Gwangju, South Korea.— Spain will face world champion Croatia and Hungary will front against Italy in the semifinals of the FINA World Championship men's water polo tournament on Thursday at the Nambu University Grounds in Gwangju.

Spain rattled off a 6-1 advantage and held on for a stunning 12-9 victory over Serbia in the first quarterfinal. Strahinja Rasovic was part of the sensational win with four goals that ended Serbia's charge for more medals at this level. As an independent nation, Serbia has two golds and one silver and a host of others as Serbia & Montenegro and Yugoslavia. Serbia's last "blemish" was seventh in 2013. Spain has a chance to boost its two golds and three silvers.

Reigning champion Croatia was pushed all the way by Germany before breaking a last-quarter deadlock to win 10-8. Maro Jokovic blasted two of his three goals in the final quarter to break free of Germany. Croatia will take on Spain in the first semfiinal on Thursday. 

Hungary needed a long-shot goal four seconds from time to beat Australia 10-9. Both teams took the lead three times and it looked like Australia had the win, when Joe Kayes appeared to have been fouled from behind on the drive. However, Hungary called a timeout and Marton Vamos became the next Hungarian hero with a spearing shot from outside for victory. 

Italy survived a torrid match of attrition against Greece 7-6 to close the evening's matches with the winning goal coming a minute into the final quarter, such was the desperate closing defence, which Italian head coach Alessandro Campagna said of his team was "fantastic".

Photo: Istvan Derencsenyi

In the round 9-12 semifinals, Montenegro, a shock second-round loser, came good against Japan with a big 14-7 margin to advance to the play-off for ninth against United States of America who had little difficulty in sending off South Africa 20-3.

In classification matches, Brazil left with 13th place thanks to a 9-7 victory over Kazakhstan and now heads to the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru looking for Olympic qualification. Korea gained an historic first win in its first championship with a 17-16 penalty shootout victory over New Zealand for 15th place.

Tuesday Men’s Schedule

Classification 15-16
Match 31, 08:00, KOREA 17 NEW ZEALAND 16 in penalty shootout (FT: 12-12. Pens: 5-4)

Classification 13-14
Match 32, 09.30, KAZAKHSTAN 8 BRAZIL 9

Classification 9-12 Semifinals
Match 33, 11:00, MONTENEGRO 14  JAPAN 7

Classification 1-8 Quarterfinals
Match 35, 14:00, SERBIA 9 SPAIN 12
Match 36, 15:30, CROATIA 10 GERMANY 8
Match 37, 17:00, HUNGARY 10 AUSTRALIA 9
Match 38, 18:30, ITALY 7 GREECE 6

Wednesday Women’s Schedule

Classification 11-12
Match 39, 09.30, CHINA v NEW ZEALAND

Classification 9-10
Match 40, 11:00, CANADA v KAZAKHSTAN

Classification 5-8 Semifinals
Match 41, 14:00,GREECE v RUSSIA
Match 42, 15:30, NETHERLANDS v ITALY

Classification 1-4 Semifinals
Match 43, 17:00, USA v AUSTRALIA
Match 44, 18:30, SPAIN v HUNGARY

Thursday Men’s Schedule:

Classification 11-12
Match 39, 9.30, JAPAN v SOUTH AFRICA

Classification 9-10

Classification 5-8 Semifinals
Match 41, 14:00, SERBIA v GERMANY
Match 42, 15:30, AUSTRALIA v GREECE

Classification 1-4 Semifinals
Match 43, 17:00, SPAIN v CROATIA
Match 44, 18:30, HUNGARY v ITALY