Classification Series

In the Classification 9-12 semifinals, Romania came back from 5-3 down to defeat China 9-7 and United States of America outplayed Australia 16-10.

In final classification matches, Japan outswam Brazil 22-11 for 13th position and South Africa came from behind to beat Kazakhstan 11-10 for 15th position.

Classification 1-8 Quarterfinals

Match 38. Hungary 10 France 11

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

The culmination of a fantastic night of quarterfinals was topped with the toppling of the world champion Hungarians by France. Hungary is the second team after Netherlands to lose the crown gained in Fukuoka just six months ago.

France was almost down and out at 8-4 in the third quarter and people were already starting to leave the grandstands. However, Thomas Vernoux, who scored twice in the third period as France made it 8-6 behind by the final break, then came into his own in the vital last eight minutes, virtually decimating Hungary.

After captain Ugo Crousillat scored his third and relative Romain Marion Vernoux scored either side of a Toni Nemet centre-forward shunt, Vernoux sent in three goals, from seven metres, then six metres and finally from eight metres for the 9-9, 10-9 and 11-10 goals. Daniel Angyal had levelled at 10 for Hungary, 2:05 from the end, but after a French timeout, France regained the ball and Vernoux displayed why he is the one of the best players on the planet. His five goals gave him 22 for the championship and there is promise of more to come as France has never gone this distance before.

With the win being heralded as the start of a new era, Hungarian legend Denes Varga labelled the match “The stupidest ever” and that he was “ashamed” of the performance.

Hungary will now play Serbia in the classification round 5-8.

France was making it tough for Hungary and opened the scoring before a Hungarian triple gave it a good lead. Goals were traded with Varga just being the buzzer on extra for 4-2. Crousillat and Gergo Zalanki traded penalty goals and the halftime lead of 7-3 was gained through a Varga blast from the top and an Adam Nagy counter-attack goal.

The third period belonged firmly to France, battling like it was do or die to make the semifinals. Vernoux scored twice and Michael Bodegas once and Hugo Fontani rejected a Hungarian penalty attempt. Zalanki was the sole Hungarian striker with a six-metre goal that had Hungary handily placed at 8-4. Vernoux was brilliant at two metres, especially with one goal where he grabbed the ball in mid-air, turned and nearly walked the ball into the goal. It was 8-6 to Hungary at the last break.

The last period bothered Hungary to such an extent that it crumbled and bowed to the French.

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

Match Heroes
(above with his man-of-the-match award) with five and Crousillat with three. Monumental.

Turning Point
That last quarter when Vernoux was allowed to play his style, his way, at his will.

Stats Don’t Lie
France shot at 42 per cent to Hungary’s 30 per cent. France only converted three from nine on extra-man attack while Hungary slotted six from nine. France only took 26 shots to Hungary’s 33, but what great shots they were.

Bottom Line
France wanted it more. Simple as that. Hungarian arrogance? Who knows. Hungary had the long beak while France defeated Australia 11-8 for the right to tackle the world champion. Viva La France.

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

What They Said

Florian Bruzzo (FRA) — Head Coach

On the emotions:
“I feel very satisfied with the team performance. We are very happy. It’s our first time  in this gold-medal race, so and we see how we will be able run with this. But again, I’m very satisfied. It’s a good team performance, you know. It was the way we play. We still continue to play, to believe.”

On keeping the team level-headed until the semifinal:
“It’s very easy. We are a team with a lot of familiarity, so now they will enjoy tonight. Let’s recover now and tomorrow morning we go back to work. It’s so easy.”

Ugo Crousillat (FRA) — Captain

On your emotions right now:
“The big emotion is something crazy for us, for France, to come to the semifinal of the world championship. We came from really down today to beat Hungary; it’s something amazing and now we must go until the end. If we are here, it’s not a mistake, we are here because we deserve it. We want more. We must stay unbelievably calm and we must enjoy this moment.”

Denes Varga (HUN) — Two Goals

On the amazing loss:
“I blame ourselves completely. We made some mistakes which are considered elementary. We let their best player do what he can do best, scored three goals in the last quarter probably. Stupidest game ever. I’m ashamed.”

Match 37. Serbia 13 Croatia 15

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

The teams could not be separated after the first quarter as it was tied at one, three and four with four different Serbian shooters and three Croatians with Konstantin Kharkov scoring twice.

In the second quarter, it was tied at five, seven, eight and nine. Serbian captain Nikola Jaksic scored consecutive goals as he moved his team from 5-5 to 7-5. It came back to sevens and eights before Dusan Mandic converted a penalty and Rino Buric found himself free just in front of the goal on extra for 9-9 with four seconds left on the clock.

Marko Zuvela made it 10-9 for Croatia halfway through the third. A minute later Mandic had his penalty attempt stopped by Marko Bijac. However, Nemanja Vico converted extra for 10-10 and Loren Fatovic did the same for Croatia and an 11-10 advantage by the final break.

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

Strahinja Rasovic buried the ball from the deep left at 7:00 in the fourth and on the next attack Zuvela scored his third from the top, angling the ball into the left side for 12-11. The 10th tie of the match came when Strahinja Rasovic scored from deep left for Serbia, repeated soon after by Fatovic at the other end. Serbia, trailing by one, went to the penalty line with Zuvela out on three major fouls and Strahinja Rasovic had the same fate as Mandic earlier when Bijac rejected the shot at 3:24. When Mandic was ejected, Croatia called timeout at 2:11. The ball went to the reliable Buric on the left post as he dragged down his third goal for 14-12 at 1:55.

Mandic went for a third foul and Croatia sprayed the shot. With a look at VAR, Olympic champion Mandic was adjudged to have used a violent action and Croatia awarded a penalty shot and the rest of the match a man up. The clock was wound back to his ejection time. Fatovic converted the  penalty for 15-12 and at 1:21 Nikola Lukic converted extra with two missing for the final score of 15-13. . The rest of the match petered away with Croatia moving into the semifinals.

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

Match Heroes
with four goals was key to the victory, although Bijac, with his two penalty saves, can claim to that honour as well. Buric and Zuvela scored three apiece. For Serbia, Strahinja Rasovic was the best shooter with three.

Turning Point
The match swung Croatia’s way inside the last four minutes with a Bijac save and power defence.

Stats Don’t Lie
Croatia shot 10 from 15 on extra-man attack and defended seven of 14. It had the better shooting percentage at 52 to 48 per cent.

Bottom Line
Croatia played the game and not the man and made the most of extra man to set up the victory.

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

What They Said

Konstantin Kharkov (CRO) — Two Goals

On the result:
“Very tough match against a great team, Serbia. I think it was a great result. Until the end it was very tough.”

On anything you can improve on:
“We were trying to do our best. I think defence we could do better, make a bit more box.”

Loren Fatovic (CRO) — Four Goals

On beating Serbia:
“It was everything that we expect. Serbia is a great team. It’s like a Balkanian derby. It’s always tough games. They have fantastic players like Jaksic and Mandic. I think in the end, Marko Bijac gave us confidence with two saved penalties and was the biggest moment in this game.”

Match 36. Greece 10 Italy 11

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

This match was defined by the violence call against Stylianos Argyropoulos at 4:55 in the second quarter. The VAR decision and vision shows alleged underwater contact and it meant Italy went to the penalty line and then had four minutes on man up. It’s not the first time at this tournament, but for this to happen at such a crucial moment in the championship should be unthinkable. Players must remember that VAR is watching.

Until this moment, Greece was in charge. Even though Italy started the scoring, Greece went to the first break at 3-1, progressed to 4-1 on penalty and a centre-forward tip in my Edoard di Somma brought Italy to 4-2 down. Then the unthinkable happened and Italy converted the penalty and proceed to run roughshod over Greece with three goals in the exclusion period. Luckily for Greece, it responded with one. Italy still had time on extra, but failed to get the shot away before the yellow flag was flown and the teams were even. It was 6-5 in Italy’s favour at the long break.

Luca Damonte threw a banana bender out of nowhere and the ball curved into the Greek goal at 7:27 in the third quarter. Konstantinos Genidounias responded; Greece took a timeout nearly three minutes later and Angelos Vlachopoulos scored for 7-7. Greece was back in the match. Italy went to a timeout and the ploy worked with Alessandro Velotto shooting off the right-hand-catch position for 8-7. Greece snared a penalty foul and Vlachopoulos blasted into goal for 8-8 at 0:47. Italy smashed the line twice in the dying seconds, but Greece came up with the ball and we went to the final quarter level.

The final quarter went three minutes with no goal as the large crowd — mainly Greek supporters — went into a euphoria seldom seen in Doha as Greece gained a penalty foul and Genidounias converted for the 9-8 lead at 5:01. Greece had not been in the lead since Argyropoulos transgressed 16 minutes earlier. Greece went to a timeout and the shot, at the end of possession, rebounded and a Greek player snapped it in. However, VAR determined the original shot was taken too late.

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

Talk about unthinkable! What happened next is something rarely seen at any level of the sport let alone world championships. Italy sent an eighth player into the pool, so Gonzalo Echinique was red-carded and Greece given a penalty shot, which was converted for 10-8 at 2:30. Fondelli scored on extra at 2:20 and when Greece was on extra, the final shot went into the goalkeeper who loosed it off to the flying di Fulvio on counter. Greece’s Alexandros Papanastasiou fouled him and di Somma swam up and converted the penalty for 10-10. Greece failed to shoot on its extra chance and Italy went on attack; di Fulvio sucked in a foul outside six metres and he converted the free throw for the victory at 0:42.

Match Heroes
Di Somma
was named best in pool with his two goals while Fondelli and Francesco Condemi also fired in two. Genidounias was Greece’s best with three goals. Emmanouil Zerdevas pulled down 11 balls in goal.

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

Turning Point
The violence foul set the stage for the victory with three goals coming from it and then the last goal from and captain di Fulvio’s trademark six-metre goal at the death.

Stats Don’t Lie
Italy went five from 14 on extra-man attack and Greece five from 12. Greece had the better overall shooting percentage at 36 to 32.

Bottom Line
Italy deserved to win and Greece came so close, although the alleged indiscipline of one of its stars set the seal on the match.

What They Said

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

Sandro Campagna (ITA) — Head Coach (anove)

On the victory:
“That match we played was strong. I was very proud of my players because they are there with the mind, lucid, focusing, also with mistakes, but we remained in the match. That was the Most important thing. Greece, I want to congrats with them becauset hey played a wonderful game.”

Edoardo di Somma (ITA) — Two Goals/Player of the Match

On the exciting match:
“At the beginning it was very hard. We started, I think, behind and then we started to play our game. We improved a lot and reacted to the national team of Greece. This was an amazing match and I was very happy.”

On the last minute:
“It was very hard. We played with everything, with heart, with everything. We wanted a lot this win. We want to play Spain, so we have to think about Spain.”

Match 35. Spain 15 Montenegro 12

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

Total class by both teams. There were  moments of brilliance, accurate passing and even more accurate shooting. Timing was everything, as well, making the pass at the exact nano-second to gain the foul. The other thing that showed in replays was that goals were made out of nothing, threading through arms, shoulders and even armpits. It was like there was no defence; just shoot anyway.

Spain showed that in the first quarter as it fired in four straight goals, watched as Montenegro responded with two then scored a fifth on extra-man attack. At the heart of all this was Spanish legend Felipe Perrone — at 38 not the oldest player in the pool, surprisingly  —scoring the first, fourth and fifth Spanish goals. His unerring ability to be in the right position to receive the ball and score is the legend part. Then he is capable of making those passes to others, as well. Marko Mrsic and Kanstantsin Averka were the Montenegrin scorers in the first period.

Mrsic went on counter and received a long ball for 6-3 in the second quarter, which led to Vladan Spaic slapping in a rebound and then the veteran of them all — Drasko Brguljan — speared one in from the top for 6-5. The tenor of the match had changed. Montenegro was back. Brguljan turns 40 later this year, one year older than Perrone. Never mind the age, it means nothing to Perrone who scored the 7-5 goal from the top on extra. Vlado Popadic responded from the penalty line; Roger Tahull accepted that accurate pass form Perrone, slowly turned, taunted and scored for 8-6. Mrsic took a six-metre shot and was successful with seven seconds left in the half for 8-7.

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

Spain desperately wanted to wrap the match up early and set sights on the semifinals and to that end, Alberto Munarriz and Granados from the top; followed by Tahull accepting passes at centre forward twice for 12-7 and Granados with another “donut” shot over Petar Tesanovic’s head  took Spain to the final break at 13-7. Breathless stuff, indeed.

Montenegro punched back into the match in the fourth with Aleksa Ukropina starting the trading game with Perrone, Averka, Sanahuja (penalty) and Popadic (penalty) for 15-10. The cycle was broken when Vasilje Radovic blasted from the top to narrow the margin to four at 3:42.

Match Heroes
Perrone by far and worthy of player of the match, shooting five goals from seven attempts. Granados with four and Tahull with three proved fatal for Montenegro. Mrsic sent in four goals for Montenegro.  

Turning Point
The 4-0 opening quarter.

Stats Don’t Lie
Spain shot at 56 per cent to 35 and converted five from seven on extra while defending seven from 11. Surprisingly, Spain only shot 27 times to 34.

Bottom Line
Spain is the European champion and has the runs on the board this year while enjoying four days of no matches. Montenegro is showing signs of tiredness, especially after the second-round clash with Romania.

Image Source: Aniko Kovacs/World Aquatics

What They Said

David Martin (ESP) — Head Coach

On victory:
“I’m very proud of the team and congratulations for Montenegro. I think that we arrived physically more strong than them. They are playing a lot of games under stress because of the (Olympic) qualification. We know this at the beginning of the game; we were very strong with the pressing, very strong with the defence. There were moments that don’t work. OK. Very happy.”

Felipe Perrone (ESP) — Captain/Player of the Match/ Five Goals

On how the team went:
“It was not easy . It was four days (no matches as a group winner) to keep the concentration but we did it. It’s an important step because it helps us reach the goal. Very, very important for us.”

On the 4-0 start:
“We were feeling great in the water. Our defence in the first two periods was not good but we fix it. I was feeling great, to be honest; it felt like I was in a flow and I hope to feel like this next game.”

On the beauty of the match:
“This is the type of game that people want to watch, not just man up, man down; more like movement and I think both teams had an amazing game.”

Vladimir Gojkovic (MNE) — Head Coach

On the match:
“Very difficult to play against the best team in the world at this moment. After what they had was a four-day rest. We are tired; very difficult group; after that a very difficult game with Romania from a very difficult group and Romania. I don’t think we had the power today against a very good team. Some things were good in the second session and we got back into the game and I believe that we had a chance. OK, better team. I would like to congratulate Spain and for their next two games.”

On qualifying for the Olympics taking the focus away from these championships:
“It was a big pressure for us from the Europeans to qualify to Doha. European championships and two competitions in two months is not easy and players are really tired and after qualifying, today it was much easier to play a game and find some other power because it is not more pressure. It was a good game.”

Classification 9-12 Semifinals

Match 34. Australia 10 United States of America 16

USA had the total firepower and will to win and used its full arsenal to secure what appears on paper an easy win over Australia.

USA came up with the first-quarter honours after Hannes Daube opened the scoring, fell behind 2-1 after two Luke Pavillard rifle shots; levelled through Alex Bowen, fell back 3-2 and then scored twice through Dylan Woodhead and Bowen.

USA had the better of the second quarter, as well. Goals were traded to 6-5 with Alex Obert opening and Milos Maksimovic — a first-quarter scorer — and Pavillard heading the Aussie chase. Speaking of chase, Chase Dodd climbed high to drag down a pass on the goal-line. Bowen, Ryder Dodd and Marko Vavic sent USA to 9-5 with Charlie Negus (AUS) scoring from the deepest of deep and Pavillard converting a penalty for 9-7 at halftime.

USA dominated the third quarter thanks to new shooters Luca Cupido and Ben Hallock with Woodhead snaring a second with an excellent shot from deep right, just sneaking into the corner and across the line. In reply, Pavillard scored his fifth for 12-8 on extra at 1:10.

Daube blasted an unguarded shot from eight metres to open the fourth and then he lined up at the penalty line only for Aussie Sharks goalkeeper Nic Porter to smack down. He jumped on the rebound and was fouled, earning a second penalty foul. Bowen swam up and Porter hit the rewind button and did the same to him, only for the defence to beat him to the rebound. Pavillard went on counter and was rewarded with a long pass, pumping in his sixth goal. Woodhead swatted in a rebound from one metre and Max Irving diligently placed a fine shot across Porter’s bow for 15-9 at 1:12. Maksimovic shrugged off almost the entire USA team to score from centre forward for 15-10 and Vavic converted extra to close the match at 16-10.

Match Heroes
scored six goals for the Aussie Sharks and Porter made 10 saves while USA spread the goals around the team with Woodhead and Obert scoring three each.

Turning Point
USA coming from 20-1 down to 4-3 head at the quarter; moving to 9-5, going to 12-7. Australia could not come back from that, although the previous day the Aussie Stingers women closed with five goals at the death against the USA women.

Stats Don’t Lie
USA shot at 50 per cent to 36 on per centage and the extra-man conversion count favoured USA with a brilliant eight from 10 while defending six from nine.

Bottom Line
Both teams have big players with big shots, but USA controlled most aspects of the match and if it could have shut down Pavillard

What They Said

Dylan Woodhead (USA) — Three Goals

On the traditional rivalry between USA and Australia:
“Today was no different. It was definitely a battle. We had to bring in for four quarters. The game shifted a little bit when we were able to slow it down in the third, slow the scoring when our defence locked up. The players are super talented and we know each other really well, so it’s always a battle. We came out on top today.”

Marko Vavic (USA) — Two Goals

On playing outside the top eight:
“It was a difficult match. Australia is a strong team, fast and very organised, so we knew we had to come out and play hard, play united and keep mistakes to a minimum. We lost to Italy in the crossover matches in a tight game and we wanted to continue in the tournament, get to the quarterfinals and we are where we are, so we are just trying to play with as much pride as we can at this point and  hold up our reputation and stay strong and finish out the tournament.”

Tim Hamill (AUS) — Head Coach

On the match not going the way he wanted:
“You can probably summarise these world championships for us in terms of just being inconsistent. We’ve shown some really good patches throughout all of our games, but at this stage we’re just not putting together four quarters of good water polo, which you need to do against teams like America (USA) and, of course, a couple of days ago, against France.

“My role as the coach is certainly to review and preview games and I was certainly worried about the hangover effect of the France loss today and my role is to get the players  prepared to play today — I could have done a better job of that.

“We’re disappointed from a groupings point of view. I feel like we are a much better team than where we are ranked at the moment. We’ll keep doing what we do, working hard, learning  and getting better. We have some pretty high ambitions for Paris and looking forward to that.”

Nathan Power (AUS) — Captain

On missed opportunities:
“So many exclusions early makes it very hard for us. It’s a big part of the game. There’s definitely fight; the same thing we saw with the French game  with the exclusions. Today was noticeably more one end of the pool. That happens. Trying to come from behind is tough. At the same moment, on us there is some execution with our extra-man attack. Those opportunities come late where there is pressure while you are chasing the game. We unfortunately didn’t execute in the French game and this one today.”

Match 33. China 7 Romania 9

The first half belonged to China with Romania gaining the edge in the second.

This was an engrossing match with Romania on the slow burn, doing the damage in the third period with a four-goal surge that took it from 5-3 behind to 7-5 ahead.

Zhang Chufeng gave China a 2-0 lead with Romania opening through Levante Vanczik on extra. Romania levelled twice in the second quarter as China slipped out to 4-3 as the last minute approached — Chen Zangxian gaining the easiest of cross passes to score from dead in front of the goalkeeper.

Zhang opened the third for 5-3 and then Romania put in a dominant effort with Vancsik from centre forward; Vlad-Luca Georgescu with his second goal, Silvian Colodrovschi on the charge and Georgescu on counter — all this by 4:18. Despite a Chinese timeout, no-one could score again in the period.

Georgescu had a chance to push it out to three, on penalty, but Wu Honghui slapped it down with his left hand. Andrei Neamtu scored from deep on extra, Chen Yimin replied and Andrei Tepelus made it 9-6 with Shen Dingsong closed out the scoring for 9-7.

Match Heroes
Has to be Romanian goalkeeper Marius-Florin Tic who finished with a match-winning 15 saves. Georgescu made it three to lift his tally to 13. China’s best shooter was Zhang with three.

Turning Point
China’s excellent start and Romania’s four-goal squirt in the third period.

Stats Don’t Lie
Romania went 31-21 on shooting percentage and converted five from eight on extra while defending a magnificent seven from 11. 

Bottom Line
Romania is the stronger team, although China is improving swiftly in time for the Olympic Games.

What They Said

Vlad-Luca Georgescu (ROU) — Three Goals

On China leading and Romania coming home late:
“Yes, we did not expect it to be this hard. The last game with them was like nine goals difference. We saw that they were playing  better and we didn’t expect them to play like this. We started to improve our movement in the water  and played how we should.”

On what the coach said at halftime:
“He said like ‘Come on guys. This not our style of play and show them who we really are’.”

Chen Zhongxian (CHN) — Captain

On leading and then losing:
“We could not defend No 10. We let him shoot too many times.”

On what the team will do in the next match:
“Fight to the end and never give up.”

Classification 13-14

Match 32. Brazil 11 Japan 22

The way Japan started it looked like a cakewalk. However, Brazil was equal to the task and hadn’t listened to hype about the speedy Japanese. Japan might not have expected to play this lower level and was awoken by Brazil’s determination.

Japan went out to 2-0, 3-1, 4-2 and allowed Brazil to level at 4-4 before blasting twice in the final minute. Inaba Yusuke netted three goals — 11 in Doha — with his first from nine metres out. Gustavo Guimaraes scored twice to go to 10 for Doha and Rafael Real also attained 10 in the first quarter with his cross-cage shot.

Watanabe Taiyo joined the 10 club with a counter-attack bat shot to open the second quarter. Goals were traded until 9-6 when Japanese captain Suzuki Toi lobbed on counter. Inaba converted a penalty and Watanabe cleaned up a shot on extra for 11-6 at 0:11.

Vicius Pires scored his second from seven metres to close it to four before Watanabe, Inaba (twice) and Ogihara Daichi pushed the score out to 15-8. Roberto Freitas, for his ninth goal here, and Real on counter applied the pressure. Katayama Taiki doubled his Doha scoring on extra for 16-9 by the final break.

Suzuki led a three-goal charge to start the fourth, allowed Luis Silva to slip one through at centre forward and nailed another three. Freitas closed all scoring with a penalty at 1:23 for his second and 10th in Doha.

Match Heroes
with his seven goals to finish with 15 in Doha. For Brazil, Real scored three to top his team in scoring with 11 and Guimaraes netted twice for 10 at these championships.  

Turning Point
Japan going from 4-4 to 7-4 over the first break and from 8-6 to 11-6 by the final break.

Stats Don’t Lie
Japan went 59 to 42 per cent on shooting and converted six from eight on extra and defended one of three. Japan just shoots more —37 to 26.

Bottom Line
Japan has been 11th, 9th and 11th in the last three editions, so this level was lower than expected. Brazil’s last visit to the championships was 15th in 2022.

What They Said

Shiota Yoshinori (JPN) — Head Coach

On not expecting to finish this low tournament:
“Yes, but  the last game was OK. We could prepare for the Olympic Games. We made a lot of counter-attack goals, which was good.”
On having two young left-handed players in Doha:
“We haven’t had a leftie since the last Asian Games, so on six-on-five (attack) there are more opportunities to shoot.

KATAYAMA Taiki (JPN) — Two Goals
On the experience of scoring for the national senior team:
“This is my first appearance as a national player for Japan at the world championships. To be honest, I was a little bit embarrassed and stressed and couldn’t be relaxed, but now with these goals I’m very relaxed and very happy.”

Classification 15-16

Match 31. South Africa 11 Kazakhstan 10

South Africa went one place better than last year when it lost to China in this match. It was still three places down on the 12th position in 2022. The first victory in Doha came after a 3-0 opening quarter and a 4-3 advantage in the second. For Kazakhstan, it’s a drop from the three consecutive 14th places and 11th in 2017 but then this is a much rejuvenated team from those better seasons. Both teams suffered four big losses coming into this match.

Jonathan Swanepoel grabbed two of the first-quarter goals and threw in his third for 5-0 on his second penalty goal. Then the Kazakh players joined in the scoring, making it 6-3 before Todd Howard gained his second on counter for 7-3 at halftime.

Ruslan Akhmetov, who scored Kazakhstan’s second goal, scored the first two of the third period and after a timeout, captain Sultan Shonzhigitov steered the ball backwards into the bottom right on extra for 7-6 down. Goals were traded with Swanepoel on penalty for his fourth, closing the third period at 8-7.

Alexandr Yeremin’s last goal of the third spurred Kazakhstan into the first two of the fourth for 9-8 with Ross Stone replying from the top. Yegor Beloussov converted extra for 10-9 but Liam Neill and Stone, both with backhanders, had the match won at 1:34 — 11-10.

Match Heroes
with his four goals — a team-high nine for Doha —and Stone with three. Akhmetov closed with three to finish with four, equal with captain Shonzhigitov.

Turning Point
The 5-0 opening stanza set the scene for the match and gave South Africa the buffer it needed to survive the speed of the Kazakhstan youngsters, five of whom are 17 or under. For Kazakhstan to come back was enormous, taking the lead twice only for South Africa to turn the result in its favour with the last two goals.

Stats Don’t Lie
Kazakhstan had the better stats with 34 per cent shooting to 30 per cent and three from three on extra while shutting out both South African attempts. South Africa shot 37 times to 29.

Bottom Line
Kazakhstan should have won on stats but South Africa had the bigger, stronger and more experienced players, even if not in peak competition form. Its campaign for Paris 2024 starts here.

What They Said

Temirlan Balfanbayev (KAZ) — Goalkeeper

On the tournament:
“It’s good experience for this young team. It’s best world championship, like a training camp for young people. I know what we need to do next time (referring to the Singapore edition in 2025).”

Day 11 Schedule

Match 39. 09:00. Classification 11-12, CHN v AUS
Match 40. 10:30. Classification 9-10, ROU v USA
Match 41. 12:00. Classification 5-8 Semifinal, MNE v GRE
Match 42. 14:30. Classification 5-8 Semifinal, SRB v HUN
Match 43. 16:00. Classification 1-4 Semifinal, ESP v ITA
Match 44. 17:30. Classification 1-4 Semifinal, CRO v FRA