Eight teams and just one trophy. Yes, it’s time to see who is going to win a FINA World League trophy this year. Super Final water polo tournament is going to be played in the Russian town of Ruza and Serbian water polo team is the defending champion.
Looking at both groups it seems the Group is the tougher one because it contains Serbia, 10 time World League champion and powerhouses like Italy and USA. Of course, there is also Kazakhstan, but they have a role of underdog.
For the Italians, as they said themselves, this Super Final is a good opportunity for them to see how close are they to Serbia and Croatia, two teams best in the world at the moment.
“This is a very important test that allows us to see how we close we are to Croatia and Serbia. They are two superpowers of water polo which last year was played in the finals in Rio de Janeiro. Our goal is to reduce the gap and this is the first opportunity. We are going to play in the World League Super Final with a new team compared to Olympics”, said Alessandro Campagna, head coach of Italy, whose best result in World League were two second places, in 2003. and 2011.
SERBIA WITHOUT GOCIC AND NIKIC FOR THE FIRST TIME IN BIG COMPETITION
As for the Serbian team, the main change compared to Rio de Janeiro is the fact that Zivko Gocic and Slobodan Nikic ended their international careers.
Head coach Dejan Savic stressed that his team wants to continue the winning streak in all international competitions which lasts since 2014. But also, Savic sees this Super final as a good opportunity to prepare the team for this year’s main international competition – World Championship in Budapest.
And they will chase another gold with a new captain, Filip Filipovic.
“Serbian team always tries to reach maximum goals. But, considering the facts that at the moment we are not in top form and team which is going to play, maybe it’s not realistic to expect a gold medal. But, we go to Russia prepared to fight and also to get ready for the World Championship in Budapest.”
United States team could try to break to European rivals in the standings in this Group A. Like Italians, their best achievements in this competition are two silver medals, last year and in 2008.
Returning Olympians McQuin Baron, Alex Bowen, Alex Obert, Thomas Dunstan and Ben Hallock will lead Team USA into action. The United States enters play on the heels of a four-game set with Croatia in California.
As for Kazakhstan, it would be a big surprise if they manage to win a single point. For them, the main goal is just to try and compete with the best team in the world. In 2012. they managed to do it well because they won the fifth place in the finals.
CROATIA IS THE MAIN FAVORITE IN GROUP B
It is no secret that in the B group of the Super Final tournament Croatia water polo team is the main favorite for the first place. Silver medalists from Rio games are also probably the main contenders for gold.
Croats will be without injured captain Sandro Sukno. He will continue to work individually in Dubrovnik and will join the rest of the team after the tournament in Ruza. Croatia already won the World League trophy in 2012.
The host, Russia are trying to find a way to get back on the track in world water polo elite and this is a really good opportunity. Especially because Zbornaya is playing at home swimming pool and in front of its own fans.
It is fair to say that Russia is the main contender for the spot number two in this group and a place in the semifinals of this tournament.
With all due respect, Australia and especially Japan seem to be underdogs in this group but no one should underestimate them. Australia last time playing at the final tournament in 2011 and they won the sixth place, while Japan never got through the group stage.
GROUPS AND SCHEDULE
In the Super Final the eight qualifying teams are split into two groups of four teams with all teams progressing to the knock-out stage.
Group A schedule
Serbia – Kazakhstan
USA – Italy
USA – Kazakhstan
Serbia – Italy
Serbia – USA
Kazakhstan – Italy
Group B schedule
Croatia – Japan
Australia – Russia
Australia – Japan
Croatia – Russia
Croatia – Australia
Japan – Russia
2002 – Russia
2003 – Hungary
2004 – Hungary
2005 – Serbia and Montenegro
2006 – Serbia and Montenegro
2007 – Serbia
2008 – Serbia
2009 – Montenegro
2010 – Serbia
2011 – Serbia
2012 – Croatia
2013 – Serbia
2014 – Serbia
2015 – Serbia
2016 – Serbia
2017 – ?