Spain won an outstanding battle against Hungary, arguably the best match of the tournament so far and will meet Greece in the final as the latter team stunned the Serbs in the second semi-final. The first one was a real thriller where Hungary took a flying start but the Spaniards came back from three goals down and with some outstanding defending in the third period they stopped the roaring Magyars to win 12-11 in this epic game producing 70 shots. Then Serbia led till the middle of the third period, but at 7-5 they began to waste the best chances, including a second penalty, then three man-ups in the last two minutes and the Greeks' disciplined and enthusiastic play brought its result, a fine 9-8 win.
Spain's heroes: Unai Aguirre posted 18 saves while Lluc Bertan (top picture) scored 4 goals – Credit (all photos): Noemi Kondor
Hungary continued flying high with the speed they gained their heroic eight-final win and their flawless performance against Montenegro – that sent them 4-1 ahead after eight minutes. Thoguh the Spaniards started climbing back, at 7-4, still in the second, the Magyars seemed to keep the game under control. But their rivals found the tools to beat the Hungarians goalie who conceded 6 goals against the US and 3 against the Montenegrins but now Mark Grieszbacher had to be substituted at the beginning of the third when the Spaniards equalised for 7-7. Soon they were 7-8 up, but to enhance the drama, the hosts' reserve goalie Daniel Korom stopped a penalty and after a goalless struggle of 11:21 minutes the Magyars could level the score at 8-8. With two fast goals Spain went 8-10 up and they still had a 9-11 lead with 3:28 to go. But the Hungarians fought on and in a span of 27 seconds they managed to go even again and there were still 2:08 minutes left from the game. Though Spain's man-up had gone, after the save and the ensuing corner-throw they could set up their centre-forward Oscar Asensio who decided the match with a brilliant goal while the home guys were unable to convert their last 6 on 5 – so just like in last year's semi-final at the U17 Europeans, Spain bettered Hungary once more.
Beating the Serbs in water polo is a huge feat at any level in any age-group – the Greek did in a World Championship semi-final
The contest of the two last unbeaten teams saw the Serbs leading by two goals for most of the time in the first half and even in the third. However, after 7-5 they missed a crucial man-up, later a penalty (the second in the match) and soon the Greeks started rolling. Early in the fourth they expanded their rush to 0-4 and even though the Serbs could pull one back they missed their last three (!) 6 on 5s as the Greek defence worked properly.
Italy didn't really let the Aussies into the game
In the first game played for the 5-8th place, Croatia jumped to a 7-2 lead by halftime with a great 5-1 run in the second period. Even if the Montenegrins had some better spells in the third, they couldn't come closer than three goal. Then, at the beginning of the fourth, the five-goal cushion was reset and the game was virtually decided there. Indeed, the second half turned into a scoring festival, while the first half produced 9 goals, the second brought 16, eight goals apiece.
Soon the Italians joined them as they downed the Aussies in eight minutes. They gained a 0-6 lead in the first period and even if had an 11:10-minute silence, their rivals could only come back to 6-3 at the beginning of the third and soon the Italians were back and settled everything by scoring four more goals in this period.
The previous matches saw mostly one-sided contests. The US team started rolling in the second period against Russia, won the middle two quarters 8-2 and gained a comfortable win to clinch the 9th place. Brazil was merciless against 11-men and worn-out Colombia and booked the 11th place. Egypt downed New Zealand for the 13th place, and Canada did the same with the Saudis for the 17th position. The morning saw two close fights: South Africa came from behind to beat Argentina, Todd Howard netted 6, including the last two in the last two minutes. The opening match ended in a penalty shootout, China overcame Uzbekistan and even though they couldn't win a game in regular time in the tournament, they still finished 19th.
Schedule, Day 10
16.45: Spain v Greece
Bronze medal match
15.15: Hungary v Serbia
For places 5-6th
13.45: Croatia v Italy
For places 7-8th
12.15: Montenegro v Australia
9. United States
14. New Zealand
15. South Africa
18. Saudi Arabia