Match Reports

Classification 1-8 Quarterfinals

SPAIN 10 GREECE 11 in penalty shootout (FT: 6-6. Pens: 4-5)

Pictures courtesy of Iosif Vagnar and Zsigmond Bathori/World Aquatics

Greece survived a crazy final few minutes and shootout to gain victory over Spain in what had been a very close encounter with only three field goals. The three-time champion Greeks made it all the more remarkable after losing all three of its initial group matches, then winning the eighth final against Romania and now the quarterfinal over Spain to make the semifinals.

The ending was deplorable in a sense as Spain came back from two behind to level by 5:49 in the fourth period. When Semir Spachits scored from close in to give Greece the lead, the goal was assessed by VAR and given the green light. The match progressed to the dying seconds and was called up when World Aquatics TWPC chair Tamas Molnar entered the fray and said the goal should have been disallowed. It was re-assessed and the goal disallowed, much to the chagrin of Greek head coach Ilias Macharias.

However, the match progressed with both teams taking a timeout for no change on the scoreboard, sending it to a penalty shootout.

The first quarter was 2-1 to Greece with all goals on extra-man attack. Greece pushed the margin to three, thanks to a counter-attack lob goal from Evangelos Pouros and score from deep right on extra from Apostolos Georgaras. It could have been the halftime score, but for Daniel Ivaylov sliding in a ball from deep right on extra five seconds from the change.

Jan Perez, from a quick extra-man one-two at centre forward and Robert Lopez on action from a long cross pass, drew the match level at four. An extra-man and a penalty goal secured Greece the 6-4 three-quarter-time advantage.

To start the fourth period, it was déjà vu with Perez and Lopez again in the striking zone with Perez scoring from centre forward and Lopez from the penalty line, bringing the score to 6-6 by 5:49.

After the furore of the final minutes, the penalty shootout produced eight perfect shots with match star Nektarios Iliopoulos rising from his Greek goalmouth to swallow Joan Villamayor’s attempt, leaving it to Georgaras to complete the scoring and win the match 11-10.

Match Heroes
Iliopoulos was the undoubted star with 14 saves and Pouros made it three goals to top his team’s scoring. Lopez was Spain’s best with four goals and goalkeeper Xavier Teclas pulled in 12 saves.

Turning Point
Both teams had purple patches, but it had to be Greece going to 4-1 and Spain levelling at four. The ultimate prize was Greece’s deadly penalty shooting.

Stats Don’t Lie
Greece converted four from nine on extra-man attack and Spain three from nine, probably the difference in the encounter. Both teams converted their one penalty shot in regular time.

Bottom Line
Greece, which has awoken from the bad start to the tournament, is now poised to make its 11th appearance in a semifinal at this level, attaining three golds, two silvers and two bronzes with the last two gold medals in 2017 and 2019. Triple champion and six-time medallist Spain is destined for the 5-8 classifications.


Hungary is the team to beat in Otopeni, this Bucharest suburb with a two-year-old aquatic complex, 20km from the centre of the capital. With a 3-0 start, Hungary kept Italy at arm’s length for most of the match, leading the quarter 4-1, the half at 6-3 and the final break 8-5.

Italy scored just the one goal in the first 13 minutes, scored twice and did not appear for another seven minutes — such was Hungary’s stout defence — when Riccardo De Simon scored a pair on extra-man attack. Not scoring in the final quarter is not what you want if you wish to make a world semifinal.

Hungarian captain Vince Vigvari scored two of the first three goals, but was fouled out of the match at the top of the fourth. Zsombor Ekler continues to impress with his wickedly fast shooting style, scoring the second and eighth goals. Agostino Somma, who scored Italy’s second goal, ironically plays for Ferencvaros in the Hungarian league.

Match Heroes
Hungarian goalkeeper Viktor Gyapjas collected the match award for his 13 saves in a match that mattered. Four of his team-mates scored a double and two Italians did likewise.

Turning Point
The opening three goals — a margin that was maintained several times — although Hungary did go five up at 8-3.

Stats Don’t Lie
Imagine taking just 20 shots and winning the match. That’s what Hungary did with a 43 per cent strike rate compared to Italy’s 14 per cent from its 45 attempts.

Bottom Line
Hungary will be out to make its seventh final at this level and collect a third crown. It just has to bypass USA in the semifinals. Triple champion and nine-time medallist Italy now faces Montenegro.


USA has a chance to emulate its 1989 team in Narbonne, France, which also made the semifinals. That team finished fourth, so perhaps USA this year could gain a historic first medal at this level. Despite being two down early in the first period, USA was the team to beat, leading 4-3, 6-5 and 9-7 at the breaks.

It was scoring sensation Ryder Dodd who again stepped up, scoring the first two USA goals and having four by 8-6 midway through the third quarter. He deservedly was awarded player of the match.  

The USA cause was interrupted late in the third quarter when centre forward Peter Castillo allegedly struck his defender in the face, causing an immediate red card. His replacement in the hole position, William Schneider, scored on the next attack to close the period’s scoring and have USA two ahead.

The final quarter was tight before Ben Leichty scored on extra for 10-7 at 4:25, seemingly too far for Montenegro. However, Marko Mrsic converted his second penalty foul and a minute later scored from deep left on extra for 10-9. At 2:27, USA had its shot blocked; Montenegro then hit the crossbar; USA’s shot was deflected over the backline by the goalkeeper and the resulting centre-forward shot went wide. Montenegro took a timeout and the shot was saved at eight seconds and the ball was sent to the counter-attacking player who could have thrown a long ball into an empty net as the Montenegro goalkeeper was stranded on attack. The player declined the opportunity as the one-goal margin was enough.

The most pleasing aspect of USA’s play was its seven action goals, including the first four.

Match Heroes
Ryder Dodd (pictured) with four goals and 17 for the tournament. USA goalkeeper West Temkin was awesome again with 12 saves. For Montenegro, it was Marko Mrsic with four goals from six attempts with two from the penalty line.

Turning Points
Recording four consecutive goals to come from two down to two ahead in the first quarter and then scoring either side of the final break for a winning three-goal margin.

Stats Don’t Lie
Montenegro had the better of the stats, probably because of USA’s penchant for action goals. Montenegro blasted 33 shots to 27; scored all three penalty attempts and sent in only two from 11 on extra-man attack to USA’s three from eight.

Bottom Line
USA was the better team on the day and proved it is worthy of a medal while Montenegro was hoping for a repeat of the preliminary-group clash with Croatia when it came from five down to force a penalty shootout and win, thanks to six Mrsic goals. USA now has the unenviable task to play Hungary in the semifinals and Montenegro will front Italy.

SERBIA 16 CROATIA 15 in penalty shootout (FT: 11-11. Pens: 5-4)

Reigning champion Serbia had to come from four down in the final quarter to force the shootout and win with a perfect rotation to protect its chances of making top of the podium on Saturday. It was tough to take for Croatia, who led eight times with Serbia equalising each time, and then Croatia speared out to 11-7 at the final break.

It always looked like Croatia’s match with the goals spread around both teams, although Vasilije Martinovic was on fire for Serbia with three goals in the second quarter. The three-goal surge in the final two minutes gave Croatia the biggest boost of the match and at 10-7 the lights were glowing in the Croatians’ eyes.

Then came a surprising moment when there were plenty of discussions poolside with 10 seconds remaining with the upshot that Croatia gained a penalty attempt, presumably for Serbia incorrectly calling a timeout when not in possession. Hrovje Zvono converted his second penalty goal and Croatia’s third to be in the box seat.

Then came the crucial last quarter with Serbia inspired and willing to pick up the challenge. After all, these are professional athletes who play in the clubs’ senior teams in national and European competitions, as are the Croatians. Bogdan Gavrilovic scored from centre forward; Bogdan Brescanski slid to his right and took the high ball to score at two metres; Aleksandar Kovacevic fired the ball under the defender’s arm from deep right and it was 11-10 with 1:51 on the clock. Serbia called a timeout and Viktor Urosevic converted the extra-man play from deep right at 0:36. This was enough for the shootout and Serbia’s survival.

The first six shots were successful, then Robert Stojanic was held up as Serbia changed goalkeepers and when the whistle went, the ball slipped out of his hand. The next three shots went in and Serbia was through to the semifinals. It was Serbia's second shootout of the week, losing 17-15 to Hungary on day week.

Match Heroes
Martinovic, with his four goals for Serbia. Zvono with his four for Croatia, with three on penalties, and goalkeeper Mauro Cubranic with a magnificent 14 saves at a time when Croatia was fully in control were their team’s best.

Turning Point
Serbia’s 4-0 final quarter. Full stop.

Stats Don’t Lie
Serbia shot 35 to 27; converted just three from 13 to Croatia’s five from 10 and gave up three penalty goals to Croatia. Croatia’s strength was on action goals.

Bottom Line
Serbia now faces Greece in the semifinals and Croatia will play Spain in the classification 5-8 semifinals.

Classification 13-19

Group G Crossover


Germany struggled against Argentina before winning the group and earning a shot at the 13th classification play-off on Saturday. Germany kept Argentina scoreless in the first quarter, winning it 2-0 with the second shot needing a VAR decision nearly a minute later.

Argentina levelled at the start of the second quarter with multi-scorer Mateo Giri (pictured below) converting a penalty foul and Ignacio Lucero squeezing in the narrowest of deep-right-wing shots. Germany regained the lead 4-2 with Giri making the most of a stupid major foul in the back court for 4-3, eight seconds from halftime.

Germany won the third 3-2, with Argentina rightfully being awarded a penalty shot with the VAR decision, but had the shot stopped by the agile Max Spittank. Giri was disappointed with the miss after earlier having a shot hit the crossbar and go over the line after hitting the back of Spittank’s head. The fourth period went the way of Germany 3-1 with Aleks Sekulic gaining his third. Nine Germans made the scoresheet.

Match Heroes
Germany’s Sekulic collected the best-in-pool award for his three goals and Mateo Giri top-scored with four goals for Argentina. His team-mate, goalkeeper Matias Ballardini, made 10 saves.

Turning Point
The first three goals of the fourth period, lifting the margin from 7-5 to 10-5, a difference the tiring Argentinians could not bridge.

Stats Don’t Lie
Germany outshot Argentina 34-25, converted two from eight on extra-man attack compared to Argentina’s four from 10 and defended one of the two Argentinian penalty attempts.

Bottom Line
Germany has more firepower across the team while Argentina relies heavily on the incomparable Giri. Germany will play Brazil for 13th on Saturday and Argentina will play Iran for 15th place.

Group H Crossovers

SOUTH AFRICA 15 IRAN 16 in penalty shootout (FT: 12-12. Pens: 3-4)  


Iran amazingly forced a shootout with two seconds remaining and won the rotation 4-3 to grab second place in the group. Victory was not unexpected as it led at halftime, then trailed by three and scored four of the last five goals to head to the penalty line.

Iran opened the scoring with South Africa leading 4-2 at the quarter break. South Africa went to 5-3 and then Iran struck back with a vengeance, taking the lead 6-5 at halftime.

When Ali Abolghasemi was red-carded for an altercation midfield in the first minute of the third period, it seemed to unsettle the Iranians, even though they maintained seven players in the pool. South Africa scored four straight and goals were traded for 10-8 at the break.

Marc Mansvelt delivered at centre forward for the three-goal margin and the match seemed to be firmly in South Africa’s hands. However, Farbad Behzadsabouri scored two of the next three Iranian goals to level at 1:40. Andrew Botha scored a second goal, from deep left at 0:20 and South Africa started celebrating. HOWEVER, Arman Shams was left clear on the bottom right and he whipped the ball past the goalkeeper with two seconds spare, achieving a penalty shootout.

The first two shots were successful and the second two stopped by the goalies. The next four shots made the scoresheet and then South African Sebastian Riley Nielsen had his attempt blocked and Ashkan Iranpoutari scored the winner.

Match Heroes
Alireza Mehrikohneshahri (pictured), was the undoubted star for Iran, scoring five goals in the first three quarters and one in the shootout. He won the player-of-the-match award, as expected. Shams and Behzadsabouri scored three each and goalkeeper Amrita Khazaei pulled in 10 saves. For South Africa, Lonwabo Mfikili was dynamite in goal with a fantastic 13 saves. Jordan Harrod, Mark Mansvelt and Botha netted three each.

Turning Point
So many, but the last-gasp goal by Iran set up the shootout.

Stats Don’t Lie
Iran pounded the South African goal 43 times to 33; converted four from 13 on extra-man attack and defended all four of the opposition’s chances; with South Africa claiming two penalty goals and Iran one.

Bottom Line
Iran has earned a shot at 15th place against Argentina on Saturday while South Africa will clash with New Zealand for 17th on Friday morning.


Brazil did what it had to do and fly through the group without a loss. Every member made the scoring list, except the goalkeepers, of course. Built on an 8-0 opening quarter and then rushing to 10-0, Brazil let its guard drop for Lorenzo Rodriguez to score an excellent centre-forward shot at 2:49 in the second period.

Two Carlos Fiszer goals, including a deft lob, brought the score to 12-1 and a blocked penalty shot by Brazil’s Joao Domeneghetti finished the first half. It was much tighter in the third with Peru collecting consecutive Diego Contreras goals — one on extra and the other from a counter-attack — before Brazil finished one up at 15-3.

Brazil slammed in six more in the fourth and Contreras had his penalty attempt smash into the crossbar in the last half minute to complete the match.

Match Heroes
Fiszer was named best in the water, scoring three goals, as did team-mates Joao Caumo, Paulo Oliviera and Lucas Wulfhorst. For Peru, Contreras scored twice.

Turning Point
The opening 10-0.

Stats Don’t Lie
Brazil shot 30 times to 21; converted three from six to one from three on extra-man attack; and both teams missed a penalty from Brazil’s three chances and Peru’s sole effort to close the match.

Bottom Line
Brazil won the battle of the South Americans, going three straight in the Group H round-robin and now plays for 13th place against Germany. Peru, as fourth in the group, will collect 19th position and depart the tournament.

Final Points (Classifications 13-19)

Group G: Germany 6, Argentina 3, New Zealand 0.
Group H: Brazil 9, Iran 6, South Africa 3, Peru 0.

Friday Schedule

Classification 17-18
09:00, New Zealand v South Africa

Classification 9-12 Semifinals
10:30, Japan v Romania
12:00, Australia v Netherlands

Classification 5-8 Semifinals
15:00, Spain v Croatia
16:30, Italy v Montenegro

Classification 1-4 Semifinals
18:00, Greece v Serbia
19:30, Hungary v United States of America