Men's World League 2014, Day 1: European powerhouses win and USA turns tables on Canada

World League

European superstars Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro won as expected on the opening day of the FINA Men’s Water Polo World League Super Final at the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Sports Complex.

But it was the astounding victory by the United States of America over Canada that had most tongues wagging. Canada was going the way of the previous two matches and the last, but the Maple Leafs did not count on the determination of their southern neighbours. From 7-2 ahead in the third and 8-4 near the final break, Canada looked good. Then USA unleashed a barrage of goals that turned the match in its favour for an incredible 12-8. Canada grabbed one back in the final minute through penalty, but the damage had been done.

Earlier Hungary defeated Australia 11-5, Serbia dispensed with China 21-9 and the final match of the evening saw Montenegro gain some practice with a 15-5 defeat of Brazil.

Match 1: 14:30, Group B, HUNGARY 11 AUSTRALIA 5
Quarters: 3-1, 3-0, 2-2, 3-2
Referees: Filippo Gomez (ITA), Edmundo Rodrigues (BRA)

Extra Man: HUN:  2/6. AUS: 0/6.
Pens: HUN: 1/1.

HUNGARY: Viktor Nagy, Miklos Gor-Nagy, Norbert Madaras, Balazs Erdelyi, Marton Vamos (1), Norbert Hosnyanszky (2), Daniel Angyal, Marton Szivos (2), Daniel Varga (1), Denes Varga (2), Marton Toth (1), Balazs Harai (2), Attila Decker. Head Coach: Tibor Benedek.
AUSTRALIA: James Clark, Richie Campbell (2), George Ford, John Cotterill (1), Nathan Power, Jarrod Gilchrist, Aidan Roach (2), Aaron Younger, Lachlan Edwards, Tyler Martin, Mitch Emery, William Miller, Edward Slade. Head Coach: Elvis Fatovic.

Hungary did what it does best and that is win games with ease. Australia looked a little rusty with passes and shot choices while Hungary was clinical in all areas. It was far from the 9-9 result at the 2013 FINA World Championships and the Aussie Sharks were sadly lacking the starting centre-forward expertise of Joel Swift, who was injured recently and not on this tour. Hungary’s Balazs Harai set the scene with two centre-forward backhand goals that became 3-0 and then 3-1 by the quarter when Aidan Roach converted a counter-attack. Australia was troubled on attack for a long period that saw Hungary score three unanswered goals in the second quarter, one from four metres by Marton Toth, one on counter from Marton Szivos and the 6-1 goal from Norbert Hosnyanszky on extra, late in the half. The onslaught continued in the third period as Szivos and Hosnyanszky took the margin to 8-1. Aussie Sharks captain Richard Campbell scored off a quick pass from the top for 8-2 and Roach nailed his second with six seconds left after a timeout to close the third period 8-3. Hungary had the match in check and captain Daniel Varga finished off a counter from deep right for 9-3 at the top of the fourth quarter. Brother Denes converted a penalty before John Cotterill pegged one back with a lob over Viktor Nagy from deep left. Campbell rifled in from the top again at 1:47 and the 10-5 margin was more an indication of what Australia could do. Marton Vamos closed the match from five metres.

HUN vs AUS - credit: Russell McKinnon


Elvis Fatovic (CRO) — Australia Head Coach

“We gave them a chance to score three easy goals. We didn’t start well. They are the world champions and we were without four players from the last World Championships, so we must change in the next couple of games. We have to prepare something different in the final part of offence.”

Richard Campbell (AUS) — Captain
“It was not the best performance. We knew it would be tough against Hungary and we weren’t just switched on enough mentally. It’s all mental from here on in. It helps in a way to have a loss first up to build up for the next game. We’re feeling pretty confident.”

Tyler Martin (AUS) — Centre Forward
“It was a tough start and hopefully we can build from here and get a win tomorrow.”

Tibor Benedek — Hungary Head Coach
“It was a nice start. For us it’s very important to improve game by game. Like a first game it was very slow and we hope to go faster in the next game. Australia played without their (regular) centre forward (Joel Swift) and that was why their attack wasn’t so efficient. We expected a harder game, but it’s important to win.”

Match 2: 15:50, Group A, SERBIA 21 CHINA 9
Quarters: 6-3, 5-1, 7-3, 3-2
Referees: Mikhail Dykman (CAN), Joseph Peila (USA)

Extra Man: SRB: 5/9. CHN: 3/8.
Pens: SRB: 1/1. CHN: 1/1.

SERBIA: Gojko Pijetlovic, Dusan Mandic (2), Zivko Gocic, Sava Randelovic, Milos Cuk (1), Dusko Pijetlovic (3), Slobodan Nikic (3), Dusan Markovic, Nikola Raden (1), Filip Filipovic (2), Andrija Prlainovic (5), Stefan Mitrovic (4), Branislav Mitrovic. Head Coach: Dejan Savic.
CHINA: Zhiwei Liang, Feihu Tan (2), Lun Li, Zekai Xie, Junliang Guo, Ning Pan (2), Zhongxian Chen (1), Liang Gu, Tao Dong, Jinghao Chen (1), Chufeng Zhang (1), Nianxiang Liang (2), Chengcheng Qiu. Head Coach: Paolo Malara.

Serbia settled into an early rhythm, something that it hopes could end up in an eighth crown on Saturday. Serbia never took the eye off the ball and anticipated at every opportunity, catching China unawares. Some attractive interplay by the Serbians might not have reaped goals, but the plays did send out a few gasps from the spectators. Playing under former Italian coach Paolo Malara, China always proved worthy of being in Dubai and swift shots reaped rewards at times, especially damaging from the two-metre line. Slobodan Nikic scored two goals, six minutes apart as Serbia went to a 5-1 advantage and then 6-3 at the first break. Pan Ning scored his second for 7-4 at 6:22 in the second quarter, but it would be some time before another came for the Asians. Andrija Prlainovic scored twice as Serbia stretched out to 11-4 in what was a busy first half. This stretched to 13-4 and 15-5 as Chufeng Zhang and Nianxiang Liang scored for China with the second when guarded by three players at centre forward. Stefan Mitrovic scored on extra and from the penalty line for 17-6. Goals were traded and Serbia was well and truly in charge at 18-7 by the final break. China looked rattled with loud exchanges between players in the pool, but still managed to better Serbia with two goals to one until the dying minutes when Mitrovic netted his fourth and Dusko Pijetlovic his third to take the score to 21-9. The 19th goal for Serbia was Prlainovic’s fifth.

SRB vs CHN - credit: Russell McKinnon


Dejan Savic — Serbia Head Coach
“The game was a little bit tough. This is our first big competition this year and we have been practicing hard and practised this morning, too. We had lots of problems with defence. We didn’t expect them to score five to six easy goals. We need to concentrate more. The boys are tired from training. We want to win this and the Europeans.”

Andrija Prlainovic (SRB) — Five Goals

“We’re preparing for tomorrow, it’s going to be Montenegro and the rest of the tournament will be tough, for sure. We scored 21 goals and it’s not something you see every day. The biggest tournament for us this year is the European Championships and this tournament is the preparation for the European Championships in Budapest.”

Paolo Malara (ITA) — China Head Coach
“I am happy with the way my team played, but it’s tough to defend when they score so many goals. The team is going to have to take it day by day and Brazil will be a tough opponent tomorrow.”

Ning Pan (CHN) — Centre forward
“For us it was difficult against Serbia, one of the top three teams in the world. This year is very important for us, playing against some of the better teams as there are only three older guys in the team, including myself. There are 10 new players, so it is good training for them.”

Match 3: 17:10, Group B, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 12 CANADA 9
Quarters: 1-1, 1-4, 3-3, 7-1
Referees: Ziliang Chen (CHN), German Moller (ARG)

Extra Man: USA:  4/11. CAN:3/8
Pens: USA: 0/1. CAN: 1/2.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: McQuin Baron, Nick Bell, Alex Obert (2), Michael Rosenthal (2), Anthony Daboub, Conner Cleary, Josh Samuels (2), Bret Bonnani, Alex Bowen (3), Nolan McConnell (1), Jackson Kimbell, John Mann (2), Jon Sibley. Head Coach: Dejan Udovicic.
CANADA: Robin Randall, Constantine Kudaba, Oliver Vikalo (1), Nicolas Constantin-Bicari (1), Justin Boyd (1), Scott Robinson (2), Alec Taschereau, Kevin Graham (1), Dusan Radojcic (1), John Conway (1), Zacchary Kappos, Jared McElroy (1), Dusan Aleksic. Head Coach: Alex Beslin.

A team that throws away a five-goal advantage midway through the third period should possibly not deserve to win. Canada did just that after dominating more than half the match and then went awol as the United States decided it was time to stand up. The clash of the North Americans was a delight for both sides at times with that 7-2 advantage well deserved for Canada and then even at 8-4 with the clock ticking down in the third. However, the youthful USA shot back into the game after what was a double exclusion with USA triple scored Alexander Bowen being binned along with Canada’s Dusan Radojsic. It looked like without Bowen, Canada would swim away with the match. Not so! Canadian captain Kevin Graham’s goal was the last for the Maple Leafs. Mike Rosenthal, centre forward and Olympic veteran John Mann and Joshua Samuels all scored twice in a romp that Canada could only weep at — eight goals in a procession that showed promise for the talented USA youngsters. Both teams missed penalty attempts in the first quarter and Canada’s final score came through John Conway from the penalty line inside the final minute. This was perhaps the arrival of the new-look USA on the international stage.

USA vs CAN - credit: Russell McKinnon


Dejan Udovicic (SRB) — USA Head Coach
“It was a bad start. We were basically sleeping in the first two quarters. They weren’t in the game and they had to adjust to the refereeing. They are a young team. The average age is 20.4 (years), but they showed the will and motivation to succeed. They wasted opportunities in the first period, turned that around and took all the opportunities in the second half. They need more international experience. The goalie was born in 1995!”

Alexander Bowen (USA) — Suspended Player

“It was unfortunate I didn’t finish the slot. It was the referee’s call and what he saw. I was very disappointed that I didn’t play the last quarter, but that’s water polo. I was really excited about the win.”

On the team being spurred by his expulsion: “If it was because of me I’m slightly happy about it. We probably would have won anyway. The last quarter was more indicative of our level.”

Alex Beslin — Canada Head Coach
“The team really needs to learn to win. Losing from 7-2 up means we completely stopped playing, showing the team’s immaturity.”

Kevin Graham (CAN) — Captain
“We didn’t really play well (in the end). We walked into our game plan and then we raised the intensity. Our focus then dropped and we went away from our own game plan. To be honest, the game turned against us and we weren’t putting away goals we did earlier.”

Match 4: 18:30, Group A, BRAZIL 5 MONTENEGRO 15
Quarters: 0-6, 1-3, 2-3, 2-3
Referees: Danny Flahive (AUS), Adrian Alexandrescu (ROU)

Extra Man: BRA: 2/8. MNE: 5/9.
Pens: MNE: ½.

BRAZIL: Vinicius Antonelli, Jonas Crivella (1), Guilherme Gomes, Gustavo Coutinho, Marcelo Franco, Bernardo Gomes (1), Adrian Delgado (1), Felipe Silva, Bernardo Rocha (1), Ruda Franco, Gustavo Guimaraes (1), Danilo Correa, Thye Bezerra. Head Coach: Ratko Rudic.
MONTENEGRO: Zdravko Radic, Drasko Brguljan (2), Vjekoslav Paskovic (2), Antonio Petrovic (1), Darko Brguljan, Dragan Draskovic, Mladan Janovic (2), Uros Cuckovic, Jovan Saric (2), Nikola Murisic (5), Filip Klikovac, Predrag Jokic (1), Milos Scepanovic. Head Coach: Ranko Perovic.

Brazil felt the pain of battling against a seasoned adversary, especially in the first quarter when goals rained from the bigger Montenegrins. Six slammed through the brittle Brazilian defence in the opening quarter. Brazil took stock and engineered some excellent goals, but it was never going to be enough against the Europeans. Montenegro used the match to settle some plays, burn up energy and exercise the arm. Nikola Murisic had a dream start to the tournament with a hat-trick of goals within two minutes midway through the first quarter. He book-ended his trio from two metres with a five-metre conversion. He scored a fourth in the third period and a fifth in the fourth. Bernardo Gomes brought some joy to Brazilians eyes at the start of the second quarter, but the score escalated to 12-1 by 3:33 of the third, thanks to a variety of goals. Then Gustavo Guimaraes and Bernardo Rocha scored consecutive goals to close the third period at 12-3. The energetic Adrian Delgado made it three in a row early in the fourth and Ratko Rudic’s newcomers were gaining some semblance of form. Murisic, who is new to this level of the sport, netted his fifth goal and Jonas Crivella gained another Brazilian strike. Janovic with his third and Paskovic closed the match for 15-5. International newcomer Jovan Saric claimed two goals for Montenegro, the first from the penalty stripe.

BRA vs MNE - credit: Russell McKinnon


Ratko Rudic (CRO) — Brazil Head Coach
“We more or less expected this result, but I was hoping that they could do a little better. We made too many mistakes in the beginning, especially the first quarter, and we weren’t fully prepared. It’s an important match to get under our belts. We need more game experience.”

Adrian Delgado (BRA) — Driver
“The first game is always going to be very difficult. It’s always tough against Montenegro, in my opinion, one of the top three teams. We started to play a lot better in the third and fourth quarter.”

Nikola Murisic (MNE) — Five goals

“This was a good game, but we need to continue like this and tomorrow is a hard game against Serbia and we need to win that game to be first in the group. This was the first game and the first game is always the strongest. We need to win this game and continue like this. We want to win the medal and I believe and I know that we will win the medal.”