The United States won their sixth title in women’s water polo at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships. In terms of Olympic qualification, the highest ranked eligible team qualified to the games. In total, 16 nations competed with the winners advancing directly to the quarterfinals while second and third place advance to the play-off matches. Water polo at the World Aquatics Championship is currently being held in Gwangju, South Korea from July 14th to July 27th 2019.
Defending champion United States won Group A thanks to victories over New Zealand (22-3), the Netherlands (12-9) and South African (26-1). The Netherlands finished in second while New Zealand also advanced to the play-offs by defeating South Africa 17-4.
Russia also went undefeated in Group B where they defeated Canada (18-10), South Korea (30-1) and Hungary (17-12). Hungary started the tournament with a massive 64-0 victory over South Korea and repelled a comeback by Canada to win 15-14 and ultimately finished in second place. Canada also advanced thanks to a 22-2 victory over South Korea.
Group C was won by Spain whom defeated Greece (14-4), Kazakhstan (18-6) and Cuba (19-6). Greece recovered from their heavy loss to Spain and defeated Cuba (20-4) and Kazakhstan (13-7) to advance in second place. Kazakhstan finished third thanks to a 9-6 victory over Cuba.
With the exception of one match, Group D saw very few blowouts. After narrow victories against Australia (10-9) and Japan (9-7) respectively, Italy won their final match against China 14-6 to win the group. Australia finished second thanks to wins over China (14-12) and Japan (9-7) while China’s first match against the 2020 Olympic host was all that was needed to eliminate Japan (8-6) and advance to the play-offs
The highlight of the play-offs was the match between Canada and the Netherlands. It was a very defensive affair which saw no goals being scored in the first quarter. In the end the Netherlands won the match 5-4. Also advancing to the quarterfinals were Australia, Greece and Hungary whom defeated Kazakhstan (13-3), China (12-8) and New Zealand (17-6) respectively.
The quarter-finals saw two upsets as group winners Russia and Italy lost close matches to Australia (9-7) and Hungary (7-6) respectively. In the other two matches the United States easily defeated Greece 15-5 while Spain jumped to a five-goal lead in the first quarter against the Netherlands and used that advantage to win 12-8.
In the semi-finals, the United States scored six goals before conceding one as they went on to defeat Australia 7-2 to qualify to their third consecutive final. By reaching the finals and already securing an Olympic quota, the other semi-final between Hungary and Spain turned into an Olympic qualification match. The match was a high scoring affair as a very strong second half allowed Spain to defeat Hungary 16-10 to advance to the final and qualify to the Olympics.
The final, a repeat from the 2017 final saw Spain keep it relatively close with the United States where the score was 5-3 at half-time. However, a four-goal performance by the United States during the third quarter opened up the lead as the nation would go on to win the title 11-6.
This is the United States’ third title in a row and sixth overall. Spain will be looking to win their second medal at the Olympics in this event. The next opportunity for nations to qualify in women’s water polo will be at the respective continental qualifier. Water polo at the World Aquatics Championships concludes tomorrow with the men’s final.