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Water polo: Japan wishes to continue twisting the lion’s tail as Asian champion

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The fast and experienced Japanese national water polo team may cause surprising and dangerous moments for top teams at the 17th FINA World Championships. The Far Eastern country’s national team is developing continuously, in fact some players have played in Hungary lately, so they might have learnt some lessons and hints how to go on and they may benefit from such insights at the World Championships.

FINA World Championships have featured the Japanese national team in the 21st century, only, in fact they attended the tournament in 2001, so we tend to say water polo is the discipline of the present and the future in Far Eastern countries. Japanese water polo is in fact progressing, it was also demonstrated by their 13th placement in Kazan at the 2015 World Championships, while 4 years earlier they were placed 11th, so they are not lagging behind and they had some nice moments at Rio Olympics, too, in spite of their 12th placement.

Photos: McKinnon

It will be their seventh World Championships attendance in Budapest, at the previous one in Kazan they had a rather strong group with Serbia, Australia and Montenegro. They started off with team Australia, at half time they were in 2-goal disadvantage but at the end they lost to Australia 10-4. Serbians had no mercy on them (19-9), however, Japanese offense at the start of the match against Montenegro was brilliant, what is more, they scored 10 goals, still the team of Brguljan won in the end 16-10.

At the placement matches they first defeated Argentina 14-6, then in the match for the 13th place they beat home team Russia 13-9, what an accomplishment!

The team playing in Russia was the same as in Rio consisting of: Katsuyuki Tanamura, Seiya Adachi, Atsushi Arai, Mitsuaki Shiga, Akira Yanase, Atsuto Iida, Yusuke Shimizu, Yuki Kadono, Koji Takei, Kenya Yasuda, Keigo Okawa, Shota Hazui, Tomoyoshi Fukushima.

The Japanese had an even more appealing performance in Rio than in Kazan, they swam and moved a lot in the water challenging the legends of the group.

The Greek team could beat them by one goal only (8-7), which required 4-0 (!) in the last quarter by the bronze medallists of Kazan. Although team Japan lost to Brazil 16-8, they played a quite close match with Australians, finally the team of Younger won 8-6. The Hungarian team beat Japan 17-7, then came the final against Serbia where the Serbians playing on thin ice lost the first quarter 5-2. Slowly they managed to pull themselves together and finished 12-8 with victory.

The previous period carried potential surprises for the Japanese, the question is whether they will realise it in Budapest or not. By the way, Koji Takei, Yusuke Shimizu played in Hungary for a while before (both scored plenty of goals at that time), whereas Atsushi Arai has played in OB I this year. They were all hired by RacioNet-Honvéd.

Hence these players will be familiar with the settings in Hungary, but it is in fact true concerning the entire national team since the Japanese have often trained in the hosting city of the 17th FINA World Championships.

Japanese team took part in the World League Super Final is June. They were beaten by Croatia (5-13), Australia (8-9), Russia (5-12), Serbia (10-19) and for the 5-8 place by Russia (17-18, after penalties) and Australia again (4-11).

However, at the World Championships they will really need to show their skills in the group stage against the US, Croatia and Russia. It means that they will meet at least one rival, Russia again, as they did in Kazan.

Japan at the FINA World Championships:

11th place (2011)
13th place(2015)
14th place (2005)
15th place (2003)
16th place (2001, 2007)