FINA Men’s Water Polo World League Super Final
Australia was the surprise of the quarterfinals, ousting Hungary from title contention with a penalty shootout victory on Friday. Croatia, Spain and Serbia followed with dominant wins to claim their spots in Saturday’s semifinals. Croatia and Serbia tied their own tournament bests with 20 goals apiece.
Friday Results – Quarterfinals
- Australia def. Hungary 16-15 (6-5 in penalty shootout)
- Croatia def. Japan 20-13
- Spain def. Kazakhstan 19-10
- Serbia def. Canada 20-5
Australia def. Hungary 16-15
The 2018 runnerup from Hungary boasted a 5-1 advantage at halftime, but slowly watched its lead slip away before eventually falling to Australia 6-5 in a penalty shootout. This is the 2nd time in the tournament that Hungary has lost, by 1 goal, to an opponent that it has historically dominated. Unlike their opening loss to Canada, however, this one eliminated them from contention for their 3rd World League title.
Hungary landed 10 of its 26 shots (38.4 percent), including five extra-man opportunities (of 11) and its lone regulation penalty chance.
Australia also made 10 shots (of 27), capitalizing on seven of 18 extra-man chances.
Richard Campbell netted five goals for the Aussies, while Joseph Kayes added a hat trick. Aidan Roach, Andrew Ford and Rhys Howden put in two goals apiece.
Down 7-5 after three periods, the Aussies pulled within one on their first possession of the fourth as Roach scored. Nagy answered for Hungary, but goals by Campbell and Roach in a 46 second span knotted the game at 8-all. Center forward Kristztian Bedo was ousted with three fouls shortly after and Australia capitalized to go ahead on another Campbell goal. With 2:38 to play, Hungary has brought it level at 9. Kayes and Pasztor traded goals to end regulation at 10-all.
In the penalty shootout, the teams were knotted at 4 apiece after five rounds. In sudden death, Campbell slipped one past Hungary’s second goalie David Bisztritsanyi. Nagy made his attempt, leaving the ball in Kayes’ hands. He converted to give Australia the edge and Joel Dennerley snagged the crucial save of a Batori shot to send the Aussies to the semifinals.
“The first half was a disaster, most probably the worst I’ve ever seen from my team,” Australia coach Elvis Fatovic said. “In the break I told them not to worry about the chances, they just had to take their shots as in the first half all shots and passes were like alibis. Of course, we were also aware that the Hungarians had a rather tiring match against Japan as that game usually dries you out, so we were counting on that they couldn’t cope with our pace that’s why we pushed as hard as we could in the final period. Even if we could make in the shootout, but our plan worked after all.”
Croatia def. Japan 20-13
Croatia built a 10-6 lead at the half and poured in 10 more goals over the next two periods to close out the victory over Japan, tying the most goals thus far in the tournament. (Croatia also scored 20 vs. Kazakhstan on June 18 as did Serbia on June 20.)
Croatia buried 20 of its 35 shots (57.1 percent), including eight of 10 extra-man chances and both of its penalty tries.
Japan hit 13 of 27 shots (48.1 percent), including five of 13 extra-man opportunities and its lone penalty shot.
After falling behind 2-0, Japan put in three goals in two and a half minutes to surge ahead, but just 29 seconds later, Croatia had regained the advantage.
It was a four-goal game at the half, but the Croatians broke things open with five putaways in the third period, pushing ahead 15-8.
Both teams netted five goals apiece to wrap up the high scoring affair.
“We tried to do a special defense around the center-forward but also keep our main weapon, to prepare to launch counter-attacks from the defense,” Japanese coach Yoji Omoto said. “But the Croatians are really strong players and they were unexpectedly fast today. We expected them building their attacks slower but they did a lot of moves and those forced defensive errors on our side. We try to improve every year, step by step, watch a lot videos, try to point put what kind of mistakes we committed and try to learn from them. But it’s really hard to play against the European teams though we wish to beat them in the future.”
Spain def. Kazakhstan 19-10
Spain took a 4-1 lead in the first eight minutes and never looked back in delivering a crushing victory over Kazakhstan to claim a spot in the semifinals.
Alvaro Granados Ortega put in five goals and Alberto Barroso Macarro added four among six multi-goal scorers for Spain. All told, Spain converted 67.9 percent of its shots (19 of 28), including 11 of 13 extra-man opportunities (84.6 percent) and all three penalty attempts.
Mikhail Ruday was the top scorer for Kazakhstan, notching a hat trick. Maxim Zhardan and Altay Altayev added two goals apiece. The Kazakhs put in 10 of 26 shots, including 3 of 9 extra-man chances.
Spain jumped out to a 4-0 lead as four different players scored in the first seven minutes. Altayev got Kazakhstan on the board with 35 seconds to play in the first quarter and the team narrowed the gap to two goals after two Ruday scores in the second. The Spaniards answered with three in a row by Ortega, Marc Larumbe Gonfaus and Bernat Sanahuja Carne over the final three minutes to lead 8-3 at the half.
Spain’s Ortega scored three times in the third quarter, including one penalty, among six goals to give the victors a 14-7 advantage.
The teams split four goals over the first three minutes of the final stanza. Miguel De Toro and Carne added extra-man scores to make it 18-9. Ruday scored on a counter attack with 48 seconds remaining, but Macarro answered that just 23 seconds later to wrap up the game.
“We just needed to pass this test without injuries and without burning too much of our reserves,” Spain’s coach David Martin said. “This is the fourth match of the fourth day, all players are tired, and the most important games are yet to come, so this was just a ‘forget-quickly-game’ and now we have to focus on Croatia.”
Serbia def. Canada 20-5
Scoring 20 goals for the second time in the tournament, Serbia left little doubt from early on in its thumping of Canada en route to the semifinals. (Croatia also scored 20 vs. Kazakhstan on June 18 as did Serbia on June 20.) The loss ended Canada’s run at the tournament that started with the highest-of-highs when they upset Hungary 9-8, but finished with 3 straight lopsided losses.
The Serbians led 5-2 after eight minutes and upped the advantage to seven (11-4) by halftime. The rout was on from there, as the victors netted nine goals to Canada’s one in the final two periods.
Nine players scored for Serbia, with each managing at least two goals, led by Dusan Mandic and Filip Filipovic‘s hat tricks. Defensively, the team utilized two goalkeepers, with each stopping more than half of the shots he faced: Gojko Pijetlovic (7 of 11, 63.6 percent) and Branislav Mitrovic (4 of 5, 80 percent).
Reuel D’Souza put in four goals for Canada, while Nicolas Constantin-Bicari rounded out the scoring. Milan Radenovic was battered with 30 shots, stopping just 11 (36.7 percent).
Serbia converted 20 of its 37 shots, including 6 of 8 extra-man chances and two of three penalties.
Canada cashed in on just one of its three extra-man opportunities, but hit on both penalty tries.
After 2-all tie just four minutes in, Serbia scored five in a row, each by a different player, to push ahead 7-2 at the 5:42 mark in the second quarter. D’Souza cut the margin to four at 4:20, but Filipovic and Strahinja Rasovic answered for the Serbs and two penalties in the final 67 seconds gave the team an 11-4 advantage at the half.
From there, Serbia scored six in a row, vaulting ahead 17-4 with just under seven minutes remaining. D’Souza stopped the onslaught with a man-up goal with 3:34 to play, but Serbia tacked on three more goals for good measure to close out the win.
“Against Serbia our team could play without any expectations,” Canadian coach Pino Porzio said. “We just wanted to do some parts the best possible but basically for this young team it was rather a good experience to meet the great stars of the sport. Serbia played with full focus as they need to keep their level before the most important matches and the difference we saw just shows the real picture.”