2023 WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
A late rally from the Hungarians and a dominant performance from the Greeks sets up an exciting gold medal match in the men’s water polo competition at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships.
In the first semi on Thursday, Greece throttled Serbia by a score of 13-7, while Hungary overcame a deficit to take down Spain, 12-11.
Greece will have an opportunity to win the men’s water polo world title for the first time in their history, and have secured their highest-ever finish with at least the silver medal locked up. The country has won the bronze medal three times, including last year, though they did win silver at the Tokyo Olympics.
Hungary will return to the podium for the first time since 2017, when they won silver on home soil. The country’s last world title came in 2013.
Both Greece and Hungary have now locked up Olympic spots in Paris with their victories.
SEMI-FINAL 1: GREECE 13, SERBIA 7
Greece blew the doors off Serbia early, opening up a 3-2 lead in the first before a dominant second quarter saw them up 6-2 at halftime.
The Greeks only added to their advantage from there, outscoring Serbia 7-5 over the second half to cruise to a decisive 13-7 victory.
Four different players had multi-goal games for the Greeks, led by Konstantinos Kakaris and Stylianos Argyropoulos who both had hat tricks.
“First of all, we were ready for a tough game because Serbia played excellent against Italy and I was expecting a very tough game, but in the water our players defended and also in attack we had many solutions,” said Greece head coach Theodoros Vlachos.
“We didn’t give Serbia a chance to close the difference during the game. Everybody believes that this was an easy game, but there is no such a thing as an easy game in the semifinals of World Aquatics Championships. I think we tried a lot and I hope we can do it for one more game.”
SEMI-FINAL 2: HUNGARY 12, SPAIN 11
The second semi was a stark contrast compared to the first, as Spain held the advantage the majority of the way but Hungary ultimately battled back to earn the victory.
After the score was tied at three after one, the Spaniards pulled ahead in the second quarter, up 6-4 at the half.
The teams traded goals over the second half of the match until the score was 11-9 in Spain’s favor late. Hungary then scored twice to tie things up, setting the stage for an incredible finish.
It was an epic buzzer-beater goal from Hungary’s Krisztian Manhercz to send the team to the World Championship final, with only seconds remaining on the clock to confirm the goal with video review.
Along with Manhercz, Hungary was also propelled by Szilard Jansik and Gergo Zalanki, who had two goals apiece.
“We came back in the game step by step and then we could really just make really good defense and then we just stole the ball and then we could leave the goal and then draw,” said Hungarian coach Zsolt Varga. “I somehow felt we won the game. I don’t know why; this was a feeling.”
Greece and Hungary will play for gold at 6:00 pm local time on Saturday, while Serbia and Spain will face off five hours earlier for bronze.
“I think Greece is playing at a really high level. I know them very well. I had two players in my club, the highest leveled players,” said Varga.
“They are really good players and I know how they are organized and disciplined players. We have to prepare for this, but this is tomorrow. Today we are happy.”
Italy and France will play for fifth and the U.S. will take on Montenegro for seventh on Saturday as well.