2013 Junior Men’s World Championships: Summary
August 22, 2013 2 Comments
Firstly, my apologies for the interruption in the coverage of this event due to technical problems that emerged unexpectedly at the time.
Italy was clearly the strongest team and got the championships title on merit. They won all their matches except for the draw with the hosts, Hungary, in the preliminary rounds. The skills of Head-coach, Ferdinando Pesci’s, charges were excellent. Like at the youth world championships eight months ago – where the Italians also came first – in Szombathely they yet again demonstrated physically strong and ingenious water polo. The team had well-coordinated and sophisticated attacking and defensive patterns that could not be executed without the fine individual techniques of all its players but in particular Francesco di Fulvio, Andrea Fondelli, Alessandro Velotto and Tommaso Busilacchi.
Some of the Italian players took part in the recent youth WC as well. These results and, importantly, quality of performance confirmed yet again that organization of both junior development and senior systems in Italy is one of the best, if not the best in the world.
As usual, the teams of Croatia and Serbia were among the main contenders taking Silver and Bronze respectively. These teams’ final placings could have been different had the Serbian team not faced the Italians in the semi-final which they lost 4:5 in a tight contest. With due respect to the Croatians, to me, the Serbian team was the second best team of the tournament after the Italians.
The Serbian Head-coach, Vladimir Vujasinovic, was one of the best players in the world in the not too distant past. Under his guidance the team was well-organized and disciplined. Dusan Mandic, who is a member of the Serbian senior national team, Dimitrije Obradovic and Gavril Subotic, each demonstrated the level of shooting skills that could be subject of envy by members of any senior national team. I was told that Obradovic and Subotic were born in 1995. If so, they would be eligible for the WC to be held 2015.
Croatian Head-coach and former national team’s player, Vjekoslav Kobescak, has done an excellent job mobilizing his crew and achieving an excellent result. Even though Croatia had a seemingly easier path to the top of the ladder due to the tournaments’ draw, this does not diminish their result. In crucial matches they displayed real quality water polo including by several players who are eligible for the next junior WC. On the way to a decisive semi-final – in which they convincingly beat Hungary 13:10 – Croatia dominated in the match with Australia 11:5.
The fourth place by Hungary might look like a poor result for the nation with great water polo history and traditions. However, Head-coach, Gyorgy Horkai, his assistants and players have made enormous progress within the last 2-3 years to emerge at this championships as highly competitive with other leading sides. In a quarter-final match for the top four position Hungary outplayed a strong Spanish team and were the only team who did not lose to Italy.
The US team improved its form and performance with every match of the tournament. Having lost their opening encounter with Spain 6:8, the Americans beat the same team, 9:7 in the last game to achieve 5th place – not a bad result given the strength of the top four teams. But before reaching this stage, the North-Americans impressed with their fighting spirit in must-win tough encounters with the Slovakian, Russian and Australian teams. In their ranks they had one of the best players at this tournament, Alexander Bowen, who was instrumental in his team’s positive results in Szombathely.
The Spanish team won the preliminary group stage by demonstrating a smart and skilful brand of water polo. Perhaps, the main factor that prevented them from achieving a better result was lack of depth on the bench. Their overall very competent performance lacked sharpness when the main playmakers, Alberto Munarriz, Alberto Barroso and Marco Larumbe had to be replaced.
Brazil was one of the revelations at this WC. In the past, this team would play very enthusiastic and passionate but not really competent water polo. That is how many people perceived them in Szombathely – to their peril as it turned out. Most of their opponents – including the top outfits – found themselves in very uncomfortable situations and had to apply all their resources to achieve a desired result – some belatedly. In the match for the seventh position Brazil beat Australia – an outcome that has not happened for a long time.
Australia had mixed results at this tournament. The team must be credited with their win in an important match with the Russians for the right to make top eight. However, in other do or die games the Ozzies did not manage to play consistently throughout entire matches. For example, Australia started very well against Serbia leading 3:0 in the middle of the second quarter only to lose 5:12 in the end. A somewhat similar scenario was in a match of principal importance with the United States in which Australia led after half-time only to lose the next two periods and the match 11:13. Inadequate fitness and conditioning levels seemed to be among the reasons for that fluctuation in Australia’s performance. On a positive note, Gabriel Addley became a revelation of this world championships often keeping his team in the game saving many difficult shots as well as inspiring others with his fighting spirit and encouraging positive demeanor.
Like its National senior team, the juniors of Japan displayed a very original and interesting brand of water polo. And it was not only entertaining, it was also efficient. Most of their opponents had to apply maximum effort to achieve their desired result. In the last match Japan beat Russia whose players were twice as big in size but could not adjust to their highly mobile opponents. It will be interesting to see how Japan will look after the new rules come into force in September this year as its style of play seems to better reflect the vision of water polo that these amendments will hopefully bring.
The real disappointment of this tournament was the Russian team. In addition to lackluster performances in the crucial games against Spain, the US and Australia, the Russians lost to Japan on the last day after leading 7:1 in the middle of the match. It is not only the technique-tactical mistakes which characterized the Russian team’s performance that was upsetting. Whilst having good levels of general strength and fitness, the lack of fighting spirit and playing discipline – the qualities that used to be the strength of any Russian team – turned out to be the core reasons for such hapless performances.
With rather limited resources the team from Uzbekistan achieved 12th placing leaving behind their archrivals, Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan’s Kirill Rustamov became the tournament’s top goal-scorer.
Final standing: 1. Italy 2. Croatia 3. Serbia 4. Hungary 5. USA 6. Spain 7. Brazil 8. Australia 9. Japan 10. Russia 11. Canada 12. Uzbekistan 13. Slovakia 14. Republic of South Africa 15. Kazakhstan 16. Colombia
The 17th FINA World Men’s Junior Championships was held in the oldest Hungarian city, Szombathely.The popularity of water polo in this country was on display once again with more than 2000 spectators gathering for every match of the home team. These spectators were not just watching but knew all the subtleties of the game and were reacting to displays of skills and/or referees’ decisions with competence thus creating great atmosphere.