Water Polo Reports - Men, Day 6

Kazan 2015 - WP

Tantalising Croatia-Serbia gold-medal final in men’s water polo

Olympic champion Croatia will play World Cup and World League champion Serbia in the gold-medal final of men’s water polo on Saturday.

Croatia needed a penalty shootout to surpass the fast-finishing Greece, which twice did a Houdini trick to secure the penalty round following the quarterfinal win over Australia.

For Croatia it means Olympic qualification by making the final and gives it a chance to add World crown to its Olympic title.

Serbia bolted out of the gate against Italy, racing to a 4-0 quarter en route to a 10-6 victory in its rush for gold.

The winner of the bronze-medal match will gain the second Olympic berth from this tournament. Serbia, as World League champion, has already qualified so Croatia goes and one other.

In the round 5-8 semifinals, Montenegro beat Australia 11-8 after leading 5-1 early in the second quarter and Hungary rebounded from its loss to Italy by downing United States of America 13-8 in an entertaining match.

In the two classification matches, Canada beat Brazil 12-10 in a penalty shootout after the match for ninth was tied at 7-7 by fulltime and Kazakhstan, thanks to a tournament-high seven goals from Alexandr Axenov beat South Africa 11-7 for 11th.

August 8 Schedule

Classification 7-8

14:00, AUS v USA

Classification 5-6

15:30, MNE v HUN

Classification 3-4 (Bronze medal)

20:30, GRE v ITA

Classification 1-2 (Gold medal)

22:00, CRO v SRB

Match 44: 22:00, ITALY 6 SERBIA 10

Classification 1-4 Semifinal

Quarters: 0-4, 2-4, 2-1, 2-1

Referees: Boris Margeta (SLO), Radoslaw Koryzna (POL).

Extra Man: ITA: 2/12. SRB: 3/7.

Pens:  Nil.


ITALY: Stefano Tempesti, Francesco di Fulvio (1), Alessandro Velotto, Pietro Figlioli, Alex Giorgetti (1), Andrea Fondelli (2), Massimo Giacoppo, Nicholas Presciutti, Niccolo Gitto, Stefano Luongo (1), Matteo Aicardi, Fabio Baraldi (1), Marco Del Lungo. Head coach: Alessandro Campagna.

SERBIA: Gojko Pijetlovic, Dusan Mandic (1), Zivko Gocic (1), Sava Randelovic, Milos Cuk (1), Dusko Pijetlovic (1), Slobodan Nikic, Milan Aleksic (1), Nikola Jaksic (1), Filip Filipovic, Andrija Prlainovic (1), Stefan Mitrovic (3), Branislav Mitrovic. Head Coach: Dejan Savic.

Match Report:

Serbia made sure of its trip to the gold-medal final and expunge the memory of 2013 when it could do no better than seventh. With a sparkling performance in the first quarter that left Italy in a flurry of whitewater and four goals in deficit, Serbia was THE team, the one to watch and from which to gain inspiration and stare in awe. The shock tactics proved useful in keeping Italy softened up throughout. Italy gained some respect in the second quarter, scoring the 1-4 and 2-6 goals before Serbia closed the half through and extra-man slap goal from Nikola Jaksic from point blank and then Stefan Mitrovic’s third goal on counter. As he lobbed, veteran goalkeeper Stefano Tempesti, Italy’s captain, followed through and touched Mitrovic, who left the pool. At 8-2 there was no way anyone could come back to Serbia, let alone the spirited Italians. Two of the earlier goals came on counter, so Serbia has the requirements in all parts of the field to arrest the opposition, convict them, jail them and throw away the key. Italy attempted a breakout with Andrea Fondelli from the top and Fabio Baraldi with a superb centre-forward catch and shoot for 4-9 at the start of the third period. Dusko Pijetlovic moments earlier showed Baraldi how to play that shot. Italy could not say it did not have chances. There were plenty of opportunities, but poor options and excellent blocking meant Serbia held the five-goal advantage to the final break. The jailer was still standing outside the cell and no food was being sent in. Milan Aleksic converted extra-man attack from the top to start the fourth period and 10-4 was such a hurdle. Italy continued to smash at the door and Fondelli, who had not scored before tonight, netted his second with a deft lob at 5:01. At 2:31, Stefano Luongo scored from deep left, just to say he could after four previous knocks. It was the close of scoring and sets up a mouth-watering final.


Dejan Savic (SRB) — Head Coach
“It will be a great final, the two best teams in this championship. Today we started strong and produced a very good game in the first two periods. It was easy to make the result to the end. We are happy and congratulations on one more step to our goal.

Zivko Gocic (SRB) — Captain
''We played very, very good. I think the key was in that in the first two quarters we scored three or four goals from set plays. We knew the Italians would be tactically well prepared and that if we would go on to a man-up/man-down game, it would be good for them. But we managed to score the, let's say, normal-play goals and got up 0-4 and 2-8. That was the key.'' On Croatia in the final: ''Believe me, this will be a totally different match, because we are from the same school. But to get the gold medal you have to win every match and now we need just one more.''

Alex Giorgetti (ITA)
“I suppose it was a battle, a fight. Today Italy may have shown fear of Serbia. We had anger against Hungary with fire in our eyes. We are a young team and we don’t have any maturity. To have a great team you have to work a lot more. It was a catastrophe. In a semifinal it’s important not to see 8-2. Incredible. I was very angry, sad. So, I am one of the oldest players, also it is my fourth championship. I have to support my friends, play for third place and the bronze medal, also the Olympic Games qualification. We have to stand up and make a great match.”

Match 43: 20:30, CROATIA 15 GREECE 13 in penalty shootout (FT: 10-10. Pens: 5-3)

Classification 1-4 Semifinal

Quarters: 3-1, 2-3, 3-2, 2-4. Pens: 5-3

Referees: Adrian Alexandrescu (ROU), Daniel Flahive (AUS).

Extra Man: CRO: 4/14. GRE: 4/11

Pens: GRE: 1/1.


CROATIA: Josip Pavic, Damir Buric, Antonio Petkovic (1), Luka Loncar (2), Maro Jokovic (2), Luka Bukic (1), Petar Muslim (3), Andro Buslje, Sandro Sukno (3), Fran Paskvalin, Andelo Setka (1), Paulo Obradovic (2), Marko Bijac. Head Coach: Ivica Tucak.

GREECE: Konstantinos Flegkas, Emmanouil Mylonakis (2), Georgios Dervisis, Konstantinos Genidounias, Ioannis Fountoulis (2), Kyriakos Pontiekas, Christos Afroudakis (2), Evangelos Delakas, Konstantinos Mourikis (1), Christodoulos Kolomvos, Alexandros Gounas (1), Angelos Vlacholopoulos (3), Stefanos Galanpoulos. Head Coach: Theodoros Vlachos.

Match Report:

Greece tried to sneak in through the back door for the second consecutive match, but Croatia shut the door instead in the penalty shootout. Croatia had the better of the first quarter with Luka Loncar  (centre forward) and Sandro Sukno (top) scoring for a 2-0 lead. The response came from Ioannis Fountoulis on penalty and the final strike from Luka Bukic, son of the famous Perica Bukic (deep left-hand catch), 26 seconds from the break. Greece outplayed Croatia in the second quarter with goals to Angelos Vlachopoulos (top), Konstantinos Mourikis (centre forward) and Fountoulis on extra. Paulo Obradovic (centre forward backhand) and Petar Muslim (extra) scored the 4-1 and 5-2 goals. The fact that Greece scored the last two goals had Croatia a little worried going into the main break. Goals were traded in the third with Croatia leading at 6-4 through Loncar’s second from the near-post position on extra, Vlachopoulos from the top, Muslim on extra from deep left and captain Christos Afroudakis on extra into the bottom right for 7-6 in favour of Croatia at 2:26. Afroudakis tried a backhander from six metres soon after only to be blocked. Maro Jokovic made the most of a foul outside five with five seconds remaining, scoring for an 8-6 advantage. In the fourth, Afroudakis shot from the top on extra, but Obradovic on extra had it out to two again. Vlachopoulos nailed his third from the top on extra for 9-8, the Sandro Sukno sent in one of the fastest shots seen from outside for 10-8. Emmanouil Mylonakis took a beautiful cross pass and scored for 9-10 at 1:42. The 2486 paying spectators were in raptures as Greece went to a timeout and came in for the equaliser through post man Christodoulos Kolomvos, who steered in a pass from Fountoulis with just 27 seconds left in the match. By now three Greeks and two Croatians were fouled from the match. Croatia had the ball stolen on its attack and this sent the match to a penalty shootout. Croatia was without Andro Buslje and Paulo Obradovic for the shootout. Greece had Konstantinos Genidounias, Kyriakos Pontikeas and Evangelos Delakas sidelined. Greece had come back for a shootout, like in the quarterfinal with Australia. Croatia had the clean sheet in shooting and it was, sadly, Fountoulis, the man who has given so much to Greece in Kazan, including 14 goals, who missed the second shot in the rotation. Croatia was through and, with it, an Olympic qualification spot for Rio de Janeiro.

CRO vs GRE ©Giorgio Perottino / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto


Josip Pavic (CRO) — Goalkeeper
''This is what we wanted to do this summer. Take two medals and qualify for the 2016 Olympics. We succeeded and are extremely happy. From tomorrow onwards we'll start thinking about the final game. We played a tough game. We led most of the time, but couldn't beat Greece 'KO', because they're a great team. Unfortunately it went to penalties, but we had prepared these.''

Theodoros Vlachos (GRE) — Head Coach
“Not a good finish. Just one penalty away from historical moment for Greece water polo. This is life. We came to play the semifinals. I was very, very satisfied the way we played the tournament and we had a new game today we don’t normally play, the semifinal of the World Championship, but we found the solutions to finish equal.” On two consecutive shootouts after beating Australia in the quarterfinals: “Both teams, Australia and Greece, also Croatia and Greece deserved to be winners. The last game was more luck with better shots. You need to be lucky with the goalkeeper. This difficult finale not good for us, but good for Croatia.”

Christos Afroudakis (GRE) — Captain
“The sport is like this. You must be lucky in pursuit of penalties. In the beginning we were not so focused and nervous.”


Classification 5-8 Semifinal

Quarters: 4-2, 3-2, 2-2, 4-3

Referees: Massimiliano Caputi (ITA), Sergey Naumov (RUS).
Extra Man: HUN: 2/5. USA: 2/10.
Pens: Nil:


HUNGARY: Viktor Nagy, Miklos Gor-Nagy, Norbert Madaras (1), Balazs Erdelyi (1), Marton Vamos, Norbert Hosnyanszky (2), Daniel Angyal, Marton Szivos, Daniel Varga (2), Denes Varga (3), Krisztian Bedo, Balazs Harai (4), Attila Decker. Head Coach: Tibor Benedek.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Merrill Moses, Nikola Vavic, Alex Obert, Jackson Kimbell, Alex Roelse, Luca Cupido (1), Josh Samuels (1), Tony Azevedo (3), Alex Bowen, Bret Bonnani (3), Jesse Smith, John Mann (1), McQuin Baron. Head Coach: Dejan Udovicic.

Match Report:

Hungary, not used to fronting for early games at the sharp end of the tournament, made sure of a fifth-place berth against Montenegro with a solid showing against USA. The big story of the opening stanza was the centre-forward efforts of Balazs Harai, scoring three goals as Hungary went 5-2 to up early in the second quarter. The big two-metre man Harai flicked in a rebound for 1-0, scored a backhand for 4-2 and then turned at three metres and scored for 5-2. Daniel Varga rocketed in two goals and Denes Varga, one of the leading scorers, broke a five-quarter drought to score Hungary’s 7-4 goal in the last minute before halftime. Bret Bonanni, the highest goal-scorer at last year’s FINA World Cup in Almaty, Kazakhstan, scored at 3-2 and 6-4, continuing the multi-goal theme. USA was in touch of Hungary but, while the Magyars made their goals look easy, the north Americans had to work hard. Luca Cupido opened the second half with a bouncer from six metres and Bonanni netted on the next USA attack for 6-7. USA gained many defensive rewards, denying Hungary hot opportunities. Denes Varga caught the defence unawares with a sharp shot off the hand at top left for 8-6 at 2:40. Harai scored his third from exceptional play in front of goal off a cross pass for 9-6. Norbert Hosnyanszky from deep left and Azevedo from seven metres started the final quarter. It went to 11-7 through Denes Varga on extra, scoring his third for the match and 17th for the championship. Hosnyanszky surprised everyone, including his defender from very deep right, scoring off the right on an acute angle most coaches would decry. Azevedo for his third and Norbert Madaras for only his second of the tournament, progressed the score to 13-8. John Mann finally gained some reward for tireless work in front of goal, scoring his seventh in Kazan for 9-13, the final score.

HUN vs USA ©Giorgio Perottino / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto


Tibor Benedek (HUN) — Head Coach
“I think it is better. When the US came back to one goal difference, we restarted the game (7-6 in third quarter). We shot better. From two days ago the difference was our action goals, making seven. In Hungary we always do nice actions goals. They came today, but not two days ago (quarterfinal against Italy).”

Dejan Udovicic (SRB) — USA Head Coach
“I am proud of my guys. This is the third tournament in a row and we are running out of energy. If you don’t have energy and power, you don’t have control. You need to be fresh. It is not easy to play. We are more than satisfied with our goals this year. We qualified to the Olympic Games, played good in the tournament at Bergamo (World League Super Final). We have one year in front of us to prepare well.”

Jackson Kimbell (USA)
“We wanted to go to the fifth play-off and finish on a high note. It’s better than 7-8. Our goal was solid team defence and offence, put shots on cage and make them block, not go over and stop their counter attack. We wanted to win five-man and six-man game; I don’t think we did that. Don’t give up natural goals or at centre.”

Match 41: 15:30, MONTENEGRO 11 AUSTRALIA 8

Classification 5-8 Semifinal

Quarters: 4-1, 1-1, 4-4, 2-2

Referees: Francesc Buch (ESP), Voijin Putnikovic (SRB).

Extra Man: MNE: 2/6. AUS: 3/12.

Pens: 2/3.


MONTENEGRO: Dejan Lazovic, Drasko Brguljan (1), Vjekoslav Paskovic (1), Uros Cuckovic, Darko Brguljan (2), Aleksandar Radovic (2), Mladan Janovic (4), Aleksa Ukropina, Aleksandar Ivovic (1), Nikola Murisic, Filip Klikovac, Predrag Jokic, Milos Scepanovic. Head Coach: Ranko Perovic.

AUSTRALIA: James Stanton-French, Richard Campbell (2), George Ford, John Cotterill (2), Nathan Power, Jarrod Gilchrist, Aiden Roach (1), Aaron Younger (2), Joel Swift, Mitchell Emery, Rhys Howden, Tyler Martin (1), Joel Dennerley. Head Coach: Elvis Fatovic.

MNS vs AUS ©Andrea Staccioli Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Match report:

Montenegro had the stronger motivation from the beginning and used a great start to earn a play-off for fifth position on Saturday. Montenegro and the Brguljan brothers set the tone of the match with a terrific start that caught the Aussie Sharks unawares. They still looked shell-shocked from losing a penalty shootout against Greece two nights ago. It was Aleksandar Radovic who set the ball rolling with two long missiles either side of an Aidan Roach extra-man goal. Then Darko and Drasko Brguljan scored for 4-1 by the break. Darko scored again on the first attack of the second after Vjekoslav Paskovic won the sprint, denying Australian skipper Rhys Howden his 12th straight win and damaging his ranking as the top sprinter in Kazan. Aussie head coach Elvis Fatovic (CRO) switched his goalkeepers and it took four long minutes before the next goal came, from John Cotterill on extra at 3:05, the only other goal of the period. Richard Campbell, who has been having a quiet tournament, slotted two long shots on extra man for 4-5. Radovic had a chance on penalty, but Stanton-French blocked it. Mladan Janovic lobbed on counter and Aaron Younger scored the first of two goals in just over a minute, split by an Aleksandar Ivovic penalty conversion for 6-7. Younger’s second, and 17th for the tournament, was a rocket from eight metres off a cross pass, bouncing above the goalkeeper’s left arm. Janovic converted extra at 2:07 and Paskovic fired a chance shot to the bottom left when undefended and it popped up under Stanton-French’s arm into the goal for 9-6 at 0:47 to close the period’s scoring. Cotterill scored from the bottom left cross cage and Janovic responded next attack with a five-metre shot for his third of the match and 10th of the tournament. Two minutes later Tyler Martin accepted a centre forward pass and hit the goalkeeper with the shot, flicking in the rebound for 10-8 at 2:54. Both teams lost the ball on attack and then Montenegro gained a penalty, which Janovic converted for 11-8 to secure victory.


Drasko Brguljan (MNE)
“It’s not normal for us to start so fast as we were 4-0 down against Croatia. I think it was a very good match. We and Australia lost in the quarterfinals and it’s always very difficult. Australia led (in the quarters) and a last-minute goal sent them to penalties and lost. Australia is a very strong team and at the Olympic Games I hope we will not be in the group with them. “

James Stanton-French (AUS) — Goalkeeper
“The motivation was OK. We were struggling with the little things we had previously talked about, coming back on defence, the five-metre fouls and execution of fouls. We are getting a never-say-dies reputation. We get three behind and get back into it. The little things were wrong and we got punished for them. For the next game (play-off for seventh) we are not playing for a medal, but we have a reputation (to maintain) the way we want to be seen. We’ll give it everything we’ve got and finish the tournament with a win.”

Match 40: 12:10, CANADA 12 BRAZIL 10 in penalty shootout (FT: 7-7. Pens: 5-3)

Classification 9-10

Quarters: 2-2, 1-1, 2-3,2-1. Pens: 5-3

Referees: Mark Koganov (AZE), Viktor Salnichenko (KAZ).

Extra Man: CAN: 1/9. BRA: 1/8.

Pens: CAN: 1/1. BRA: 1/1.


CANADA: Robin Randall, Con Kudaba (3), Oliver Vikalo, Nicolas Constantin-Bicari (2), Justin Boyd (2), David Lapins, Alec Taschereau, Kevin Graham, Matt Halajian, John Conway (3), George Torakis, Jarrod McElroy (2), Dusan Aleksic. Head Coach: Alexander Beslin.

BRAZIL: Vicinius Antonelli, Jonas Crivella, Guilherme Gomes, Ives Gonzalez, Paulo Salemi, Bernardo Gomes (1), Adrian Delgado (3), Felipe Silva, Bernardo Rocha, Felipe Perrone (2), Gustavo Guimaraes (2), Josip Vrlic (2). Head Coach: Ratko Rudic (CRO).

Match Report:

Canada came from two goals down to level the match with Brazil at 7-7 and go on to win a penalty shootout. The flawless display from the penalty line proved enough to end what was a long, hot summer for Brazil with so many tournaments. There was nothing in the match in the first half and the third also went goal for goal with Adrian Delgado scoring five seconds from the final break for 6-4 only to have Canada take a timeout and goalkeeper Robin Randall firing the ball the length of the pitch to Nicolas Constantin-Bicari to score on the buzzer. Justin Boyd levelled at 6-6 and Jarrod McElroy at 7-7 by 3:27 with plenty of action until the final minute. In that minute there was drama aplenty — firstly when after a timeout Canada fired the ball off the torso of the goalkeeper over the back line with 11 seconds left, both referees missed the contact and Brazil surged forward. Perrone took a 5m shot with just seconds left and he was pushed on the shot by a defender, but it was missed also. Brazilian head coach Ratko Rudic saw it and protested loudly, however, the match went to a penalty shootout. Guilherme Gomes was the unlucky shooter to have his shot blocked by Randall with everyone else scoring until 12-10. For Canada it was one placing off its finest hour, eighth in Rome in 2009. It was Brazil’s best finish at this level, two places higher than 12th in 1998 and 1986. Not surprisingly, former Spanish international Felipe Perrone ended his team’s highest scorer in Kazan with 13 goals, closely followed by former Croatian Josip Vrlic, the big centre forward, who scored 12. Perrone scored in the shootout, but these do not count towards the tournament’s highest goal-scorer competition. Canada’s best scorer in a team where the goals were well spread, was John Conway with 10, two of which came from the penalty line. He also scored the opening goal of the shootout.


Alexander Beslin (CAN) — Head Coach
“The only thing I can say is that today we played Brazil and Kazakhstan (referring to the Kazakh referee). The interesting part is that in the first period we had a chance to finish the game we had so many counter attacks and chances and everything. To come from two goals down was excellent.” On being one place lower than Canada’s best at World Championships: “Definitely not satisfied as our goal was top eight. Being ninth is a small step backwards.”

Vinicius Antonelli (BRA) — Goalkeeper
“It’s very hard for me as I am the smallest goalkeeper in the championship, perhaps in the world (he laughs). To get the right side is hard. Twice I go right, but the ball slid under. The other goalkeeper he defended the first shot. It’s a little bit technique and a lot luck. I had hoped to help my team-mates. However, when we were two goals up we gave them presents. When the team (down) gets some scores they go more excited to the penalty shots.”

Match 39: 10:50, KAZAKHSTAN 11 SOUTH AFRICA 7

Classification 11-12

Quarters: 4-2, 1-2, 2-1, 4-2

Referees: Fabio Toffoli (BRA), Tadao Tahara (JPN).

Extra Man: KAZ: 3/11. RSA: 1/7.

Pens: RSA: 2/2.


KAZAKHSTAN: Aleksandr Fedorov, Sergey Gubarev (1), Aleksandr Axenov (7), Roman Pilipenko, Vladimir Ushakov, Alexey Shmider (1), Murat Shakenov, Anton Koliadenko, Rustam Ukumanov (1), Yevgeniy Medvedev (1), Ravil Manafov, Branko Pekovich, Valeriy Shlemov. Head Coach: Sergey Drozdov.

SOUTH AFRICA: Dwayne Flatscher, Etienne Le Roux, Devon Card, Ignardus Badenhorst, Nicholas Hock, Joao De Carvalho (2), Dayne Jagga, Jared Wingate-Pearse, Dean Whyte, Pierre Le Roux (3), Nicholas Molyneux (2), Wesley Bohata, Julian Lewis. Head Coach: Paul Martin.

RSA vs KAZ ©Andrea Staccioli Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Match report:

Kazakhstan is on an upward trend at World Championships with its 11th place win over South Africa equalling its best finish — 11th in Perth in 1998. In fact, Kazakhstan has improved one position in each of the last four editions starting with 14th in 2009. A busy first quarter and three goals to sharpshooter Alexandr Axenov, gave it a buffer that was trimmed in the second quarter. The third saw the swing go back to Kazakhstan and Axenov’s fifth goal in the fourth period, followed by left-hander and captain Sergey Gubarev’s goal, handed a 9-5 advantage at 6:32. Axenov blasted from the top for his sixth at 2:08 and seventh at 1:15 and South Africa’s fate was determined. Axenov, who started the match with 15 goals, the equal highest of the championship, took his tally to an almost unbeatable 22. The two teams clashed in the group stage with Kazakhstan winning 14-3, so it was a huge improvement by the African qualifier. It was South Africa’s highest finish at a World Championship, beating its best of 13th in Rome in 2009. South African captain Pierre Le Roux scored three and ended as his team’s top scorer with seven goals, five of them penalty conversions, including two today. South Africa scored twice in the final minute with Joao de Carvalho form in front and Nicholas Molyneux with his second from a 10m lob.


Paul Martin (RSA) — Head Coach
“This was much better compared to the last time we played them (14-3). Our target for development was to get better game by game. Our game plan was to make sure he (Axenov) didn’t score. We tried too much on defence and made the wrong decisions. Man for man we have competed here , but (lack of) experience told. We are as physical as any team around, just inexperienced. It was our best result (at a World Championship) so I am very happy with that. Some scores might not reflect that, but we were competitive for two quarters in each game. We made the big guys play.”