Manchester – On Wednesday, several students from the University of St Andrews Water Polo Club had the rare opportunity to see their sport played at the world’s highest level. At the incredible Manchester Aquatic Centre facilities, Manchester University hosted the preliminary FINA World League match between Great Britain and the current World Champions, Italy. The World League matches are part of the build-up to the 2012 London Olympics. Although the Italians finished with a comfortable 14-6 win over the GB men, the game was an impressive fight to the final whistle. With the St Andrews men and women looking forward to some of their seasons’ toughest games, this was certainly an inspiring experience.
In their World League debut, the British squad knew coming into the match they would have to rise to the challenging level of play brought by the World Champs. The game was a high-intensity, physical struggle from the start as the referees refused to give any easy fouls. The Italians got off to an impressive lead firing three goals into the back of the net in the first 3 minutes. Italy’s recent experience at the top of the sport was obvious. Not only was the Italian squad technically excellent, kicking up high enough to see their trunks above water and firing perfect passes across the pool, but they also came ready to play from the start. After a number of near-misses, Joe O’Regan got Great Britain on the score board. But it was not enough to keep the fast-pace Italians from dominating. Additional goals for GB came from captain Figes, Parker, James and finally a stunning lob from Will Middleton in the last quarter.
Despite the loss, there are a lot of positives that came out of this game. For one, the GB players managed to get at least one goal in all four periods. The Brits also had seven shots hit the cross bar in just one half which means the opportunities were there, just not the finish. They can also learn a lesson from their slower start and work towards playing a complete game at the standard they rose to in the second half of Wednesday’s game. The same standard was seen earlier this year in Manchester when the GB men took Georgia down in a close 8-7 victory to end the European Championships. Britain’s individual players are showing promise within their respective European professional club teams, all signs that British water polo is headed towards good things. Great Britain will face Russia in January for the next round of the World League preliminaries. With the countdown to the Olympic Games at just over 200 days, Team Great Britain will be working harder than ever in order to represent the host country this summer.
Image by Michele | Mic. Agius Photography