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 - Italy, Hungary, Canada, Columbia
Group A looks to be very competitive, with the Canadians able to cause upsets on any given day. Hungary looked strong in Tokyo and broke their medal drought giving them the edge in my books.
Group B - USA, Netherlands, South Africa, Argentina
4th South Africa
Top of the group speaks for itself, but the battle for third will be exciting here - Argentina with a slight edge over the South Africans for me to make the cross overs.
Group C - Brazil, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Australia
3rd New Zealand
The excitement here is really for 2nd in the group, which I think the Kiwis are totally capable of grabbing - but thinking a lack of international experience over the last two years will see the Brazilians take the choccies head to head.
Group D - Thailand, France, Greece, Spain
Taking the Spanish in the head to head for the top of the group, but the Greeks will make it close. Could go either way.
Crossovers (2nd vs 3rd - Winner to Quarter Finals)
Italy vs Argentina
Italy will be way too strong for Argentina, really just needing to go through the motions here to claim the win and quarter final berth.
Canada vs Netherlands
This is the matchup of the cross-overs, with Netherlands taking the last head to head as recently as the Olympics last year. Canada is a dark horse team that can take on anyone on their day, but my head says the Dutch will progress.
Brazil vs France
Brazil is passionate and fiery as they come, but with France focused on having a competitive team for Paris, getting to the quarter finals will be a huge milestone for them. Gotta take the French.
Greece vs New Zealand
As much as I love our Kiwi compatriots, particularly their fantastic GK Jess Milicich, the Greeks will be too strong and powerful for New Zealand at this stage of the tournament. Kiwis will give a solid outing though and make the Greeks work for the win!
Quarter Finals (Winners to the Semis)
Hungary vs France
Hungary will be focused on the business end of the tournament and should make light work of the French.
USA vs Greece
Another great match up, with the Greeks in good form from their European club season. USA will be blooding new players this tournament, but having basically won everything there is to win for nearly a decade and only losing a handful of games, I can’t tip against them just yet. USA in a nail biter.
Australia vs Italy
Italy is a team of sharpshooters and seasoned professionals, while the Aussies are rolling out a very new team for this World Champs. Aussies will be fresh from the extra day off and the relatively easy rounds, and we know Aussie teams love to swim. Will be a close one, but Aussies will get over the line.
Spain vs Netherlands
A cracking match up again, but I think the Dutch will be running a little out of steam at this point and the Spanish starting to build into the tournament. Spain will be too much for the Dutchies.
Semi-Finals (Winners to Gold, Losers to Bronze)
Hungary vs USA
The Hungarians shocked the world in Tokyo, beating USA in the rounds for their first loss at an OG in a very long time. Home team will have a huge crowd in and will lift the girls into the final and USA to another shock loss.
Australia vs Spain
Spain got the chocolates at the Olympics, but will also have a young fresh team. I envisage a very tough defensive battle, with the Aussies locking up Spanish CFs and doing enough in attack too eek out the victory. Aussies to the final!
USA vs Spain
God help anyone who plays the USA after a loss. If USA loses the semi, they will come out at a million miles an hour and absolutely pump the Spanish.
Hungary vs Australia
Taking on a water polo nation at their home pool, with all the associated pressure is not going to be an easy task for the Aussie Stingers. Does that mean I am going to change my unwavering bias now? Absolutely not. Aussie Stingers force penalties in the dying stages, go to penalties and the home crowd pressure becomes too much for the Hungarians, Aussie’s claim a famous victory!
Final Standings - Women
11th New Zealand
14th South Africa