Super Final 2013 (Men): Serbia wins again, this time with ease

World League

SRB team - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav ShishkozdovCHELYABINSK, Russia (June 16) – Serbia won the World League crown and the $100,000 cheque for the 7th time (twice triumphed as Serbia-Montenegro), and for the 5th time in seven years. The final against Hungary wasn’t as thrilling as used to be, still, the capacity crowd enjoyed it very much. The bronze medal went to Montenegro after they won with penalties against the US – it was Montenegro’s fourth shootout in six games.

Chelyabinsk, together with the Russian Water Polo Federation, was a worthy host of FINA’s premium water polo event which proved that the men’s field has become wider and more balanced than ever.

Match reports:

Game 21, 14.00, for places 7-8: JAPAN vs BRAZIL 9-4
Quarters: (4-1, 3-1, 1-0, 1-2)
Referees: Chen Zialang (CHN), Gyorgy Kun (HUN)
Extraman: JPN: 2/7. BRA: 0/5

JAPAN: Tanamura Katsusuyuki – Ichikawa Masahiro, Arai Atsushi, Shiga Mitsuaki 1, Ezaki Daichi, Hemmi Yuta, Shimizu Yusuke, Kadono Yuki 1, Takei Koji 2, Yasuda Kenya 1, Okawa Keigo 2, Hazui Shota 2.
BRAZIL: Thye Bezerra – Bernando Gomes 1, Henrique Miranda, Gustavo Coutinho, Emilio Viera, Gabriel Rocha, Adrian Delgado Baches 2, Felipe Silva, Bernardo Rocha 1, Ruda Franco, Gustavo Guimaraes, Antonio Neto Inserra.

Japan started the World League Super Final with a shocking shootout win against Montenegro and was centimetres away from upsetting the United States… Perhaps if that ball bounces in from the bar at 12-12, one minute before the end the whole tournament differs for the Asians. Still, they deserve all credit to give tough tests even for the best sides, they kept themselves firm against the eventual finalists, Hungary and Serbia, and apart from the blackout in the third quarter they played a fine game with Russia. A win in the regular time was a kind of must for them after the heroic efforts seen in the previous five days, and they earned it on the last day against Brazil.

The Japanese didn’t let any doubt who would win this encounter, in four minutes they rushed to a 3-0 lead and managed to go with full gear until half-time. Their dominance was clearly visible on the scoreboard: they led 7-2.

Since this was the 6th game in six days for both sides it was not surprising that they ran out of fuel for the last two periods. The Japanese had no reason to rush after all, while Brazil couldn’t produce a similar comeback they had against China a day earlier in the third period as they missed two 6 on 5s after the mid-break. What’s more, Hazui Shota’s action goal widened the gap (8-2). In the last period Brazil had something to cheer about at last, they scored two goals but Japan had the last laugh as Keigo Okawa sent a great shot home for 9-4.

Though the game finished at around 3PM in the afternoon, Japan was represented at the victory ceremony in the evening: Koji Takei has become the Best Scorer of the tournament with 17 goals – today he added two to his tally, a great feat indeed.

BRA - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov
BRA - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov


YOJI OMOTO – Head coach, JPN
“First of all we told the players to stay cool as the Brazilians are a bit rough, they are grabbing and holding all the time and we should not respond to their provocation. The second thing: keep on swimming as we are much better physically. And this is what the players did exactly. About the tournament I have to say, that we’ve never gone through this kind of experience, to play six matches in six days. But it was great to realise what we are able to do against the top teams and what are not. We could have finished a bit higher and play with our eternal rival China for the fifth place, but we lost to Russia a day earlier. Still, I’m satisfied with the result. Now we know our tasks, our players won’t grow 20 cm in two years so we have to work on other tools to get closer to the best ones.”

“We arrived here not just after a long travel: we were also tired because of the finish of our national league. Most of us played eight games in five days before we left Brazil. So our level of play is definitely not the best, we tried to keep on with the others, we had a tough game against Russia, then Hungary, had good two quarters against China and also today. What we have to do in the future is practice, practice, practice, and learn patience above all.”

Game 22, 15.45, for places 5-6: RUSSIA vs CHINA 17-8
Quarters: (4-2, 4-1, 6-0, 3-5)
Referees: German Moller (ARG), Cory Williams (NZL)
Extraman: RUS: 7/9. CHN: 3/11

RUSSIA: Viktor Ivanov – Nikolay Lazarev 1, Artem Odintsev 1, Alexey Ryzhov-Alenichev 3, Albert Zinnatulin, Artem Ashaev 2, Vladislav Timakov 3, Ivan Nagaev, Dmitry Kholod 3, Roman Shepelev, Sergey Lisunov 1, Stepan Andryukov 3, Evgeny Kostrov (GK).
CHINA: Wu Honghui – Tan Fehiu 1, Liang Zhongxing 1, Jiang Bin, Guo Junliang 1, Pan Ning 2, Li Bin, Wang Yang 1, Xie Junmin 1, Zhang Jian, Zhang Chufeng 1, Liang Nianxiang.

Russian head coach Alexander Karaboutov was so upset on Day 3 after their loss to China that he sent a message to the press: don’t wait for him, he is not available for comments… Though he is a tough man – he was the same as a player – and not the kind who smiles a lot (laughter? no…), today he was even cheerful upon talking to the local press. He could be: the Russian team showed the best performance of the week, they totally outplayed China, all part of their game worked. The hosts defended well but it was their attack which was overwhelming: they put away 7 extras on 9 occasions (a rarity in this sport), scored great goals from the distance and led a handful of fast counter attacks. China crashed in the third as Japan did a day before, the Russians produced the same scoreline for this eight minutes (6-0) and led 14-3. Just a reminder: three days ago China won 12-11… The final quarter saw a late surge from China, plus some tension in the pool with two red cards, but towards the end of the tournament the tiring players sometime lose control a bit easier. And nothing really serious happened, apart from Russia’s triumphant march ended at 17 goals, the second highest score in the tournament. China tops this list with the 18 goals netted against Brazil – however, their team looked a bit exhausted as if they put much if not all into the previous five games and didn’t have reserves left for this clash.

RUS vs CHN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov
RUS vs CHN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov


“For three periods we saw a performance the Russian team should always show, both in defence and in offence. The fourth period we took a bit of rest, but all in all I’m satisfied with the result.”

“Generally, we can play better, even better than today. This game showed the real Russian team: compared to our previous game it wasn’t the Chinese whose level dropped, it was our team which played much better. We try to bring the level of play we reached on the last two days to Kazan, for the World University Games: this tournament was a good preparation for that event.”

PAN NING – Player, CHN
“The Russian team is quite young, perhaps that made the difference between our games. That time they played bad, this time they played great. We loved this tournament, it was well organised – and perhaps now we will have some time to look around in the city.”

Game 23, 17.30, Bronze Medal Game: MONTENEGRO vs UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 10-10 (1-2, 3-3, 2-3, 4-2) – penalties: 3-1
Referees: Irfan Sadekov (RUS), Nikolaos Vasilieou (GRE)
Extraman: MNE: 4/6. USA: 4/11
Penalties: MNE: 1 for 1. USA: 1 for 1

MONTENEGRO: Milos Scepanovic – Drasko Brguljan, 1 Vjekoslav Paskovic, Antonio Petrovic 1, Miljan Popovic, Nikola Markovic, Dragan Draskovic 3, Luka Sekulic 1, Radovan Latinovic, Darko Brguljan 2, Filip Klikovac 1, Uros Cuckovic, Dejan Lazovic (GK).
USA: Andrew Stevens – Bret Bonnani, Collin Smith, Thomas Corcovan, Janson Wigo, Matthew De Trane, Alexander Obert 1, Alexander Bowen 2, Shea Buckner 1, Timothy Hutten 1, Michael Rosenthal 3, John Mann 1, Greg Enloe 1.

The game produced the most thrilling last period of the tournament – and as bonus, another penalty shootout. Just as it happened in the other pairings where the sides met for the second time after the prelims, this was a totally different story, too. On Day 3 Montenegro taught a lesson for the young US team and soundly beat them 9-4, scoring five unanswered goals after 4-4.

Now the US team took the driving seat early and almost always were up by couple of goals. They led 5-3 in the second, Montenegro came back to 5-5 in the third but then came three consecutive US hits, two of them were action goals and at 5-8 the Montenegrin head coach, Ranko Perovic called for an emergency time-out. It had a positive effect, soon after they pulled one back, but in the following attack they missed an extra, so they still trailed 6-8 before the last period.

Those eight minutes brought sheer excitement, even the Russian spectators started to shout and scream as Montenegro levelled the score from two 6 on 5s. Michael Rosenthal managed to convert an extra for 8-9, but in 22 seconds Filip Klikovac replied (9-9). The US got another man-up but missed it after a time-out and Darko Brguljan took the lead for Montenegro for the first time in the match, it was a magnificent individual action with 27 seconds remaining on the clock. But it was not over. After some heated moments, the US earned a 6 on 5 with five seconds to go, it was enough for two passes, and Rosenthal’s ball just beat the goalie – sneaked in from Scepanovic’s hand – and the buzzer.

So Montenegro could prepare its fourth penalty shootout while the US team had two earlier. Montenegro stood 1-2 before this one, while the US won two out of two. However, it quickly turned out that substituting the goalie for the shootout would pay off for Montenegro again: when they did it last time they won against Russia. And Lazovic immediately stopped the first attempt, making the following US shooters so tense that two of them simply missed the target, so after the earlier shootouts which were all decided by one miss, now we had much more, in fact the US team could convert only one, and Drasko Brugljan’s shot ended the game and secured the bronze medal for Montenegro.

MNE vs USA - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov
MNE vs USA - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov


“We were a bit tired as we lost plenty of energy yesterday (against Serbia in the semis). And periodically we played really bad. After 5-8 we started to play on the level we usually can. During the time-out I tried to wake my team up to start to play. It was our heart and our soul.”

“We played with emotions, we lost the game because we couldn’t get the best out of the opportunity. Most of these players are kids, sometimes they are afraid of the situation that they can win another game. We had this situation not just today but earlier as well. To take control of the match after taking the lead and keep till the end. But this is normal. The penalties are like lottery, we won two, now lost one. The point is that we are getting better and better, game by game, you could see here and you will see in the future.”

“It was a very tiring match both physically and mentally, and a very tiring tournament. But it was nice to play, a real enjoyment. We had a horrible start, then started to play after we were down by three goals. We came back, took the lead, I think the US team was lucky with their equaliser in the last second, but luck gave everything back in the penalties.”

“I don’t think we lost the game necessarily in the shootout. That was the result, but the reason was our poor defence in the fourth quarter. This is a really young team, we are new together, we have to learn it out to finish games. We must continue to attack to win the game and not let the game to be given to us. This is a good experience before the FINA World Championships, just continue to grow as a young team. I think we are happy, we earned the chance to win a medal, and that’s we wanted. Hopefully, in the future we’ll be better prepared and be ready to go.”

Game 24, 19.15, Final: SERBIA vs HUNGARY 12-7
Quarters: (4-3, 3-1, 2-2, 3-1)
Referees: Joe Piela (USA), Adrian Alexandrescu (ROU)
Extraman: SRB: 6/12 – double extra: 1 for 1. HUN: 4 for 9 – double extra: 1 for 1
Penalties: SRB: Nil. HUN: 1 for 1

SERBIA: Gojko Pijetlovic – Aleksa Saponjic, Zivko Gocic 1, Vanja Udovicic 3, Milos Cuk, Nemanja Ubovic, Slobodan Nikic, Milan Aleksic, Nikola Radjen, Filip Filipovic 4, Dusan Mandic 1, Stefan Mitrovic 3, Branislav Mitrovic (GK).
HUNGARY: Viktor Nagy – Miklos Gor-Nagy, Norbert Madaras 2, Bence Batori, Marton Vamos, Norbert Hosnyanszky 1, Adam Decker, Marton Szivos 2, Daniel Varga, Denes Varga 1, Krisztian Bedo 1, Balazs Harai, Attila Decker (GK).

Dejan Savic’s coaching career got a flying start: within two weeks he collected two of the most prestigious trophies on offer in water polo, first the Champions League trophy with his club, Crvenza Zvezda Belgrade – and now the gold medal of the FINA Water Polo World League, a rather great feat from a newcomer coach.

The final in Chelyabinsk lacked the usual excitements we had experienced when the two current coaches had still been players. In fact, when Hungary and Serbia met for the last time in any of the big finals in 2007 (in the World League in Berlin), Dejan Savic and Tibor Benedek were in the pool and battled hard for the honours. Now they commanded their respective teams but it was Savic who probably had an easier task as he could direct a unit whose key-players are part of the big shows since years while Hungary had to start to rebuild its team after members of their golden generation all called it a day.
And it was visible right from the beginning that Serbia was the stronger side. They managed to set up more scoring opportunities, either because they were more creative and powerful in attack, either because their defence worked pretty effectively. Hungary managed to stay on equal team until 3-3, there they missed a man-up and they paid for it: the Serbs scored from the following attack and by half time they gained a 7-4 lead. Vanja Udovicic and Filip Filipovic sent one blast after the other, all of them were on target – Hungary opted to change its goalie as Viktor Nagy couldn’t make a single save in the first half. The substitute, Attila Decker started brilliantly, he made saves in three consecutive man-downs but his team mates weren’t sharp enough to capitalise on this. They could climb back to 7-5 and 8-6, but the last goal of the period went to Serbia whose players usually shot the ball in the 18th-20th second during their 6 on 5s (so in the very last seconds) as it happened this case when Filipovic scored his fourth goal of the evening for 9-6. The tiring Hungarians took some risks in the final period but their shots didn’t do much harm and the Serbs added three more later on.

After winning the World League title again they started to celebrate in the pool but didn’t throw the winning coach, Dejan Savic to the water – perhaps they’ve saved this ritual for a later date, early August, in Barcelona.

SRB vs HUN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov
SRB vs HUN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov


DEJAN SAVIC – Head coach, SRB
“We deserved this win. This was out best game in this tournament, our attack was good, but our defence worked even better. Yes, I thought we could do something like this, though this level is still far away from the one I expect to reach later, at the FINA World Championships.”

“No surprise. And when we lost Daniel Varga (through injury) our playing system collapsed almost entirely. We had players fouled out, and I couldn’t count on Daniel who can give some extra towards the end of any game by swimming off the centre-forwards and setting up counterattacks, so I lost my last weapon. However, I underline: this was not the reason for our loss, it was just a confirmation, that our small chances of a comeback dropped to zero. We got tired for this last day, Serbia is a stronger team as a unit on any given day, but today there was difference between the physical conditions as well. Also, Udovicic and Filipovic enjoyed outstanding shooting form – all these things were too much for my newly shaped young team to cope with.”

“Considering that we played without two of our best players, Prlainovic and Pijetlovic, we can be satisfied. We played well in defence, which is very important for us, realisation of man-ups were also great, and shooting from outside worked wonderfully. If we can continue this, we will be great in Barcelona (at the FINA World Championships). Together with the titles we recently won at club level, it’s a good proof that we are on the right track towards Rio 2016 which can be the peak of our careers.”

“I am proud of my silver medal as it took five years to reach a final of a major tournament. And this feels great. We couldn’t match Serbia’s strengths in the final, they were superior. There were some moments when we might have levelled the score and that would have changed the psychology of the match, but this didn’t happen. Now we have to admit that they were the better side and the task is given: let’s reach their level of play.”

Final standings and prize money
1. Serbia ($100,000)
2. Hungary ($70,000)
3. Montenegro ($50,000)
4. United States ($35,000)
5. Russia ($30,000)
6. China ($25,000)
7. Japan  ($20,000)
8. Brazil ($15,000)

Special Awards
Best scorer: Koji Takei (JPN), 17 goals
Best player: Vanja Udovicic (SRB)
Best goalkeeper: Milos Scepanovic (MNE)