Serbia Aims for Fourth Worlds Men’s Water Polo Title, Croatia for Third

World Aquatics Championships – Men’s Water Polo

The men’s water polo field at the 2019 World Aquatics Championship is made up of 16 teams, eight from Europe, three from Asia, two from the Americas, two from the Oceania region and one from Africa.

The teams have been divided into four pools of four teams each. The winner of each pool will earn a free pass to the quarterfinals. The second and third place teams from each pool will move on to the playoff round with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals.

The draw was held on April 9, 2019.

The Field

Croatia is the defending World Champion, while Hungary and Serbia rounded out the podium in 2017. Croatia is looking for its third title, while Serbia aims for its fourth.

The reigning Olympic champions and 2015 World Champions from Serbia flexed their muscles, however, besting Croatia 12-11 to earn the 2019 World League Super Final title last month and earning a ticket to the 2020 Olympic Games. The Serbs also topped Croatia for the 2016 Olympic gold medal.

Australia, Spain, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan and Canada rounded out the Super Final Top 8.

Serbia has won three Worlds titles, combined with Montenegro in 2005 and individually in 2009 and 2015. Croatia meanwhile won in 2007 and 2017.

Croatia has finished on the podium at each of the last six World Championships (gold in 2007 and 2017, silver in 2015 and bronze in 2009, 2011 and 2013).

Group A

Former countrymen Serbia and Montenegro are now rivals in the “Group of Death” alongside Greece.

  • Serbia – finished third at 2017 Worlds; won gold at the 2016 Olympics
  • South Korea – earned its berth at the host nation
  • Montenegro – finished fifth at 2017 Worlds; won bronze at the 2016 Olympics
  • Greece – finished fourth at 2017 Worlds; finished sixth at the 2016 Olympics

Group B

The highlight of this group will be the rematch of Australia and Croatia from the World Cup quarterfinals, which the Aussies won 9-8 en route to a silver medal. The Croatians were without their top scorer, Andrija Basic, in the match, though, and they remain big favorites to come out of the group on top. The USA will have to fight to even win a match, let alone advance to the knockout stages.

  • United States – finished 13th at 2017 Worlds
  • Croatia – defending World Champion; runnerup at the 2016 Olympics
  • Australia – finished seventh at 2017 Worlds
  • Kazakhstan – finished 11th at 2017 Worlds

Group C

Hungary, which was runner-up at 2017 Worlds, and Spain, which finished ninth, are the big favorites to advance from this group.

  • South Africa – finished 16th at 2017 Worlds
  • New Zealand
  • Spain – finished ninth at 2017 Worlds; finished seventh at the 2016 Olympics
  • Hungary – finished second at 2017 Worlds; finished fifth at the 2016 Olympics

Group D

Italy, which finished sixth at the 2017 Worlds, has the easiest path to the quarterfinals among the contenders. The Germans ,which did not play at the 2017 World Championships, were fourth at the FINA World Cup in 2018 following an eighth place effort at the 2016 Olympics.

  • Brazil – finished 12th at the 2017 Worlds; finished eighth at the 2016 Olympics
  • Germany – DNP at Worlds in 2017
  • Italy – finished sixth at the 2017 Worlds; won bronze at the 2016 Olympics
  • Japan – finished 10th at the 2017 Worlds

Players to Watch

Hungary’s Marton Vamos was the MVP of the 2017 World Championships and was joined on the all-star team by goalkeeper Viktor Nagy. Greece’s Ionnis Fountoulis was the top goal scorer. Croatia’s Luka Loncar and Sandro Sukno and Serbia’s Andrija Prlainovic also were tabbed for the All-Star team.

Sukno did not play for Croatia at the 2018 European Championships. He  ended his career in May 2019 due to heart problems. The remainder of the all-star team honorees are expected to participate in 2019.

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