Hungary, Spain, Serbia and Netherlands are through to the medal round following quarter-final victories in the FINA World Junior Men’s Water Polo Championships here in Belgrade. In the medal quarter-finals, Hungary stunned Italy 11-4, Spain upset Greece 9-8, Serbia shut out Croatia 12-7 and Netherlands bettered Montenegro 12-7. In the classification 9-12 semifinals, Canada downed Australia 10-6 and United States of America hammered Kazakhstan 26-4. In the classification 13-16 semifinals, Turkey defeated South Africa 16-9 and New Zealand beat Brazil 12-10. In the play-off for 17th, Uzbekistan dumped Kuwait 26-4.
Match 48 09:00 South Africa v Brazil
Match 49 10:30 Turkey v New Zealand
Match 50 12:00 Australia v Kazakhstan
Match 51 13:30 Canada v United States of America
Classification 5-8 Semifinals
Match 52 16:00 Italy v Greece
Match 53 15:30 Croatia v Montenegro
Classification 1-4 Semifinals
Match 54 19:00 Hungary v Spain
Match 55 20:30 Serbia v Netherlands
Classification 1-8 Quarter-finals
Photos courtesy of Sandic Photography
HUNGARY 11 ITALY 4
Hungary ground out a spectacular seven-goal differential against the “old enemy” Italy. It was done with a 2-0 start, which became 3-2 at the quarter break, 4-3 at halftime and then a 4-0 third period said it all. The final eight minutes produced a 3-1 margin. Italy looked demoralised on the bench — assistant coach and Italian great Alessandro Calcaterra looking unimpressed — and in the water as Hungary picked up the pace and won the second half 7-1. There were long periods when nothing would work on attack and the extra-man count showed this with both teams only converting once — Hungary from seven attempts and Italy from 10. The last minute was the busiest with three goals coming — Hungary on counter; Italy blasted from the top; and Hungary sealed the scoring with a seven-metre slider. Hungary looked more prepared for the match and will probably put up a top showing in the semifinals.
Roland Gaszt was named best in pool with his three goals, coming as they did early in the match, scoring the second, fourth and fifth Hungarian scores. Italy had four different scorers.
What they said
Roland Gaszt (HUN) — Player of the Match
“I think our defence was much better than our offence. We only got four goals, but scored 11, so I think defence won this game for us.”
Rocco Valle (ITA) — Goalkeeper
“We lost. It wasn’t a very good game, but we fought as hard as we could. The opponent was very strong; we faced them in training, we knew them, but physically they were bigger and stronger than us. We tried our best to take the results, but at the end we lost. The hardest part was that their shooting was very powerful, so I had difficulty to keep that. Sometimes I kept, but sometimes they scored and that’s how the game went.”
GREECE 8 SPAIN 9
Greece may have had the better of extra-man plays and had the incomparable talents of Andreas Bitsakos, but Spain won the match and probably put that down to, among other things, the superior shooting statistic — 33 shots to Greece’s 25. Greece had the better percentage, but to win matches, you need to shoot and trust that the conversion rate will assist you to victory. This was an enthralling match that had it drawn at one, two, three, four, five and eight. It was 3-3 at the quarter break and 4-4 at halftime. By the final break it was 6-5 in Spain’s favour and went 7-5 and 8-6 until Greece, one of the pre-tournament favourites, had Bitsakos to thank with a score on extra, and, with 1:43 left on the clock, another extra-man score for 8-8. Spain was calm, went on attack, drew the extra and converted with an outside shot from Javier Ibanez at 0:44. Neither team could score and Spain cemented its spot in the semifinals.
Bitsakos was the star and almost single-handedly kept Greece in the match with five goals. His first four goals came from the left side of the pool and he was left free at the top in an unaccustomed position, and he made Greece pay for that mistake as the score levelled at 8-8. However, it was not enough for the star who has 13 goals to his name. Robert Lopez and Biel Gomila scored twice each for Spain. The extra-man count had Greece with a commendable six from 14 while Spain netted just three from nine.
What they said
Jan Perez Rodriguez (ESP) — Player of the Match
“I’m very happy and I have to congratulate for my team. I think it was a hard game, but step by step we won.”
Ilias Machairas (GRE) — Head Coach
“We could see that we are not ready to win this tournament, now we must continue to play and fight for the fifth position. The tournament is now over for us. I expect to fight with the same passion that we did and do the best that we can.”
SERBIA 12 CROATIA 7
Serbia mastered the extra-man attack and scored seven from 12 and then defended 14 from 15 in a remarkable performance. The showing was even more remarkable considering Croatia had the upper hand at the start with a 3-0 assault. It kept the edge at 4-3 by the break and gave up the advantage to trail 6-5 at halftime. With a packed house, Serbia pushed the margin to four (9-5) with an extra-man goal with a second left on the clock. A Croatian bench official was issued his marching orders as nerves started to fray. Croatia scored first, on double extra for 9-6 and snapped in a rebound for 11-6 and another from the left for 11-7, but the gap was too wide. Serbia closed the match on extra from the top and advanced to the semifinals.
Radosav Virijevic starred in the Serbia goal with 13 saves and was named player of the match. His heroics were one of the main reasons Serbia made the semifinals. He was assisted by Aleksandar Kovacevic, who scored four goals — the go-ahead 5-4 penalty; on counter for 8-5 when the goalkeeper was ejected; at 10-6 on extra and then jumping on to a rebound for 11-6 that had the match beyond Croatia’s reach. Vlaho Pavlic and Patrik Kolak scored twice for Croatia.
What they said
Rodoljub Gajic (SRB) – Player
“First of all, congrats to the national team of Croatia. They put up a good fight. In the end we won, but they did their best. It feels great (to be in the semis), of course! To be in the top four in the world, next up is the fight for the finals.”
Toni Radan (CRO) — Player
“The game was brilliant. In the first quarter we had the lead, but after we fell down. Serbia was better today, congrats to them! Unfortunately, we are going for fifth place.”
MONTENEGRO 7 NETHERLANDS 12
Netherlands is going where it has never been before. By beating Montenegro by five goals and reaching the semifinals, the effort is all the more remarkable as the Dutch have never contested this event, so to be in the medal rounds is a remarkable achievement. The win was incredible and it had to come from 1-0 and 4-3 behind after leading 3-2 at the quarter-time break. Montenegro retook the lead at 5-4 with a VAR decision and the match was in the balance at 5-5 after an extra-man goal. Montenegro again took the lead, through an extra-man goal before Lars Ten Broek converted a six-metre-free-throw shot. Dion Harreman then scored his fourth goal from two metres and the Dutch were on the way. The huge supporter base cheered the team along as the Dutch scored on extra and counter to close the third-quarter scoring by 1:48. Montenegro opened the fourth-quarter scoring, but it was the last throw of the dice as Netherlands scored the last three with Ten Broek getting two and Hugo Wouters backhanding from centre forward. It was a classic match by both teams, but only one could go to the semifinals. The extra-man count showed how defence played a huge part in the match — Netherlands went four from 16 and Montenegro four from 17. However, the biggest statistic was the 34 Dutch shots compared to Montenegro’s parsimonious 23.
Harreman was awarded the best in pool and rightly so for his terrific work at centre forward. He scored four goals and one shot hit the crossbar and bounced in off the goalkeeper’s head. His award was more about setting up the Dutch team as he scored the first, third and fourth goals with the first a scrambling effort when he tenaciously went for the ball and shovelled it into goal. Ten Broek also scored four goals and he leads his team in scoring with a total of 23, second on the ladder. Nedo Bastrica was the only double scorer for Montenegro, which brings him to 15 for the tournament.
Classification 9-12 Semifinals
AUSTRALIA 6 CANADA 10
Canada won the battle of the Commonwealth with a 10-6 win over Australia, built on a 7-1 advantage that decided the encounter. It was 3-1 at the first break and 7-2 at halftime and 9-3 at the final break. Canada shot at will, and from well outside, and the Aussies could not block the shots. It was an excellent, all-round performance by the Canadians and will stand them in good stead when they take on USA for ninth place on Thursday — virtually the North American final. Australia will need to regroup under the leadership of Olympian player and coach John Fox and Olympic swimming champion Jon Sieben, the team manager, when it tackles Kazakhstan — who went down heavily to USA today — for 11th ranking.
Hamza Mahmoud claimed the player-of-the-match award with six important saves while seven of his team-mates scored. For Australia, Rory McKell scored three goals for a total of nine in Belgrade. On the extra-man count, Canada had a better percentage with three from eight while Australia managed two from 10.
What he said
Hamza Mahmoud (CAN) — Player of the Match
“I think we played a good game; we had good defence throughout the whole game.”
KAZAKHSTAN 4 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 26
United States of America is proving to be a team that should have been in the top eight and is improving as a combination with every encounter. As these players filter through to more senior national teams, they will look back on this tournament as what could have been. USA led 6-0 at the quarter break and 13-2 at halftime as Kazakhstan scored from 10m and with a lob shot. USA went 20-3 and closed the fourth period 6-1. USA will clash with Canada for ninth place and Kazakhstan will face Australia for 11th.
Jacob Tsotadze headed a team out to put every field player on the scoresheet. He topped the scoring with five goals from six attempts and now has six for the tournament. Gage Verdegaal chimed in with four more and earned player of the match. USA claimed the extra-man honours with 10 from 12 and Kazakhstan missed its only chance.
What he said
Gage Verdegaal (USA) — Player of the Match
“It was good. We came in knowing we need to win this game. We wanted to come out and play for the best position at this point, which is ninth. Our game plan was to play like we played last game against Spain, just play as hard as we can, try to minimise our turnovers and things like that. As a team, we had some turnovers we probably shouldn’t have, some missed shots, but overall, I think we played really well and I feel good. I played a decent game today, pretty good.”
Classification 13-16 Semifinals
TURKEY 16 SOUTH AFRICA 9
Turkey collected its second win of the tournament as it surged into the play-off for 13th position with a somewhat comfortable victory over South Africa. It was a tough start, trailing 2-1 at the first break and heading into the second half 7-4 up. It was still tight at the final break, ahead 9-6. South Africa came back with the first goal of the final quarter, on penalty, and in with a chance. However, Turkey slipped it out to 15-7 and 16-8 before South Africa finished with a rebound, centre-forward goal in the dying seconds. South Africa is still without a victory in Belgrade and will be hoping for something better on Thursday.
Turkey’s Efe Kuloglu and Ege Caner slotted four goals each with Kuloglu taking out the playing award. However, it was South Africa’s Matthew Pryce, so strong all tournament, who was the busiest in pool with five goals from 10 attempts and 13 overall. Turkey converted four from 11 on extra-man attack and South Africa three from 10.
What they said
Can Odyakmaz (TUR) — Player
“I think we deserved to win this match and I’m happy about It.”
Andrew Good (RSA) – Player
“I think we came to this game with a good chance, but we let ourselves down in this game.”
BRAZIL 10 NEW ZEALAND 12 in penalty shootout (FT: 9-9. Pens: 1-3)
Boston Frost was the name on everyone’s lips following this encounter. The New Zealand goalkeeper was on fire when needed, but he came through in the penalty shootout. He amassed 16 saves, but, more importantly, he stopped three penalties in the shootout. Fantastic! The match was there for the winning for both teams. Both held leads and both could probably say they should not have arrived at the shootout. New Zealand claimed the first two goals, then found itself trailing 3-2 at quarter time. The Kiwis threw in a magnificent 5-1 second period, only to allow Brazil to win the next 4-1 for 8-8. It came down to the final period and New Zealand went up with a fifth goal from Andrei Soldatovic, on extra, from the right-hand-catch position. At the three-minute mark, Luiz Zerbielli converted extra-man attack from the right-post position, accepting a near pass to send the match into overtime. New Zealand won the toss, shot first and had it blocked. The next two shots succeeded and the next three Brazilian efforts found various parts of Frost’s anatomy while two Kiwi shots went in for the 12-10 victory. New Zealand will play Turkey for 13th position and Brazil will clash with South Africa for 15th classification.
Frost, with that bucket-load of saves, captured the imagination of the crowd and won the top award. Team-mate Soldatovic provided the inspiration at the other end with six goals, lifting his collection of goals to 11. Brazil’s Fabiano Gomes took his tally to 19 — fourth on the scoring ladder — with three goals.
What they said
Boston Frost (NZL) — Player of the Match
“The boys played exceptionally well in this game. I knew we were going to win from the start.”
Artur Diaz (BRA) – Player
“It was a good match overall, but not a good game for us. I think we should’ve won this match because our team is better, but unfortunately we lost.” On the shootout: “I think that everyone makes mistakes.”
UZBEKISTAN 26 KUWAIT 4
Uzbekistan finished its campaign with a repeat of the first match when the two met. Uzbekistan won 29-8 on that occasion. Uzbekistan lost to Kazakhstan, Croatia and Turkey before its second win over Kuwait. The Uzbek coach decided to make sure every player scored and all the field players did. Uzbekistan proved that it could have finished higher if it stood up more to the higher-ranked teams, going 2-2, 7-2 and 18-3 into the breaks. Kuwait worked hard early one, but could not maintain the momentum, while Uzbekistan wanted to finish in a flourish. Uzbekistan was 20th in 2018, a far cry from its 2012 finish of 13th. Kuwait was making its debut in Belgrade.
Burhonjon Sayfiddinov rattled in five from five while Shakhzod Turgunov and Mikhail Dashov both converted five from seven for Uzbekistan. Daniil Krivoxijin added three more to his total to finish with 26 goals in Belgrade, six above Turgunov who currently sits third on the ladder. The pair scored 46 of the team’s 77 goals. Kuwait’s Mohammad Aldusari scored twice for a team-high nine goals. In the extra-man count, Uzbekistan went two from four and Kuwait two from eight.
What they said
Sayfullaev Berdiyor (UZB) — Player
“I think that we showed a perfect game; we did take the 17th place, but I think we can play better.”
Markos Markoglou (KUW) – Head Coach
“We are the last team in the competition, but it’s OK because it’s the first time we’re in a world championship. We’ll try to do our best to get back stronger.”