Gergely Csurka, FINA Media Committee

Soon after the Olympic Qualification Tournament concluded in Rotterdam, the middle bridge emerged from the water where the fiercely contested matches determined the last three Olympic berths – and there, in the middle of the pool, the draws for the men’s and women’s Olympic tournaments were held.

After the welcome speech of FINA Bureau Liaison Andriy Kryukov, FINA TWPC Chair Lolo Ibern conducted the draw with the help of Alessandro Maugeri, the son of the late Italian coaching legend Mauro Maugeri, who also coached the Netherlands' women’s team and European champion Dutch player Brigitte Sleeking.

First the women’s tournament was sorted out – for the very first time, 10 teams appeared in the bowls (between 2000 and 2016 eight teams could participate at the Games).

Here Group A will see Australia takes on the finalists of the 2020 European Championships, gold medallist Spain and runner-up Netherlands which return to the Olympics for the first time after 2008 when they had clinched the title (and back then they were also in the same group with the Aussies). Canada and South Africa will be part of this show too.

In Group B title-holder United States will share company with Hungary for the third edition in a row, while Rio bronze medallist Russia shall have some new experience in the group stage after meeting Australia and Italy in the prelims both in 2012 and 2016. Here the two Asian participants, China and Japan will clash with the superpowers (in fact three of the top four ranked side from Rio – 1. USA, 3. Russia, 4. Hungary – will clash in this group).

The men’s draw produced a long-seen pairing immediately as Italy and Hungary met in the Olympic prelims in 1992 for the last time. Just like in Rio, the 2020 European champion Magyar side will face Greece and Japan, but the United States will also out a great challenge for the sides in Group A. (Just an interesting fact: Hungary, USA and Japan have been drawn together both in the men's and women's tournament – like Australia and Russia in the opposite groups.)

Group B will be the battlefield of tremendous fights, featuring the three former Yugoslavian teams, title-holder Serbia, 2017 world champion Croatia and winner of this qualification tournament Montenegro. Add Spain, silver medallist of the 2019 World Championships and the 2018 and 2020 European Championships and 2019 World League bronze medallist Australia in the company of Asia’s best Kazakhstan. In fact, this group features three of the top four from Rio, gold medallist Serbia, runner-up Croatia and 4th placed Montenegro – so water polo lovers can already start warming up for the outstanding excitements, due right from Day 1 of the competition in Tokyo.

Women’s tournament

Group A

Australia, South Africa, Netherlands, Spain, Canada

Group B

Russia, China, Hungary, United States, Japan

Men’s tournament

Group A

South Africa, United States, Hungary, Greece, Japan, Italy

Group B

Australia, Croatia, Serbia, Spain, Kazakhstan, Montenegro