Classification 1-2 (Gold Medal)


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

This was not the manner in which everyone thought this match would be played out. Zip back 12 months when these two teams fought out to a draw and the sudden-death penalty shootout with Spain prevailing in the world championships final in Budapest. Spain held a four-goal advantage in the third period with Alvaro Granados on four goals on that occasion. Speed back to Los Angeles and the World Cup final today and Granados had four goals when Spain led 7-2 in a stellar performance two minutes from halftime and raced away to a stunning 10-4 victory.

Italy opened the scoring and veteran captain Felipe Perrone replied, leaving Granados to collect the next three and the 37-year-old Perrone claiming the 5-1 goal for the quarter-break margin.

Come the second quarter, Edoardo Di Somma pulled one back for Italy and Spain went 7-2 up with Granados scoring on double extra. Francesco Di Fulvio took a six-metre foul and scored immediately with three seconds remaining for 7-3 at halftime. Nicholas Presciutti scored a backhand on extra for 7-4 but, alas, Spain rocketed in three more with Perrone grabbing a third for 10-4 and what proved to be an unassailable 10-4 lead heading into the last quarter. Italy missed consecutive six-on-four opportunities to go with one earlier in the match.

The final period was an anticlimax as Italy could not breach the fantastic shot-blocking of Spain. That defence was the difference between the teams. In the final half minute there was inaction as Spain held the ball and congratulations were being handed out by some players as Italy gained the ball and did not even try to shoot, such was the respect for Spain. A scoreless quarter in a World Cup final was a rarity, as well.

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

Match Heroes:
Granados was the killer punch for Spain with his four goals and captain Perrone was exceptional, as well. Let’s not forget Unai Aguirre, who celebrates his 21st birthday later next week, gathering in 11 saves. For Italy, the best was goalkeeper Marco Del Lungo with 11 saves.

Turning Point:
To go 5-1 ahead at the quarter was unsurmountable for Italy and Spain had the win lined up.

Stats Don’t Lie:
Spain converted seven from 11 on extra-man attack, which said it all. Italy managed just two from 11. Spain shot 31 to 30 and there were no penalty fouls.

Bottom Line:
Spain finally made a World Cup final after winning five of six bronze-medal finals, so now has six medals with today’s gleam of gold. For Italy, it was a fourth lost final in five visits while it also has a bronze medal. The main result for Spain is the two victories over Italy in the past year.

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

What They Said

David Martin (ESP) – Head Coach

What allowed you to have such a dominant win against such a strong Italian team?
“All I can say is that the match was decided by our defence. Unai Aguirre is an amazing goalie and the rest of our defence did a great job getting field blocks to help him out. Both teams had a very hard tournament by playing three matches in three days, but our defence never gave up.”

How did this tournament help you prepare for Fukuoka?
“Even though our preparation was for Fukuoka and not this tournament, these matches were a great opportunity for our team to learn what we need to improve before the World Championships. All the teams will be much better by the start of Fukuoka, but I am excited to see how we do then.”

What are your thoughts on winning Coach of the Tournament?
“I am very happy, but we must go back to Barcelona and begin to focus and prepare for Fukuoka. I may have coached well in this tournament, but we must continue to improve as a team because the competition is only going to get better at the World Championships.”

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

Felipe Perrone (ESP) – Player of the Match

What are your thoughts on such a strong performance?
“I think that our defence was amazing, which is the most important thing for us as a team. Italy is an amazing team and we have played many tough games against them. We are very happy, especially me because this is my 19th (only 17 events since 1999) World Cup and I finally won so I need to go say thank you to all my team-mates because they are really amazing.”

What did you learn from this tournament?
“Fukuoka is our main goal for the summer like many other teams, but this tournament showed us some competitive matches where everyone was playing 100 per cent. This shows us how much more work we need to do as a team if we want to win the World Championships as well, so we must forget this tournament and move forward with our training in Barcelona.”

Unai Aguirre (ESP) – Goalkeeper of the Tournament

How does it feel to win Goalkeeper of the Tournament?
“The Italians played a difficult match yesterday, but we were very focused on the match and maintained our rhythm for the entire match, which was very key for our success. I think the difference between the World Championships final last year and our performance today was that we were able to maintain control of the match. I am so proud of my team because we played outstanding defence and my teammates helped me with so many field blocks. It is so easy to be a goalie with this defence and I am very thankful for them.”

Classification 3-4 (Bronze Medal)


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

This match could be akin to that fabulous Olympic gold-medal final at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games when Spain and Italy went to an interminable number of extra periods before Italy claimed gold. USA took nearly four hours to collect its first bronze medal to go with the golds won in 1991 and 1997 and silvers from 1979 and 1985. The reason? USA protested a situation late in the fourth quarter that left the teams even when USA should have been one man up with seven seconds remaining.

Earlier, Hungary took out the match 18-16 in a penalty shootout after the score was tied at 13-all and celebrated long and hard. The USA spectators left dejected, but were recalled when the protest was mentioned. Officials decided that an ejected player — not the penalty fouler — returned to the pool too early after Johnny Hooper (below) had his penalty attempt rejected.

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

Following the gold-medal match, the players retook the pool with USA to retake the penalty at the 4:24 mark with Hungary leading 13-12. Max Irving shot and scored the penalty goal to level at 13. Both teams looked hesitant on attack and it was not until 1:11 that USA called a timeout. On the second attempt to score, Alex Bowen pushed the ball into captain Ben Hallock at two metres and he scored at 0:40.

At 0:25, Szilard Jansik gained an exclusion and took a quick shot to score, but it was too quick for the referee and he called it back. The Hungarian timeout did not prove beneficial as the ball was blocked by the defender across the back line. A discussion was required to make sure the ball had not been tipped by the goalkeeper, but this was after USA swam away to victory. After many minutes of deliberation, USA was declared the winner.

Looking back at the original match, despite holding two-goal advantages on five occasions, USA watched its lead destroyed by Hungary midway through the third period.

It was a terrific opening quarter with the capacity crowd viewing 11 goals as Hungary drew level twice and USA claimed the go-ahead goal in the last 11 seconds to Hooper to close the quarter. USA again pushed the envelope in the second quarter, going 7-5, 8-6 and 9-7 ahead with veteran superstar Denes Varga scoring his third by creasing the bar from well outside for 9-8 down before the long break.

Gergo Fekete set the Hungarian bench alight with consecutive goals from in front, the first on extra off a cross pass and then a controlled rollover for the first Hungarian lead at 10-9. Luca Cupido connected with a high cross pass to the left post on extra for 10-10 and Jansik lobbed from the top left for 11-10. Both teams took timeouts and Gergo Zalanky converted Hungary’s chance on extra for 12-10 to finish the third period.

Irving nailed his third from the top, closely followed by junior world champion Vince Vigvari converting late on possession from deep left for the two-goal advantage again. Hooper rifled one in off extra and soon after the Hungarian assistant coach was red-carded. It was here that the match went pear-shaped and the protest took over.

Match Heroes:
Varga was adjudged best in pool, scoring three. For USA, Irving was in awesome shooting form with four goals and Hannes Daube chimed in with three.

Turning Points:
Hungary’s three goals either side of the final break when it came from 9-7 behind to 10-9 ahead. The protest that allowed USA to retake the penalty and go on to victory.

Stats Don’t Lie:
Hungary was tighter on extra-man attack with six from eight to USA’s six from 12. USA shot 33 to 27 and scored one from two on penalty. 

Bottom Line:
It was the eighth time that USA had been in the bronze-medal final winning for the first time today, having also won two titles and two silvers. USA also beat Hungary 15-9 in Zagreb in the World Cup qualifiers.

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

What They Said

Dejan Udovicic (USA) – Head Coach

What are your thoughts on how you played the final four minutes following the protest and ultimately changed the result of the match?
“It was a new experience for everyone. At the end of the day, it’s good for my players to be rewarded for their hard work by making it on to the podium. The Hungarian team deserves a lot of credit for playing such a competitive match, but these things can unfortunately happen. I’m glad that we were able to protect the integrity of the match by protesting the mistake and winning the match in the last four minutes.”

How did this weekend help you prepare for Fukuoka?
“Fukuoka is an incredibly important tournament for everyone because the top two teams get a spot at the Olympics. We must focus on ourselves and continue to improve by fixing some of the mistakes we made this weekend. Croatia arrives tomorrow and we will begin training with them next week to help us prepare with more intense training, so we are very prepared for the World Championships. We have a young group who is very competitive and this is a great opportunity for them to prove themselves at the highest level. As of right now, our focus is just on winning our matches in our bracket group, which puts our team in the best possible position to earn one of those Olympic spots.”

Ben Hallock (USA) – Captain

How were you guys able to prepare for those final four minutes following the protest?
“Overall, it’s a very crazy situation because you rarely see matches being protested at this level. At the end of the day, there was a mistake that was made, but our team did an incredible job at  mentally resetting ourselves. This allowed us to play our best during those final four minutes and secure a spot on the podium.”

What can be learned from the matches this weekend to prepare for Fukuoka?
“This tournament gave us a lot of great video for us to analyse in order to understand what did and didn’t work for our team against these top opponents. If we learn from our mistakes, we will be able to make the necessary changes to play our best later this month. By no means does a bronze medal at this tournament mean you will be successful then because the World Championships are a whole different beast. However, I think this did give us a lot of confidence in ourselves that we can play with the best.”

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

Zsolt Varga (HUN) – Head Coach

What can be learned from this match and weekend to continue your preparation for Fukuoka?
“First of all, congratulations to

the United States because they played three tough matches and they proved that any match against them will be very tough. The match was one with a lot of ups and downs because we didn't start well, took control of the match, and then they came back at the end. As for Fukuoka, we played several training matches with Spain before this that really challenged and prepared us for this tournament. We continued to improve throughout this tournament and that will continue in our practices leading up to the World Championships as we get in better shape. If anything, I wish that we had more official games because they are very helpful in preparing for a big tournament.”

Denes Varga (HUN) – Three Goals

What are your thoughts on today’s?
“The United States were on fire for today’s match and were very strong offensively. We also showed our offensive strength, which made for a very exciting match for the spectators due to the 27 goals being scored in the end. First of all, I really appreciate the University of Southern California for providing such a beautiful venue for this event. I hope that the United States could take a larger part in hosting water polo events like this. As for our performance, yesterday and today showed us that we are not done preparing for Fukuoka because we still have many faults and things to improve on before we play again. It also showed us that we are a strong team because we never stop fighting regardless of the circumstances, which is a very good mentality to have in this sport.”

Classification 5-6


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

Greece found extra legs in the final quarter to fend off a determined Romania who controlled much of the match while the scores were level at one, five, six, seven and eight. There was nothing in it, but when it came to who was the better team, it was the more experienced Greeks who emerged on top.

Romania opened the scoring and led 3-1 at the first break, stretched the margin to 4-1 and 5-2 by halftime. Greece quickly had the score level at five and had to level at six through Konstantinos Genidounias on penalty.

It was Romania who had to come back twice in the fourth period with a sixth different scorer in Andrei Prioteasa with a strike from the top on extra-man attack at 3:40. The match result was still in doubt. Genidounias smashed in a second penalty, the hard-working Alexandros Papanastasiou (above), who drew the previous penalty, scored from the top for 10-8 and centre forward Dimitrios Nikolaidis gained his second on a short cross pass on extra for 11-8 at 0:43. Three goals in 90 seconds were all that separated the teams. Romania’s dream of a fifth placing — its previous best — were not to be, but it remains in the top six and thus will be in Division I next year.

Match Heroes:
Genidounias, with his four goals, was named best in pool, but possibly the best player was Romanian goalkeeper Marius-Florin Tic who had seven saves by halftime and 10 at the final break, finishing with 11 in a spectacular performance that kept Romania in the match.

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

Turning Point:
The three-goal advance by Greece in the dying minutes.

Stats Don’t Lie:
Greece shot 30 to 26; converted three from six on extra to Romania’s excellent three from four and nailed both penalty attempts.

Bottom Line:
Greece could have been in the medals, but for the opening-day loss to Hungary. It was a first visit to the World Cup since 2006 when it finished seventh. Romania will be pleased with its superb showing in Los Angeles and gives it hope for the future, despite not qualifying for this month’s World Aquatics Championships.

What They Said

Theodoros Vlachos (GRE) – Head Coach

What did you say to your team at halftime to change the way it was playing?
“I didn’t have to say anything to them because they realised that this is not our style of game and we are much better than when we started playing. Instead, I challenged them to change their mindset and take control of the match  to make Romania play at our pace. Yesterday, Romania proved they are a great competitor by beating Serbia and today they believed they could beat us, so it was very important that we took control of the game to slow them down. This match was perfect training for our mind and great learning for our behaviour that you have to respect every opponent you play.”

How did your performance in this tournament prepare you for Fukuoka?
“We knew that we were going to play three tough matches and the first one was going to be the most important to make it into the top four teams. I think we played three excellent quarters versus Hungary, but made too many mistakes during the fourth quarter that allowed them to win the match. Generally, all of these teams are not in the best shape, but I am satisfied with our performance in the end and we will show our true face in Fukuoka.”

Konstantinos Genidounias – Player of the Match

What adjustments did you make to take control in the second half?
“We had a lazy start to the game, but what made the difference in the second half was that we were able to get out on the counter-attack and score some easy goals. We started to be able to find the back of the cage after a ton of shooting struggles early on. The Romanians played some amazing defences early on, but we are a much higher quality team and our offence was able to really control the game. As well, we changed our defence to an M-zone to really give ourselves those counter-attack chances.”

What are your thoughts on the team’s performance this tournament and your preparation for Fukuoka?
“This was definitely a great preparation tournament for the World Championships. We wanted to be playing in the gold-medal match, of course, but our match against Hungary (6-4 loss) did not go the way that we would have wanted. However, any official match is great preparation and this tournament gave us several of those opportunities. We have two more weeks of training and time to focus on our most important goal this summer, which is winning the World Championships at Fukuoka.

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

Bogdan Rath (ROU) – Head Coach

What changed during the second half?
“We lost control of the second half because we are a young team compared to the experience that the Greek team has. I will have to go through the video of this match in order to understand how we can improve and win a close match like this in the future. We have to see the reality that we are very satisfied with our performance in this tournament, especially how we improved following the 20-2 loss to Italy.”

What are your thoughts about your team’s performance?
“For us, this was an incredible performance to qualify for the World Cup and get the opportunity to play against these top teams. I am sorry for the first match because it did not represent the best of our team, but I am glad that we were able to improve in our other matches.”

Silvian Colodrovschi – Two Goals

What allowed you to jump out to such a strong start against Greece?
“Honestly, we just remembered the lessons we learned from the first match against Italy. You can just say that we did not even play that match. Our match against Serbia (17-14 win) showed us that if we played our best, we are able to compete against these high-level teams. Greece was another formidable team, but we focused on ourselves and were able to come out to such a strong start. However, we could not maintain our energy or advantage for the whole match. As a whole, I am very happy with our performance this tournament because we were able to improve in every match and got much better as a team.”

Classification 7-8


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

It took until day three for Serbia to win a match in Los Angeles, a rare feat in itself, considering the nation’s impressive record at this event, let alone the past two Olympic Games. It came up against a team looking to impose a third upset loss on the Serbs.

At 2-0, Serbia was out for redemption and even at 3-1 by the first break, it appeared to be the team to beat and back to some top form. This became 4-1, continuing the trend. However, Germany bounced back and scored the next three goals with two on action and the other on extra-man attack. The deadlock was broken by Vasilije Martinovic from the top right inside the last half minute to give Serbia a 5-4 edge at the long break.

The halftime chat proved beneficial as Serbia scored five goals in four minutes to take a 10-4 stranglehold on the match. This included a pair from Marko Radulovic, the seven-goal hero the day before in the almost-tragic loss to Romania. Germany traded two goals and used its sixth different scorer as the final-break score moved to 12-6.

Fynn Schuetze closed a three-minute scoring drought for his second to open the final period; Nikola Jaksic, with a six-metre, free-throw score; Nemanja Ubovic with a swivelling centre-forward strike and Jaksic again, on extra, had the margin to eight before Mark Gansen scored from deep right for the last score inside the final half minute.

Match Heroes:
Radomir Drasovic emerged the player of the match with his three goals, the same number as captain Jaksic and Strahinja Rasovic. Schuetze was Germany’s sole multiple scorer.

Turning Point:
The 6-0 segment from just before halftime until 3:23 in the third when the score ballooned from 4-4 to 10-4.

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

Stats Don’t Lie:
Serbia had the better of the stats with 31-29 on shooting; two from six on extra-man attack as defended seven from eight and converted three penalty attempts to none.

Bottom Line:
Serbia is the Olympic champion and has five players from Tokyo 2020, including three from Rio 2016, so it should have beaten Germany. Germany did well to hold the Serbians until halftime. Germany has a full set of World Cup medals, but eighth is a drop from fourth in 2018. Serbia was third at the last edition and has two gold and the bronze as a separate nation.

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

What They Said

Uros Stevanovic (SRB) – Head Coach

What adjustments did you make during the second half?
“I didn’t change anything, but I did tell them to think of yesterday and remember how that loss felt so we would not do it again. We started the game very well, but missed many shots that we started to score in the second half. I just encouraged them to continue to take those shots but take the extra time to make sure they made them.”

What are your thoughts on the tournament as a whole?
“My thoughts of the tournament vary greatly because of how differently we played throughout the tournament. We played great water polo for three quarters against the United States, but lost focus in the fourth and against Romania so we lost an easy match. Overall, we learned that we must be more concentrated and play our best in every moment of the game if we want to win matches at this level.

Radomir Drasovic (SRB) – Player of the Match

What changed between the first and second half?
“The difference between the two halves of the match was that we were using our brains, which was also the difference between yesterday and today. This allowed us to play better defence and score more of the opportunities we had in the second half. We are not satisfied with our performance because we didn’t come here to play for seventh place. However, we learned a lot from our games against the United States and Romania because it showed us that we need to play 100 per cent all the time if we want to win. If we don’t do that, we can lose many matches we would not have.”

Milos Sekulic (GER) — Head Coach

How do you think your team played today and at the tournament?
“I knew from the beginning that we would most likely be unable to play a full match against Serbia at a very intense level. We were playing against the reigning Olympic champions, which was an incredible experience for my players. I am very satisfied with our performance because we continued to fight, play our best as the underdogs, and the game ended with a respectable 15-8 score.

“For us, we are a very young team and this was an incredible experience for all of them to play against some of the best players in the world. This gives us a lot of confidence for when we play opponents on our level and will hopefully have an easier time against them. Our goal was to play at a high level and compete with everyone and I think we did that.”

Fynn Schuetze (GER) – Two Goals

How could you have improved the second half today?
“Serbia is a very strong opponent and we tried our absolute best. We played them to a 5-4 first half, but the second half was pretty bad after they controlled the third quarter. In the end, it was a disappointing loss, but it was an amazing opportunity to grow as a team. Overall, this tournament has been amazing for our development and I’m grateful to have had the chance to play here.”

Final Rankings:

  1. Spain
  2. Italy
  3. United States of America
  4. Hungary
  5. Greece
  6. Romania
  7. Serbia
  8. Germany
Image Source: Catharyn Hayne/USA Water Polo/World Aquatics


Most Valuable Player:
Edoardo Di Somma (ITA)

Best Goalkeeper:
Unai Aquirre (ESP)

Best Coach:
David Martin ESP)

Player of the Final:
Felipe Perrone (ESP)