Catalans secure Spain’s men’s water polo World Championship victory

Spaniards defeated Italy 15-14 in a penalty shootout after a thrilling final

A shot of the Italy-Spain water polo 2022 World Championship final on July 3, 2022 (by DBM/Deepbluemedia for Royal Spanish Swimming Federation)
A shot of the Italy-Spain water polo 2022 World Championship final on July 3, 2022 (by DBM/Deepbluemedia for Royal Spanish Swimming Federation) / Gerard Escaich Folch

Gerard Escaich Folch | Barcelona

July 4, 2022 11:34 AM

The Spanish men’s water polo team became the World Champions on Sunday evening after beating Italy 15-14 on penalties after a thrilling final that ended 9-9. The vast majority of the team is Catalan, while all of the athletes play for Catalan teams such as CN Barcelona, CN Sabadell, and CN Atlètic-Barceloneta.

The team has become the world champions for the first time in 21 years after defeating their European counterparts, exacting some revenge after the Italians beat Spain 10-5 in the world gold medal match in 2019.

In fact, Italy and Spain broke the record for most goals scored in the final of the men's water polo final, as shared by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) on Twitter. "The previous record was a 14-13 after a penalty shootout won by Serbia in 2009 versus Spain," the federation added.

The first quarter of the match, contested in Budapest, included the most goals "ever in the first quarter of a final in the men’s water polo tournament at the World Champs," the organizers explained when the match was tied 3-3.

With the new championship, Spain equals Hungary for second-most world titles in Men’s water polo with three cups, just behind Italy with four.

For Spain, the third title came a long time after the previous titles of Perth 1998 and Fukuoka 2001.

CN Atlètic-Barceloneta star Felipe Perrone was awarded the Most Valuable Player award in the final. Additionally, Terrassa-born and also CN Atlètic-Barceloneta player Alvaro Granados was considered, alongside Perrone, one of the 'match heroes.'

Granados scored six goals in the victory, four in the regular time and two more in the shootout. While captain Felipe Perrone scored in the third period and twice in the shootout, "defying his advancing years and showing why he wants to become a five-time Olympian in Paris," FINA shared. 

"Finally, we did it. We played very well and deserved this win. The last quarter was very difficult because Italy is a great team," Barcelona-born coach David Martín said to the swimming federation.

"I am very proud of my players, and now there is nothing more to do. All my players had a dream to win this championship. They wanted to take revenge for the previous final and fortunately, we just did that," he added.

Martín was referring to the 2019 final against Italy where Spain lost 10-5.

On the other hand, Alessandro Campagna, the Italian coach, considered it had been "an amazing match." 

"My players gave 100%. They put strength into the water, even if Spain played better in the first two quarters, I believed that we could come back. I believed in it, even if we were very much down," Campagna added. 

Water polo in Catalonia

Catalonia has had a long history of water polo. The whole team playing in Budapest was made up of members of Catalan water polo clubs, the vast majority from CN Atlètic-Barceloneta. 

In fact, in the men’s Spanish water polo league Premaat there are 12 teams and nine of them are Catalan. The only ones from outside the territory are Club water polo Navarra, in the north of Spain, Echeyde from Santa Cruz de Tenerife’s Canary Island, and the Real Canoe from Madrid, established in 1931 after a merger between two teams, one of them created by the founder of CN Atlètic-Barceloneta. 

But water polo in Catalonia is not a male-dominated sport, as the Spanish women's water polo team won the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games silver medal after a brilliant tournament and was predominantly made up of Catalan athletes. 

All of Roser Tarragó, Elena Sánchez, Elena Ruiz, Beatriz Ortiz, Paula Leitón, Marta Bach Pascual, Irene González, Maica García Godoy, Judith Forca, Laura Ester, Clara Espar, Anni Espar represented Catalonia in the Spanish national team, as they fell at the final hurdle against the United States.