As a long time observer and fan of the international game, with a penchant of providing an opinion without doing any adequate research, I have taken the opportunity to break down the men’s and women’s tournament’s for the 19th FINA World Championships and make some pretty bold predictions on how the tournament will unfold in its entirety. From the group stages to the finals, it’s going to be two weeks of exciting water polo in Budapest and I for one can’t wait to see how right I am going to be.
Group A - Hungary, Brazil, Montenegro, Georgia
Hungary and Montenegro will battle for top of the group honours, with the Hungos to take the points. Georgia is a team on the rise and can see them getting the points against the Brazilians, relegating them to fourth place.
Group B - Japan, Greece, Germany, Croatia
This is probably the group of death of the men’s draw, where I am tipping Greece to continue its form from Tokyo and look to go onto the gold in Budapest. Japan will edge out Germany with their high press and counter attack, leaving Germany to be relegated.
Group C - Italy, Canada, South Africa, Spain
4th South Africa
From what little research I have done, the Italians will be going with a younger more inexperienced side at this World Champs, where I haven’t heard the same for the Spanish. So I expect them to take top of the group. South Africa is still growing as a polo nation, but won’t be able to take points here.
Group D - Kazakhstan, USA, Australia, Serbia
Serbia will have a new looking line up as well since winning Gold in Tokyo, but will always field a strong outfit. Aussies will go close but need a bit of time to build throughout the tournament. Will take points off the USA to set them up for a good crossover.
Cross-Over (2nd vs 3rd - Winners to the Quarter Finals)
Montenegro vs Japan
The Japanese have been building for a long time and were unlucky not to make the quarters in their home Olympics. I predict they cause the big upset they have been looking for and get past the Montenegrins.
Croatia vs Georgia
Pretty simple stuff here. Croatians too classy an outfit and will cruise past the Georgians.
Italy vs USA
Big match up here. If the USA’s core is intact from Tokyo, I think they can take the W here. Certainly wouldn’t be unheard of, but seeing Italy not in the QFs will be a big change in the international scene.
Australia vs Canada
The Aussies get a good rub of the green here and take on Canada, who while strong and will push them all the way, the Aussies will outclass them. However, in the last head to head match up, the Canadians did take the points, so will be a tough match regardless.
Quarter Finals (Winners to the Semi-Finals)
Hungary vs USA
The Hungarians will be ready to rip and tear in front of a home crowd and I am not prepared to back them to lose at this stage of the tournament. If they were to, a national inquiry would be heard and I think the players will be keen to avoid. Hungary to win.
Greece vs Australia
Greeks are a very good team, with players who have made big contributions to their respective club teams in the Champions League recently and the core playing together with Olympiacos. However, I think the Aussie’s get underestimated here and claim one of the more famous victories in our sport to move to the semi finals.
Spain vs Japan
The Spanish style of water polo is pretty well suited to adjust to the Japanese high press and counter, so I can see them being focused and taking care of business here, with the Japanese dream run coming to an end.
Serbia vs Croatia
Huge match up, which will be the pick of the round. Young Serbs will be motivated to take advantage of their new opportunity in the top team and get past the Croatians. Honestly, this is a flip of a coin scenario and I just feel like on face value, the Serbs get the win.
Semi-Finals (Winners to Gold, Losers to Bronze)
Hungary vs Australia
Hungarians will again be feeling the pressure of the home crowd willing them into the final. Aussie’s back in the semis again for the first time in 24 years. Everyone knows Aussie’s love being the underdog, so I think this will be no exception and the boys will not survive this encounter, but thrive! Aussie’s to take the win against a stunned Hungary
Spain vs Serbia
Spanish will rely on experience here and the young Serbs will fall back to reality a bit. Spain keen to change the result of their Olympic semi match up where Serbia came over the top of them in the dying minutes. Spain to progress to the final.
Hungary vs Serbia
The Hungarians will be out for vengeance and I can see them being whipped into a frenzy by the home crowd. Serbia won’t put up much of a fight and we will see the Hungarians storm home.
Australia vs Spain
The Spanish are well drilled and disciplined, with a strong core motivated to show the world what they are capable of. However, the Aussie’s have made it this far and have the game of their lives to become first time World Champions!
Men's - Final Standings
16th South Africa