The curse of the group-winners hunted down Croatia and Montenegro: after some easy matches and a day rest both teams seemed to be off the necessary pace on the quarter-final day. The Croats had to face Spain which came from a heated battle and the Spaniards' fighting spirit prevailed in the first encounter. The Hungarians were flying high after the dramatic shootout win against the US in the eight-finals and with some incredible defending they beat the Montenegrins 8-3. The other two group-winners were more composed, Serbia built a massive 6-1 lead in the second period and despite some fierce attempts by the Italians later they held on till the end. Australia managed to stay close to Greece till deep into the fourth period but the Europeans were smarter and more precise in the finish, especially in man-up play.
Spain was always ahead in the match, though after going three goals up in the second, the Croats were able to come back to minus one. However, they missed most of their chances in the second half, arrived to the last period with a three-goal deficit, missed two penalties in the most crucial moments, letting the Spainiards to go 6-10 up. Croatia could score after a goalless phase of 8:28 minutes, way too late to avoid their first defeat in the tournament.
Unai Aglizze was voted the MVP of the game, the Spanish goalie posted a couple of crucial saves against Croatia – Credit (all photos): Noemi Kondor
Serbia stayed on course thanks to a magnificent first half. They led 5-0 and 6-1 – all goals came from action, they didn't even need man-ups – before Italy arrived to the pool and began to climb back. For a while the Serbs' offence showed signs of slowing down (even missed a penalty) and Italy seemed to have a chance at 7-5. However, the Serbs put away a man-up in the middle of the last period and that killed their rivals' momentum.
The Italians couldn't stop the Serbian cannons
Despite a 3-0 rush in 97 seconds by the Greeks early in the second period, the Aussies kept coming back after 6-3 and they were trailing by a single goal even in the middle of the fourth period. Even though a couple of fine action goals entertained the crowd, ultimately the man-ups decided the outcome and the Greeks were more precise, the Aussies missed the crucial ones after 10-8 – three in a row – and this set up an all-European semi-final.
Though Max Fodor denied Efstathios Kalogeropoulos in this one-on-one, altogether the Greek had more big moments in the game
The fourth team to join the party was the host side. The Hungarians, at a tender age of 18, offered a master-class of defending, led by their giant goalie. Mark Grieszbacher completely bewildered the Montenegrins while saving a penalty and stopping a handful of shots in man-downs – he finished the game with a 77% saving percentage. The reigning European champion side was limited to three man-up goals, was 0/17 in action as the Magyars rushed to a 0-4 lead and never looked back.
Dome Dala, son of former HUN great Tamas, offered his best performance so far in the quarters, his hat-trick was a huge boost for the Magyars
In the matches played for the lower ranks the two favourites, USA and Russia, going for the 9-12th places, earned convincing wins over the respective rivals, Colombia and Brazil. Egypt rolled on with another big win, this time over Argentina while New Zealand bettered South Africa in a hard-fought battle for the places 13-16th. Uzbekistan claimed its first win here against Saudi Arabia (20-10) but as it was revealed later they used an unauthorised player so the game was considered forfeited and Saudi Arabia was declared the winner. The Saudis will meet Canada as the North Americans halted their bad run and managed to overcome China even if in the penalty shootout.
The ticket office had to close at noon: the evening session was sold out, later the fans jumped out of their skins
Schedule, Day 8
18:30 Spain v Hungary
20:00 Serbia v Greece
For places 5-8th
15:30 Croatia v Montenegro
17:00 Italy v Australia
09:30 For places 19-20th: Uzbekistan v China
12:00 For places 17-18th: Saudi Arabia v Canada
09:30 For places 15-16th: Argentina v South Africa
11:00 For places 13-14th: Egypt v New Zealand
12:30 For places 11-12th: Colombia v Brazil
14:00 For places 9-10th: United States v Russia