Classification 1-4 Semifinals


Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

World champion Spain ripped the World Cup title from Hungary with a from-the-front 10-8 victory. Spain nullified the outside shooting of Hungary while making sure of its shots. By winning it now has the Doha ticket where it can go to defend its crown.

There was nothing in the first half where Spain scored the only goal from outside by Alberto Munarriz. He scored the second two minutes into the second quarter and big centre forward Roger Tahull dragged down a cross pass at two metres for a positive 3-0 lead. Tahull scored a second to close the half on 5-3 after Hungary pulled it back to one.

A 4-1 third period showed the dominance of Spain with three of those on action. Hungary was desperate in the final quarter with left-hander Marton Vamos firing in twice for 9-6 and Krisztian Manhercz countering for 9-7 at 2:56. Munarriz scored his third at 2:27 and the margin was out to three. Adam Nagy blasted one in at 1:00 and Hungary was still in with a chance of forcing a shootout.

Spain was unlucky in the final minute when its counter-attacker was mauled  in front of goal; the referee half lifted his arm for advantage and before the attacker could shoot, the buzzer sounded. A VAR review surprisingly disallowed the penalty and Hungary was given the attack, going on to pepper Spanish goalkeeper Unai Aguirre (main picture) three times in almost as many seconds. Not surprisingly, he was named player of the match.

Match Heroes:
Aguirre with his 15 saves was phenomenal and proved his golden worth. Munarriz netted three while for Hungary, Daniel Angyal and Vamos scored twice each.

Turning Point:
The three-goal start while keeping Hungary scoreless for  more than 11 minutes.

Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

Stats Don’t Lie:
Hungary was better on the man-up situations with two from four to Hungary’s two from eight. Both teams shot 29 balls and Hungary gained the only penalty of the match.

Bottom Line:
Spain is the world champion and has the current form. Hungary is regrouping and now needs to concentrate on finishing fifth.

What They Said:

David Martin (ESP) – Head Coach

What enabled you to play so well today?
“Hungary was a very strong team today, but we were able to prevail and win the match, which is very important to us because it means that we have qualified for the World Championships in Doha. It was a very difficult win for our team, but we were very focused on our attack and defence. I think that we started well on defence and our shooters like Alberto Munarriz and Alvaro Granados did great things on the offence. Our press made it very hard for Hungary to score, but we need to play better offence for the entire match because we did start kind of slow.”

Unai Aguirre (ESP) – Player of the Match/Goalkeeper

What enabled you to be so dominant in the cage today?
“I try to focus on defence and every play in the match. My defence is one of the best in the world and I know that it makes my job much easier. I am very confident in their abilities and I am very happy they performed the way they did today. Our defence and counter-attack let us start the game strong, but the improvement in the quality of our offensive attack made sure we got the win. However, we have one more match left in this tournament and no matter who the opponent is, we will have to play our best again.”

Zsolt Varga (HUN) – Head Coach

What can you learn from such a tough loss to a strong team like Spain?
“We need to improve and develop our outside shots because we struggled to find a solution for their zone and missed a lot of shots. Our team needs to focus more on creating shots and opportunities for each other by passing quickly and shooting off those passes. I think that our zone was not very bad, but Spain scored some excellent shots against the zone. However, we played the last quarter very well, so if we can learn to play like that for the entire match, we have a much better chance to win.  Overall, this was a very good opportunity for us to develop our skills and get a lot of experience in playing very tough matches.”

Daniel Angyal (HUN) — Two Goals

What could you have done differently?
“Our defence was not as strong as it has been for us today and we allowed too many goals in that match to be able to succeed against a strong team like Spain. We need to improve our defence and play at a similar level to yesterday in order to win matches. However, we were able to improve our attack after a lot of missed chances to start the match. This tournament is good preparation for us as a team and we can learn a lot more about what we need to get better at doing.”


Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

This was a rematch of last year’s World League final when Italy beat USA 13-9. To USA’s credit, it led 3-1 before having to draw level at four, five, six and seven. It was Italy’s greater match experience and a five-goal rush in the third period that settled the result. In the Zagreb round of the qualifiers, Italy defeated USA 16-10.

USA opened the  scoring with goals from big men Alex Bowen and Ben Hallock. Hallock had  his first goal disallowed as he was inside the passer on the goal line. Edoard Di Somma converted extra for Italy and Hannes Daube blasted on extra for 3-1. However, Di Somma scored twice more, with a six-metre, free-throw missile for 3-3 at 0:06.

Andrea Fondelli repeated the dose twice with the same six-metre shot, catching USA napping, either side of a Daube penalty, giving Italy the 5-4 advantage. Bowen stepped up and Fondelli made the most of a USA mix-up when Dylan Woodhead was excluded and Chase Dodd thought it was himself, so both left the pool, allowing the easy overlap goal. With seven seconds remaining, Bowen plastered the back of the net on extra for 6-6 to close the first half.

Even though Italy went ahead to start the second half, USA fired in three unanswered goals with a pair to 17-year-old Ryder Dodd, fresh from the recent world junior championships. Then Italy changed its goalkeeper and captain Marco Del Lungo for Gianmarco Nicosia and the team proceeded to pound the USA goal, turning the two-goal deficit into 12-9 by the final break. Di Somma scored twice in the rout. Daube dragged one back and at 4:26, a fast centre-forward goal to Lorenzo Bruni was disallowed by VAR as Italian head coach Sandro Campagna had simultaneously called a timeout. No matter, Italy scored on the extra play for 13-10 and Luca Marziali back-hand lobbed from centre forward with two defenders on him and the goalkeeper closing for 14-10 at 3:08.

Bowen had his penalty attempted smacked down by Nicosia; Ryder Dodd gained a pass from older brother Chase Dodd and converted extra from deep left for 14-11. However, Vincenzo Dolce made it 15-11 at 2:05 on extra and the sole USA response was from Bowen, also on extra, inside the final minute.

Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

Match Heroes:
Di Somma was the key for Italy with five goals — much like the three he scored in that World League final — and Fondelli made three. For USA, Daube and Bowen netted four apiece and Ryder Dodd three.

Turning Point:
From 3-1 down to 4-3 ahead and then the five goals in the second half of the third period by Italy.

Stats Don’t Lie:
Italy shot 32 to 29; scored six from 13 on extra-man attack to USA’s better eight from 13; and converted the one penalty to USA’s one from two.

Bottom Line:
Italy is championship material, while USA is medal material, but of a lesser colour. Italy had a stellar 2022 and this could be the start of another fine season with so much on offer. Two medals in two years would be marvellous if USA can get past Hungary on Sunday.

Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

What They Said

Alessandro Campagna (ITA) — Head Coach

What are your thoughts about the match?
“I knew that my team needed something to spark their fire and changing the goalkeeper in the middle of the third quarter did that for them. As well, the quality of our extra man in the second half of the match was much better and we started to get stops with our defence. The United States played an excellent match and it was very hard to play in both the offence and defence against them in the beginning. However, I was sure that we would outlast their effort and win the match. The most important thing today was our mental power and concentration because we continued to play a strong game the entire match. Today proved that if we focus on staying to our game plan and allow our players to utilise their creativity and experience, we are a very hard team to beat.”

Edoardo Di Somma (ITA) – Player of the Match

How did your team perform?
“First of all, the United States is a great team with talented players and it was very hard to play against them in this swimming pool with the crowd they had tonight. However, the match takes four quarters to finish. We started in the right way and were able to continue to get better throughout the match. I’m very happy for our team because this was the right way to finish out a match and end with a very strong win. If we bring the same energy to our defence that we had tonight at the end of the game, we will have a great match tomorrow against Spain for the gold medal.”

Dejan Udovicic (USA) — Head Coach

What allowed the Italians to control the game starting in the third quarter and what could you have done differently to prevent that?
“I think that our team had physically run out of gas by that point in the game. The Italians had a much easier match yesterday compared to the very tough match we had against Serbia. Because of that, we paid the price today because we did not have the energy to maintain the same level of physicality for the entire match. This competition schedule makes it very difficult to bring the same level of energy every day when you do not have the day off in between and the Italians were fresher than us. However, we need to learn how to deal with the Italians’ physical style when we are tired so we can compete against them and maintain our level of play in close games in the future.”

Ryder Dodd (USA) — Three Goals

What changed during that third quarter and what’s it like being a member of this team, especially with how young you are compared to the rest of the players in the pool?
“Overall, there were a ton of ups and downs during the match. We started out very well and controlled the pace with our defence, despite some amazing shots from Italy. By the end, we were playing into the Italians’ physicality and what the referees were calling. This gave them control of the pace of the game and they were able to beat us in the end. For me personally, It’s incredible being a part of this team and coming off the bench to provide my team-mates with a ton of energy, especially when I have the opportunity to score three goals like I did today.”

Classification 5-8 Semifinals


Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics


Greece made sure of an excellent showing against a weaker opposition, especially after losing to Hungary on day one in a low-scoring match. Greece swam riot over Germany, displaying all its natural skills and ability to draw penalty fouls and make the most of counter-attack goals.

Greece opened with the first of five penalty goals and a counter-attack goal that only just spun across the line, closing the scoring at 3-0 by quarter time. Greece shot out to 5-0 before Mateo Cuk countered for Germany’s first goal. Germany had another to close the first half at 7-2.

Greece took 9-2 and 11-3 leads — with the fourth penalty conversion — and finished the period at 13-4 with a missed penalty attempt in the mix. Another missed penalty shot started the fourth before Greece reshaped the scoreboard at 19-4 inside the final two minutes, giving up two goals to Germany for 19-6. The centre-forward backhand by Ferdinand Korbel finished a nine-minute period of scoring inactivity by Germany.

Match Heroes:
Efstathios Kalogeropoulos was named best in pool with three goals in the first eight while team-mates Alexandros Papanastasiou and Stylianos Argyropoulos also scored three. Goalkeeper Emmanouil Zerdevas pulled in 11 saves in his three quarters in the pool. On the other side of the ledger, Aleks Sekulic and Denis Strelezkij both scored twice and goalkeeper Felix Benke restricted the Greece scoring with a magnificent 13 saves, some of them from point blank.

Turning Point:
The five-goal start and then the eight-goal surge late in the match.

Stats Don’t Lie:
Greece shattered Germany with the statistics, shooting 36 to 30, converting five from eight on extra-man attack to one from two and nailed five from seven on penalty shots.

Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

Bottom Line:
Greece, as the Olympic silver medallists, used the match as a confidence booster ahead of the fifth-place play-off and to regain some self-respect after losing by two goals to Hungary in the quarterfinals. Germany made the most of its meagre chances and will have a better chance on Sunday for a victory.

What They Said

Theodoros Vlachos (GRE) – Head Coach

What allowed you to dominate the game from the first whistle?
“First of all, it was a really difficult atmosphere and match because the pool is very hot and playing at 1pm made it very difficult for both teams to play their best. I think that we were very concentrated. I asked my players to really focus on staying concentrated and working very hard on defence. We knew that we are a higher quality team, so we would be able to score many goals on the counter-attack like we did. By scoring those goals, it made the match, as a whole, much easier for us to control like we did.”

Efstathios Kalogeropoulos (GRE) – Player of the Match

What did you do well and wanted to improve on during today’s match?
“We wanted to get our rhythm going because yesterday we were not high in energy or controlling the rhythm of the match. We wanted to get out on the counter-attack to swim them a lot and score a lot of goals, like we did today. I hope we can continue to build our rhythm and counter-attack for tomorrow’s match as we continue to play this season. We also need to continue to improve our concentration even more so we can be successful.”

Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

Milos Sekulic (GER) — Head Coach

What are your thoughts after a tough loss to a world-class team like Greece?
“We lost, but I am not satisfied with our performance because we allowed Greece to score a lot of goals on the counter-attack. We knew that they are a fast team and talked about defending their counter-attack, but our defence did not do a good job stopping their counter. Overall, we did not play with our heads in several moments and gave them several counter-attack opportunities, which broke our spines, so to say. I understand that yesterday was a very difficult match against Spain, so we very well could be tired because we have also been preparing for multiple tournaments at once. This means we were out of shape, but this kind of experience is incredibly important for our team to learn something and grow.”

Denis Strelezkij (GER)  — Two Goals
“We tried our best, but I think today we were not focused enough and gave Greece a ton of opportunities because we made a lot of mistakes. Because of that and their counter, that is why the goal difference was so high at the end of the match. I don’t think we did anything well today and it was not a good showing for our team at the end of the day. However, we have one more match left in this tournament to show what we are able to do when we play our best.”


Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

Romania, who came off a 20-2 loss to Italy on day one, destroyed Serbia 17-14, five times leading by four goals against the Olympic champion. Considering it has not qualified for Fukuoka later this month, this is the highest level Romania can play this year and it showed brilliant skills and proved it deserves to be at this level. The worst it can do is finish sixth, a position it filled in 1991 and 2006 and hopes of equalling the 2010 effort of fifth in Oradea, Romania is there for the taking.

For Romania to lead 7-4 at quarter time was just amazing. Romania had the 3-0 advantage and after seven goals had passed the goalkeeper, Serbia pulled out double Olympic champion Branislav Mitrovic and replaced him with youngster Vladimir Misovic. Only two of those goals were on extra.

Despite Serbian head coach Uros Stevanovic giving his team a tongue-lashing during the break, Romania smashed in the first two goals of the second quarter for an incredible 9-4 advantage. This brought Mitrovic back into the pool — a startling statistic in itself — and it coincided with consecutive goals to 22-year-old Marko Radulovic to go with his pair in the first period. Andrei Neamtu — so busy trying to guard Radulovic — scored his second and Sava Randelovic scored off the right-hand-catch position for 10-7 just before halftime.

The Serbian revival did not amount to much in the third period as Romania kept hitting the goals. Serbia narrowed it to two, however, Romania took a timeout and converted the extra opportunity and added another to Neamtu for a 13-9 margin. Serbia dragged back two goals to go into the final period 13-11 behind.

Two Tudor-Andrei Fulea goals straddling a sixth Radulovic strike took the match to 15-12 by 5:13. Serbia called a timeout but failed to get the ball through the forest of Romanian arms. Strahinja Rasovic converted extra to give Serbia hope, although when Vlad-Luca Georgescu blasted an eight-metre shot through Mitrovic’s hands at 2:01 for 16-13, the writing was on the wall for Serbia. On the next Serbian attack, the ball was stolen, an extra-man chance gained, the ball flipped cross cage to Fulea and he sent in his fifth goal from five attempts for an unbeatable 17-13. Radulovic thought otherwise with his seventh goal from seven metres, but it was too little, too late and Romania had gained a historic victory.

Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

Match Heroes:
Radulovic (above) was the star with his seven goals for Serbia, although the match prize went to Georgescu for his critical four goals and all-round play. Neamtu, with five goals, was also exceptional.

Turning Point:
The three-goal start was the impetus for victory. From there, Serbia could not get back.

Stats Don’t Lie:
A spectacular match brings spectacular statistics. Romania pipped Serbia on shots at 31-30; converted six from seven on extra to seven from eight and converted both penalty attempts to one.

Bottom Line:
It was a historic moment for Romania and head coach Bogdan Rath was almost in tears as he tried to explain how he has few players to call upon, yet had the belief that the team could perform against the might of Serbia. Serbia had its two top players sit out the match and will be looking to finish with a victory on Sunday following two shock losses.

What They Said

Bogdan Rath (ROU) — Head Coach

Was there a specific moment during the match where you thought you were going to upset Serbia?
“After our match yesterday, there were a lot of emotions during the night. Today, the players came in with absolutely nothing to lose. They executed everything that we talked about before the game and played very well and earned that win. If you don’t show up believing that you can win, then you show up and played for nothing, like yesterday.”

“Today, we were here to win and if we were not, we would have stayed home. I told my players that you are young and don’t have a lot of experience at this level, but we must respect what we do in our practices and try to win, no matter what.”

Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

Vlad-Luca Georgescu (ROU) – Player of the Match

Did your coach say anything specific before the match that helped you succeed?
“Before the match, we did not expect to win, especially after the loss yesterday. Our coach had a meeting with us this morning and he told us that we have absolutely nothing to lose, so let’s play our best and we will see what happens during the match.”

Did you have a favourite moment of the match?
“My favourite moment was when we started the match up three goals to zero and never slowed down the pace of the match after that. We felt that our start caused the Serbians to lose control and gave us even more confidence in our ability to beat them. In the end, this let us play our best and win the match.”

Uros Stevanovic (SRB) — Head Coach

What could you have done better to improve the result?
“We could’ve done everything better. This match proved that we did not learn anything from last summer. You must play every team and every match at 100 per cent if you want to win matches and have positive results. Unfortunately, we repeated our mistake from last summer and did not play our best, so we lost another match that we should not have. The only good thing is that this match was not important for our season, so we must now learn from our mistakes and not continue to repeat them.”

Marko Radulovic (SRB) — Seven Goals

What can you learn from such a tough loss?
“First, I want to congratulate the Romanians because they played a very good match and brought much more effort to their attack and defence. They were the team that deserved to win the match. We did not play very good defence and conceded far too many goals. I think that we need to improve our defence significantly. Most importantly, we need to improve our blocking so we can help out our goalkeepers because we did not do that today.”

Sunday Schedule

Classification 7-8
Match 9, 13:00, Germany v Serbia

Classification 5-6
Match 10, 15:00, Greece v Romania

Classification 3-4
Match 11, 17:00, Hungary v United States of America

Classification 1-2
Match 12, 19:00, Spain v Italy