WL Super Final: Day 6


 As this and other results showed, Brazil has been a clear outsider at this tournament and has a long way to go to reduce the gap in class with other national teams. But there is hope that the South Americans will be able to improve due to better funding by the nation’s government in the lead up to the Rio-de-Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016.

It is anticipated that the Brazilian team will be featuring at other international events more often in the next four years. They have already become more active in recent times by appearing at the Pan Pac’s tournament in Melbourne, Australia last January and now at the World League’s Super Final in the absence of the Canadian team.

It is good for water polo’s overall development as the Brazilians should be able to improve provided that better coaching of their senior and junior teams can be organised. This is the nation that has good traditions of success in team sports – their football and volleyball sides have been among the best in the world and they have always had good swimmers.

In today’s game Brazil was no match for Australia who also did not have a good tournament and need to lift their performance to achieve a good result in London. Perhaps, with the announcement of the Olympic team to be made in the next couple of days the players will regain the composure and confidence that they were lacking during the World League Finals.

X-man: AUS 4/3 (75%), Brazil 6/1 (17%)
Referees: Shiwei Ni and Fernandez


Asia gets only one Olympic licence which last time was won by Kazakhstan. The rivalry between China, Japan and Kazakhstan for the continental dominance is likely to continue post London. That is why there is always a special dimension in the matches between these two teams. Two days ago China won after a penalty shoot-out. The main reason why Kazakhstan lost that match was their poor x-man conversion – they scored only one goal from 12 opportunities. In this game that statistic was reversed. China had 11 man-up advantages to Kazakhstan’s 6 but converted only 1.

Like in most games at this and other events in recent years Kazakhstan’s goalkeeper, Nikolai Maximov, was one of the team’s main pillars. His experienced skilful performance was the main factor for China’s inability to take advantage of the goal-scoring opportunities that they were creating. Another highlight of the match was Vladimir Ushakov’s lob-shot from approximately 9 meters that caught China’s goalkeeper by surprise . The hosts gradually increased their lead to finish the third period 7:3. In the last quarter they held on for 7:5 win.

For China it was this season’s main event. They used this tournament to blood several young players for the future. Kazakhstan’s generational change will be after this year’s Olympic games and China’s chances for Asian dominance will become better as a number of Kazakhstan’s leading players will be retiring.

For Kazakhstan it was also a preparation stage for the Olympics. In this vein, the Kazakhs beat Australia who are both in preliminary Group ‘A’ at the Olympiad. Despite this result, in my opinion, Australia remains a favourite in the match to be played in London.

X-man: KAZ 6/2 (33%), China 12/1 (8%)
Penalty: KAZ 0, China 2/2
Referees: Peris and Koganov

Comment –

– Sergei Kotenko, European, world and Olympic champion, Kazakhstan’s best player of all time:

“Kazakhstan’s keeper, Maximov, was the main reason for the outcome of this match. His confident performance had a demoralizing effect upon the Chinese shooters who could not score numerous opportunities. They had twice as many extra-man chances but still lost. Had they converted two-three more man-up plays, they could have won the match.”


In a goal-for goal match the US team had many good instances both in defence and attack. Whilst one of the main features of the Italian game-plan was to neutralize the lethal shooting of US’s Tony Azevedo, Peter Varellas was again America’s main artillery. He scored three goals in addition to 2 by Jessie Smith and 1 by Azevedo.

However, the 2011 world champions showed that they are aiming to repeat their success in London. They were leading most of the time by 1-2 goals to win Bronze. Former Australian, Pietro Figlioli had a good tournament and in this match he scored 2 goals. Another aspect of the Italian tactics that I did not see at the world championships in Shanghai-2012 was Figlioli acting as the main centre-back. He played in this position throughout this tournament and did a good job. Alex Giorgetti (2), Valerio Rizzo (1), Maurizio Felugo (1) and Christian Presciutti (1) scored the other Italian goals.

Perhaps, the below comments complement the picture of this match from the American’s perspective –

– Layne Beaubien, USA, 2008 Olympic games Silver medallist:

“The result was disappointing. We came here with the intention of winning the tournament, despite the fact that we were training through the first 4 games (swimming 3k and lifting for 90 minutes in the morning before those matches.) That said you never want to make excuses for a performance that points to anything other than the lack of conversion of opportunities. In every game we lost, we had enough opportunities to win. This is the most important thing to analyse. As is the tide of the game now, every close match comes down to 6-5, 5-6, and we must be sharper as a group and individually if we are to challenge for the gold medal again this summer. At this point in the quadrennial it is very important to stay positive, to find the positives in each performance. Though we did not achieve our goal this tournament, we walk away from Kazakhstan with heads high and strong confidence that over the next 6 weeks we can solve the few small issues that kept us from reaching our intended result in the World League Super final. I am very excited for the next few months and can’t wait to go to London and fight for the ultimate with this special band of brothers that is Team USA.”

– Adam Wright, USA, 2008 Olympic games Silver medallist:

“Again we had our chances on 6×5 and we were 3 for 10 which is not good enough in the big games. Also we gave up a few counter goals and those must be eliminated. As you know the game comes down to man up and man down and we lost that battle today.”

X-man: USA 12/3 (25%), Italy 8/4 (50%)
Penalty: USA 0, Italy 2/2
Referees: Moller and Balfanbayev

CROATIA 18 (6) : (6) 17 SPAIN

Croatia won the 2012 World League by being better in the after-match penalty shoot-out. As can be seen from the score it was a lengthy shoot out as both teams were very skilful at this feature of the game. Each of the selected shooters of both teams had to shoot at least twice. In the end Spain missed for a final score of 18:17 in Croatia’s favour.

This was Spain’s best match at the tournament by far. They edged ahead every time the score was equalized throughout the entire match. Spain had fewer extra-man chances but their conversion rate was better than that of the opposition. And it looked like they would win it. With 1.06 minutes before the end, Spain went ahead, 7:8, by converting an extra-man chance that was earned by Ivan Perez. In the semi-final and final matches forty year old Perez spent much more time in the water compared to the earlier matches. Obviously, this strategy paid off as he had plenty of energy to cause a lot of difficulties for the Croatian defence.

The Croats received an extra-man opportunity with 44 seconds to go and – being a class team – also converted when it was most important. In the dying seconds after an unsuccessful attack, Croatia’s coach, Ratko Rudic, was ‘red carded’ by an Australian referee, Daniel Flahive, and it looks like he may have to miss the first match at the Olympic Games in London.

Given the way Spain played, the game between these two teams in London promises to be very interesting with the outcome hard to predict.

Spain’s Albert Español and Croatia’s 21 year old Sandro Sukno scored 3 each for their teams.

X-man: CRO 10/3 (30%), Spain 7/4 (57%)
Penalty: CRO 1/1, Spain 0
Referees: Rotsart and Flahive

Final standing:  1. Croatia  2. Spain  3. Italy  4. the USA  5. Kazakhstan  6. China  7. Australia  8. Brazil

About Erkin Эркин Shagaev Шагаев
European, world, Olympic champion, two times World Cup winner Чемпион Европы, мира, Олимпийских игр, двукратный обладатель Кубка мира

9 Responses to WL Super Final: Day 6

  1. Mark Grooby says:

    Thanks for the updates Erkin. Im sure Aussie will settle in now once they name the team. Also, having Howden out for vital matches did not help as he adds fire power in x man and is a good defender.

  2. Hunor says:

    Thank you for the post Erkin,

    To me it seemed as Croatia’s extra man has dropped in the final compared to the semis against the USA. In the semi the extra man seemed very well planned out and mostly converted where else rushed in the finals. Both matches were really good to watch


  3. Dear ‘Tony Whitnell’,

    Any person who wants his/her comments to be published should submit their proper verifiable name and email. Given the nature of your questions/comments, I suggest you should also provide more information as to where In Australia you or your relatives play water polo.

    Thank you for your interest.

  4. Jeff Barrow says:

    Erkin. How do you now rate the teams for London. Your prediction for Top 8 in order.

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