the half.

The third period opened with Yu Li Jun drawing a 5-metre penalty on John Conway, allowing Zhang Chufeng to take the penalty shot and score his fourth goal of the game to give China a 10-4 lead. Canada then went on a three-goal scoring blitz that included two in a row by Kevin Graham. China bookended the period with a goal of its own (marking Zhang Chufeng’s fifth of the game), making 11-7 for China. In the fourth period, Canada’s Scott Robinson netted back-to-back goals to narrow the deficit 9-11 with 2:49 remaining. Robinson added a third goal (on a power play) to make it a one-point game with 32 seconds to go. After a flurry of desperation, Canadian goalie Dusan Aleksic launched a full-pool redirect just as time was expiring, hoping a fellow Canadian would tip the ball into the net, but China’s goalkeeper Wu Honghui made the catch and prevented a penalty shootout. China upset Canada, 11-10, to advance in the semifinals against Brazil.

CHN-CAN - Photo credit: Aimee Berg

Paolo Malara (CHN) – Head coach of China

“Today was a good match from the first minute to the last minute – also, the last second. It was very important, the result – for my work, for the team. [What did you say to the team before the match?] Nothing. I prepare the match all the time. [And after the win?] Nothing, haha. I’m tired.”

Oliver Vikalo (CAN) – One shot, no goals for Canada
“They came out firing and we came out really flat. I don’t know if we underestimated them or what. That’s why we lost. Our defense wasn’t doing well the first half, and that’s that.”


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

Extra Man:  USA: 8/14. KAZ: 5/11.
Pens: KAZ: 0/1.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: McQuin Baron, Janson Wigo, Alex Obert, Jackson Kimbell, Ben Hallock (1), Luca Cupido (1), Josh Samuels (1), Tony Azevedo (4), Alex Bowen (5), Bret Bonanni (3), Jesse Smith, John Mann (2), Drew Holland. Head Coach: Dejan Udovicic.
KAZAKHSTAN: Madikhan Mahmetov, Sergey Gubarev (1), Maxim Zhardan (1), Yevgeniy Medvedev (1), Vladimir Ushakov, Aleksandr Godovanyuk, Murat Shakenov (2), Anton Koliadenko, Rustam Ukumanov (2), Yulian Verdesh, Ravil Manafov, Branko Pekovich (4), Valeriy Shlemov. Head Coach: Sergey Markoch.

The US had just watched Canada get trounced in the first eight minutes of its loss to China, so the Americans tried to set the tempo early to prevent a gaping deficit in its quarterfinal with Kazakhstan. The US took an immediate 2-0 lead from Olympic veterans Tony Azevedo and John Mann who nailed a cross-cage skip shot with 5:23 left. Rustam Ukumanov put Kazakhstan on the board with a power play goal with 5:01 remaining. The teams traded the next four goals, and the first period ended with US up 4-3. In the second period, the US was converting on its 6-on-5s, and took high percentage shots to produce four consecutive goals plusone more in the last 10 seconds from high school junior Ben Hallock to end the half, 9-5 USA.

In the third period, the US added five goals (four on power plays and three of them by Alex Bowen, a 21-year-old Stanford University student) and Kazakhstan scored twice (via Murat Shakenov and Branko Pekovich) to make it 14-7 for the US at the break. In the fourth quarter, Kazakhstan added four even-handed goals (including Petkovich’s third and fourth of the game) but the US put three more in the net (including Azevedo’s third and fourth goal of the night) to win, 17-11, and advance to the semis where it faces Australia on Friday.

USA-KAZ - Photo credit: Jared Gray

Dejan Udovicic (USA) – US Head Coach

“As you can see, we can score as much goals as we want, as much as we need. This is not our problem. I think we need to perform much better, especially on defense one-on-one. We are failing in some situations to defend one-on-one and need to play zone. I want to play passing as much as we can.”

McQuin Baron (USA) – US goalkeeper, made 15 saves
“Tonight there was definitely improvements in our communication, our front-court defense, we were countering hard, but there’s nothing we’re perfect at. We’re a young team. Every game we’ve got to learn from our mistakes to improve and capitalise.”

Sergey Drozdov (KAZ) – Kazakhstan Assistant Coach

“Today we played bad game, very bad defense. [Did you think the score would be closer?] Yes, yes.”


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

Extra Man: AUS: 3/5. ARG: 6/10.
Pens: Nil.

AUSTRALIA:    James Stanton-French, Richie Campbell (2), George Ford, Johnno Cotterill (4), Nathan Power (1), Jarrod Gilchrist, Aidan Roach (2), Lachlan Edwards (1), Joel Swift (2), Tyler Martin, Rhys Howden (1), Billy Miller (1), James Clark. Head Coach: Elvis Fatovic.
ARGENTINA: Hernan Mazzini, Ramiro Velch (1), Carlos Camnasio, Andres Monutti, Emanuel Lopez, Tomas Bulgheroni, Juan Pablo Montana, Esteban Corsi, Ivan Martin Carbantes (2), Andres Maroni, Franco Demarchi, German Yanez (2), Diego Malnero. Head Coach: Nahuel Alfonso.

In a low-scoring first period, Australia had a 2-0 lead when Argentina’s Ramiro Velch made it 2-1 with 4:22 to go. In the second period, the physically dominant Aussies went on a four-goal streak that included back-to-back goals by Aidan Roach and back-to-back goals by Johnno Cotterill before Argentina could respond with two goals of its own (one by Ivan Martin Carbantes in the final two minutes and one from German Yanez with 16 seconds left in the half). At halftime, Australia led 6-3.

In the third period, each team scored twice before Cotterill scored his fourth goal of the night on a power play with 10 seconds to go to give Australia a 9-5 lead. In the fourth period, Australia put the hurt on Argentina, adding five unanswered goals to win 14-5, and claim a semifinal slot against the US on Friday.

AUS-ARG - Photo credit: Jared Gray

Elvis Fatovic (AUS) – Head Coach of Australia

“That’s one of our not-so impressive games. When we don’t start 100% then we are in problems. Definitely we received too many goals in the first two quarters. Also we couldn’t shoot in the cage. We tried some spectacular shots instead of the simplest ones. Try to play as simple as we can; that’s what you want."