Match Reports

Classification 1-4 Semifinals


Pictures courtesy of Iosif Vagnar/World Aquatics

Serbia made the semifinal win a little easier than the preliminary-round clash in which Serbia prevailed 14-12 on day two. It came courtesy of a red card against Greece’s Nikolaos Gkillas, probably the team’s best player.

Luka Gladovic scored the first three goals for Serbia as it slid to 4-0 by the first break. Gkillas netted a penalty goal two minutes into the second quarter and then more than three minutes later when he had a shot rejected, he did backstroke and allegedly kicked his opponent in the face. VAR confirmed the violence foul and Greece had to play four minutes a man down and Serbia immediately gained a penalty shot, which Zoran Bozovic converted. Serbia then scored another four goals in that period for an unassailable 9-3 lead half a minute into the third period.

Serbia won the third period 4-2 with Gladovic amassing his fifth goal and a double in the fourth quarter had Serbia out to 14-5. Greece, thanks to two goals by Christos Bitsakos, scored three goals in the last 100 seconds as some form of consolation.

Match Heroes
Gladovic was named best in pool and his goalkeeper, Petar Pajkovic, made nine saves. Bitsakos was Greece’s best shooter with three.

Turning Point
The red card. It destroyed the match as a contest.

Stats Don’t Lie
Greece shot 28 to 25, but only scored one from 11 on extra-man attack to Serbia’s seven from seven. Both teams scored a penalty.

Bottom Line
Serbia is the reigning champion and will relish a chance to return the favour to Hungary, who won the first-day penalty shootout 17-15 between the protagonists. Greece will need to regroup against a powerful USA outfit in the bronze-medal encounter.


USA put up stouter resistance than the group stages when it lost 12-6 to Hungary, by drawing level at eight in the final quarter of today’s encounter. Despite Marcell Szecsi’s red card for a flurry of punches, allegedly, Hungary still managed to control the match and venture to a blockbuster final with champion Serbia.

Szecsi’s removal came when Hungary was 6-2 ahead and the resulting four-minute suspension yielded four goals to one to narrow the deficit to 7-6. Hungary won the first period 4-1 and the Ryder Dodd penalty for the red card closed the half at 6-3.

Hungary took a timeout at 7-6 to no avail and USA responded with a Grant Watson goal for the first draw of the match at seven. However, David Tatrai, who was having a sublime match with a pair in the first quarter and the 6-2 goal, claimed his fourth from the right side of the pool to give Hungary the 8-7 three-quarter advantage.

USA replied through Ryder Dodd (above) on extra for another draw to open the final quarter, but that’s where the challenge ended as Hungary fired in four straight with national senior squad member Vince Vigari netting twice and Tatrai with another on extra. With a minute remaining, Ryder Dodd scored his 20th goal of the week, also on extra. It was Vigvari who finished the scoring from the penalty line.

Emotions overflowed when USA’s Watson swam over his opponent and was red carded at 0:21.

Match Heroes
Tatrai was named player of the match with his five goals coming from just five attempts. Vigvari made it four from five. Ryder Dodd was USA’s best with four goals.

Turning Point
The red card obviously assisted USA to get back into the match, but Hungary was not to be denied and the four consecutive goals in the last period was evidence of that.

Stats Don’t Lie
Hungary shot 32 to 27, converted four from 10 on extra-man attack while USA managed an incredible eight from 10, boosted by the three on the four-minute suspension period. Hungary sank two penalty goals and USA one.

Bottom Line
Hungary is the class team and many predicted early on that the powerful unit would take gold. At least it has made the final and could emulate the Hungarian youth team of last year, which won the world final. Some of those players are here in Otopeni. USA is one match away from its best result at this level and its chances of a bronze medal must be high.

Classification 5-8 Semifinals


Spain beat Croatia 12-7 on day three, so today’s four-goal margin was not unexpected, although it had to come from 4-1 down at quarter time to level in the third quarter for what was a standout and defining period.

Croatia was first out of the blocks with a penalty goal and a long shot that needed a VAR decision. Marc Valls replied for Spain before Croatia went to the quarter break 4-1 with two action goals. Goals were traded at the start of the second quarter, then Robert Lopez scored off a cross pass and a skinny squeeze into the bottom left for 5-4 down. A Spanish timeout could not help bridge the gap.

Valls stood up like no other with the first three goals of the third period from identical positions, all on extra-man attack. It swung the match into Spain’s favour 7-5. Ignasi Bargallo scored twice in a minute and a half for a fantastic 9-5 advantage at the final break. It maintained Valls’ and Bargallo’s record of scoring in every match.

When Viktor Toncinic broke through with an extra-man goal on a pop pass down the left post, it arrested a 14-minute drought. With Bargallo netting a third, however, it was match over at 4:53, with no further goals eventuating.

Match Heroes
Alejandro Alegra was inspirational in the Spanish goal with a stunning 13 saves. Valls, with four goals, and Bargallo with three were equally exceptional. Croatia’s best was goalkeeper Mauro Cubranic with 12 saves and Toncinic was the only double scorer.

Turning Point
The 7-0 gravy train that pushed Spain four goals into the lead.

Stats Don’t Lie
Both teams shot 31 times with Spain converting extra-man attack four from 16 times and Croatia two from nine. Croatia grabbed the only penalty goal.

Bottom Line
Spain deservedly goes to the fifth-place classification against Italy and Croatia will play Montenegro for seventh.

ITALY 13 MONTENEGRO 12 in penalty shootout (FT: 8-8. Pens: 5-4)

Italy threw away a 5-1 lead at halftime and had to scramble to get a 6-6 equaliser by the end of the third period, only to take the lead and see it evaporate, forcing the shootout. It should not have been so hard a victory to get considering Italy beat Montenegro 9-7 in the preliminary stages.

There was only one goal in the opening quarter and that was to Settebello senior team member Francesco Condemi at centre forward. A beautiful two-metre backhand from Ernesto Serino, for his first goal of the tournament, opened the second quarter with Alessandro Balzarini making it 3-0 with a tip in from two metres on extra-man attack.

Montenegro responded through Strahinja Gojkovic on extra, followed by two goals in the last minute to Italy with Condemi collecting a second on extra.

From the 5-1 position, Italy looked impregnable. However, a barrage of Montenegrin shots lifted the team to 5-5 and then 6-5 when Tim Perov blasted in from the top for his first tournament goal. It was left to Condemi to right the ship with a six-metre, free-throw shot, not even lifting his body out of the water, catching the defence off guard.

Gojkovic took  Montenegro into the lead early in the fourth period with Agostino Somma replying for Italy on the next attack for 7-7. Both teams took a timeout with no effect and soon after Condemi converted a penalty at 1:04 for the 8-7 advantage. Montenegro went to a timeout at 0:20 with a man up and just when it seemed the final buzzer would beat Montenegro, Lazar Vukecevic took a foul and scored through two defenders on the free throw with 1.7 seconds left on the clock, sending the match to shootout.

Montenegro shot first and Jovan Vujevic dropped the ball with the opening attempt. Everyone scored from there and when Alessandro Gullotta fired in the 10th attempt, Italy had the victory.

Match Heroes
Without a doubt, Condemi. His five goals were impeccable and he has a big year ahead at the senior level, let alone Saturday’s play-off for fifth. Roberto Spinelli was in top form in the cage with 11 saves. Gojkovic and Vukecevic scored three each for Montenegro.

Turning Point
Montenegro’s huge comeback from 5-1 to 6-5 ahead and then Italy’s 3-1 move in the late third and fourth quarters. Of course, Vukecevic’s bomb just before the final buzzer.

Stats Don’t Lie
Italy only needed 28 shots to 36; scored three from nine on extra-man attack to Montenegro’s five from 15 while both teams converted a penalty.

Bottom Line
Italy earns a shot at Spain for fifth place and Montenegro takes on Croatia for seventh.

Classification 9-12 SEMIFINALS


It was not to be for the host nation as Japan needed a four-goal closing quarter to secure the win and advance to the play-off for ninth. Three times Romania had a three-goal lead and midway through the third period was two goals ahead.

Romania was 3-1 and 4-2 up with Japan coming back to level at four by the first break. It was not to level again until the final quarter. Romania went 6-4 and 8-5, closing the half at 9-6.

It progressed to 10-7 and 11-9 before going into the final quarter 11-10. The Daichi Ogihara factor kicked in, the senior international scoring at nine and 10. With the fourth quarter opening, Japan took a stranglehold with Koshin Kano and Koyo Jo grabbing goals from the left-hand-catch position and Ogihara netting his 27th goal from the left side of the pool.

Romania challenged a shot taken earlier but was not in possession of the ball so a penalty is given to the other team. Ogihara converted for his fifth of the match and 28th of the week. Romania had at least three point-blank shots that could not get past Kataro Yasuda in the Japanese goal. He made 10 saves for the match.

Match Heroes
Ogihara (pictured), who else? He has been so dominant and it’s not just against the weaker teams as he also scored five in the clash with Croatia. Kai Inoue and Koyo Jo netted three each. Romania’s best was goalkeeper David Dumitru with 12 saves.

Turning Point
The final quarter where Romania was shut out and Japan went on the rampage.

Stats Don’t Lie
Who needs extra-man goals? Certainly not Japan. It missed all four chances while Romania gained three from eight. Japan shot 38 to 31, scored both penalty attempts to the host’s one and forced 18 turnovers to nine. All those action goals were counting heavily in its favour.

Bottom Line
Japan earned a clash with Netherlands and Romania goes to the classification match for 11th with Australia.


Netherlands  powered into the play-off for ninth with a strong showing against Australia in a very tight match with the lowest scoring of the tournament. Netherlands built the win on a 3-0 first quarter, allowed Australia to narrow the margin to 3-2 at halftime and scored the only goal of the third period. Three goals to nil in the final quarter meant Australia was impotent for nearly the last 18 minutes of the match.

Australia struggled on the extra-man situations and gave up three counter-attack goals, which proved critical.

Match Heroes
The best player was Australian goalkeeper Laurence Barker with 11 saves, but his efforts were not enough to stem the flood of Dutch goals. Daan Bakker and Mart van der Weijden scored two each for Netherlands.

Turning Point
The opening 3-0 quarter.

Stats Don’t Lie
Both teams took 22 shots and Netherlands buried two from seven on extra-man attack and defended nine of 10. The Dutch missed the only penalty.

Bottom Line
The classier Dutch move into the  play-off for ninth against Japan and Australia will face Romania once again, for 11th position.

Classification 17-18


The scary haka performed by the Kiwi team before the start of the match seemed to work. Used as a challenge, it is seen more of a war dance and has been made famous by many New Zealand sporting teams, most notably by the All Blacks rugby team. As the reigning world champion in men’s rugby, South Africa is no stranger to the dance.

The Kiwis were fired up enough to open the scoring and lead 2-1 at the quarter before moving to 4-1 early in the second period. South Africa recovered enough with two goals to narrow the deficit to one by halftime. New Zealand kept the Africans scoreless in the third period and achieved something amazing when a challenge by South Africa with a half-minute remaining for no call on a possible penalty foul, resulted in a penalty shot for the Kiwis as the challenge was lost. Andrei Soldatovic converted and the score flattered New Zealand 7-3.

Jordan Harrod, South Africa’s highest goal scorer with 14, nailed a penalty shot and Joshua de Villiers dropped in a sensational acrobatic shot from wide right to narrow to 7-5 at 4:43. New Zealand had two goals disallowed — one by VAR — and sent one home at 1:23 to close all scoring and take the win.

Match Heroes
Kiwi goalkeeper Darius Porter was on fire with 10 saves, including one in the face in the dying minutes and was named player of the match. He was mobbed by his team-mates after the presentation. Captain Kelly Mcdowell and Lochie Frazer scored twice each. For South Africa, Harrod was the best with two.

Turning Point
From 1-1 to 4-1 in the second quarter. From there, New Zealand could withstand the Africans.

Stats Don’t Lie
New Zealand shot 25-23; scored two from six on extra-man attack and defended all nine South African shots. The Kiwis landed two penalty goals and South Africa one.

Bottom Line
New Zealand missed 2021 because of national Covid travel bans, but this was a big drop from 12th in Kuwait back in 2019. Its other best finishes of 12th were in 1981 and 2005. South Africa was 16th in 2021 and the best results were 14th in 2013 and 2019.

Saturday Schedule

Classification 15-16
09:00, Argentina v Iran

Classification 13-14
10:30, Germany v Brazil

Classification 11-12
12:00, Romania v Australia

Classification 9-10
13:30, Japan v Netherlands

Classification 7-8
15:00, Croatia v Montenegro

Classification 5-6
13:30, Spain v Italy

Classification 3-4
15:00, Greece v United States of America

Classification 1-2
09:00, Serbia v Hungary