Past week, in Sao Paulo (Brazil), the UANA Cup was played as the FINA World Championship Qualification Tournament for the Americas. There were no big surprises as Brazil and USA qualified on the men’s side and for the women, Canada and Cuba qualified for the FINA World Championships to be held in Gwangiu (South Korea) in July 2019.
Disrupted by many tropical storms, the tournament was played at the beautiful SESI Vila Leopoldina facility with full stands of vivacious Brazilian supporters. The atmosphere was typical for a team sport event in South America which added excitement and enthusiasm to the water polo event. The Tournament was host to a world-class international neutral referee, Mr. Stavridis, form Greece. Live streaming was available commencing on the 3rd day of the tournament with passionate Brazilian commentating. Overall, the UANA Cup was a great promotion of water polo in the Americas.
On the men’s side, only 4 countries competed: USA, Brazil, Argentina and Canada. They were battling for 2 qualification spots for the 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangiu (South Korea).
Results Men’s Competition
Day 4 and 5 were played on the same day the day 4 games were canceled due to
CAN-BRA 15:5 semifinal 1
USA-ARG 21:4 semifinal 2
Bronze medal game: CAN-ARG 10:6
Gold medal game: BRA-USA 12:11 on penalty shoot out (9:9 regular time)
Even though, Brazil won the tournament, USA is still the super power in men’s water polo in the Americas, by both results and performance during the tournament. Excluding the final game, they conquered every team by more than a
10 goal difference!!. The final game had little significance as both teams had already qualified for the FINA World Championship by winning their respectful semi-final games.
Brazil had surprising and satisfactory final game win versus USA but more impressive was the amazing win versus Canada (15:5) which qualified them for the FINA World Championships. Their other performances were way below the level needed next summer and their ambitious coach, Andre Avallone will need to prepare team to show consistently good performances. It seems they peaked at the right moment on the last day of the tournament.
Canada had the worst result ever in the history of their men’s program. Not qualifying for the FINA World Championship has never happened before and it is obvious that something is wrong in the “Northern Federation”. Constant decline and
bad results from Pino Porzio’s team in the last few years culminated here in Sao Paulo. Once considered the most improved team and ranked in the top 8 countries in the world (2008), Canada is now struggling having dropped out of top 16 ranking
in the world. It will be interesting to see what happens next with Canada.
Argentina, without their super star, Gonzalo Echenique, who is playing for Italy now, was not a serious opponent, even in the Americas. It will be very hard for Argentina to move up the standings if the best players are constantly allowed to immigrate and play for the best countries in the world. FINA will have to think of a solution to regulate this trend to develop water polo globally.
Results Women’s Competition
On the women’s side, the UANA Cup had only three countries: Canada, Cuba and the host Brazil. Like in the Men’s tournament, the UANA Cup was also a qualifier for the FINA World Championship for the 2 top ranking teams.
This was an easy tournament for Canada’s Women’s Tea, since the USA had already qualified for the FINA World Championship by winning the FINA World Cup last summer where they won the tournament by beating CUBA 18:9 in the finals and 14:3 in the round robin as well as win versus the host, Brazil, in the round robin 18:8. It will be interesting to see if “Maple Leafs” are a true medal contender against world’s super powers in the women’s tournament next summer in Korea. The big battle in the women’s tournament was for the second qualifying spot between the host Brazil and Cuba. Cuba finished victorious with a 12:9 win over Brazil. This was a big win for the Cuban’s, before the loud and faithful Brazilian crowed. Although the Cuban women will not likely be a contender for higher standing at the FINA World Championship 2019 in Korea, it is very good to see the Cubans back on the “big scene” in Women’s water polo again, after many years of absence.