In day-three action, the big nations qualified as expected and there was just the one penalty shootout with Netherlands confirming its second ranking in Group D with a 15-14 score over Israel after the match was tied at 11-11.

Croatia was pushed to a 9-6 result over Canada with Croatia claiming Group G and the gutsy Canadians finishing without a point.

Australia withstood a strong Turkish assault to win their Group G encounter 8-6 to grab second place and host Malta was assigned to the bottom tier by Group H winner Greece 8-4. All other matches were won by larger margins.


SERBIA 19 CHINA 7 (4-1, 4-1, 5-3, 6-2)

A pair of solid opening quarters set Serbia up for the victory. China rallied in the third after the score had reached 10-2, coming to 12-5 by the close of the quarter. Chinese shooting sensation Yiheng Yang scored two penalty goals in the final quarter as he tried desperately to keep China in the hunt. Strahinja Neskovic, Vuk Vasiljevic and Viktor Vasic all scored three goals for Serbia. Yang added four to his week’s tally of 15 goals. Serbia nailed all four extra-man opportunities and China four from seven. China’s success in the match was to do all this from just 12 attempts at goal compared to Serbia’s fusillade of 30.

PERU 3 BRAZIL 17 (1-5, 0-4, 1-4, 1-4)
Brazil needed just to win to finish second in the group and keep China out of the leading group. Brazil was efficient and Peru lifted its tally of goals to 11 after three matches. Brazil was untroubled and claimed the South American “championship” without a murmur. Marcelo Winter sent in six goals for Brazil and Peruvians Diego Sunil, Gerardo Medrano and Juan Garay made the sheet. Brazil restricted Peru to 11 shots while peppering the Peruvian goal 27 times. On extra, Peru went one from two and Brazil two from four.


SPAIN 15 BULGARIA 6 (4-0, 3-0, 4-2, 4-4)

Spain closed the door on Bulgaria in the first half, making it five times Spain has produced a “zip” period in Gzira. While the Bulgarians were seemingly lost in the first half, they came alive in the second and snapped up two extra-man goals and one from the penalty line. The lone action goal came 17 seconds from time when Vladimir Stankov sent in an outside shot for the final score. Spain is a team to watch closely and should get by Germany into the quarterfinals. Marc Comabella and Enzo Fernandez scored three each as nine Spanish players made the scoring sheet. Georgi Venov doubled up for Bulgaria.

CZECHIA 14 ZIMBABWE 2 (3-1, 4-0, 5-0, 2-1)

Czechia won the battle for third in the group. It promised much as Zimbabwe had only lost to second-ranked Bulgaria 14-11 while Czechia lost 12-7. It was looking good for the Africans. However, two block-out periods in the middle of the match deflated Zimbabwe and Czechia came away with a thorough victory while its opponent was left wondering what went wrong. The statistics only partly tell the story with Czechia wrapping up four from five on extra-man attack to Zimbabwe’s paltry two from eight. Zimbabwe, in fact, had two more shots than Czechia, showing just how good the defence was. Radim Vildomec claimed four goals and Nathan Bauer three for the victor and Zimbabwe pair Donovan Boddington and Tapfumi Taundi shot Zimbabwe’s goals.


HUNGARY 17 SINGAPORE 6 (5-2, 2-1, 4-1, 6-2)

Defending champion Hungary slipped through to the higher stages with a commanding group victory, downing a smaller Singaporean team with three good quarters. Singapore came good in the second, restricting the high-scoring Hungarians who won their matches by five, 15 and now 11. Csaba Jambar topped the scoring with four and Levente Kovacs added three as the Hungarians went four from six on extra to Singapore’s two from three. The higher damage was Hungary’s 28 shots to 20. Jaycus See nabbed three goals for Singapore.

GERMANY 13 POLAND 4 (5-2, 2-0, 4-0, 2-2)

Germany will now face Spain after taking second place in the group behind Hungary. The second victory was achieved by keeping Poland at bay during the entire middle half of the match. This, after a 5-2 opening quarter that rubber-stamped Germany’s authority. Both teams worked hard on extra-man attack with Germany securing four from six and Poland three from four. However, the real pain for Poland was giving up four penalty fouls, which Germany converted. Germany had the better of the overall shooting statistic with 24 to 18.

Captain Marian Kob and Tobias Scherrieble netted three each for Germany and Milosz Janicki twice for Poland.


UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 14 NEW ZEALAND 7 (5-1, 4-1, 4-3, 1-2)

USA wrapped up its group with three straight wins with a one-goal margin over Netherlands and two seven-goal differentials. USA built the destruction of New Zealand on a 5-1 opening quarter, followed by 4-1 for what was a match-winning margin at halftime. The Kiwis offered stout resistance in the third and even won the final quarter. However, that effort was required earlier in the tournament as it is destined for the bottom tier after losing three group matches with the closest loss 11-7 to Israel. USA looks promising and the group win will  spur the team on to higher things. Kai Kaneko fired in five goals — 10 for the week — and Lucas Ruana and Tristan Tucker three for USA. Sabastian Dunn netted three for New Zealand. Damage was done in the extra-man count with USA converting five from six and New Zealand one from two.

ISRAEL 14 NETHERLANDS 15 in penalty shootout. FT: 11-11. Pens: 3-4 (3-3, 3-2, 2-5. 3-1. Pens 3-4)

Netherlands came home a winner in the penalty shootout against Israel, securing second place in the group. Israel had the advantage in the first half before Netherlands stepped up. The equalising goal came from wide right with a left-arm slider from Jayden Teuling and on the next Dutch attack, on counter, Luuk Silvis fired in his third goal for 7-6. This was followed from the top left by Teun Blankhorst for his second and 8-6. Itay Goshen responded from the right-hand catch position for 8-7, which became 9-7 and 10-8 by the quarter break. Israel scored twice in half a minute and the match was even at 2:21. Kimi Christ took the Dutch ahead only for Alan Ronen to convert extra at 0:19 for 11-11. The Dutch had two shots rejected by the goalkeeper after a timeout and the match went to the shootout. Israel had its second and Netherlands its third shooter not score and Israel’s fifth hit the left post. This left Roko Mujan to convert the last of the rotation to win the match for the Dutch. In the match proper, Liam Dercksen scored three for Israel and Silvis four and Blankhorst three for the Dutch. Israel will be proud of its five from eight on extra and the Dutch happy with four from seven. Both teams shot 26 times.


ITALY 17 GEORGIA 7 (1-2, 4-3, 4-0, 8-2)

Italy went three straight and to say it was untroubled would be an understatement, having won its group matches by 20, 15 and 10. The real tournament starts on Friday when Italy faces Romania for a quarterfinal spot. But looking at the quarter scores, one wonders how a team of Italy’s calibre could lose the opening period 2-1 yet win the last 8-2. Just a hiccup in the road for the highly talented team. Goalkeeper Federico Giovanini made seven saves and was in goal in that first quarter. He was spelled for the third and returned in the fourth. Antonio Chianese boosted his week’s tally by five to 12 and Pasquale Porzio (with a famous Italian water polo name) chipped in four. Georgian captain Merabi Matchavariani collected three. Italy shot 25 to 19 and converted four from six on extra to Georgia’s perfect one from one.

MEXICO 7 UKRAINE 14 (2-2, 1-5, 2-4, 2-3)

Ukraine delighted its countrymen back home with a strong victory, its first in Gzira. Ukraine may be in the bottom divisions now, but will be hoping for more success as the opposition becomes more manageable. The match was tied at one, two and three with Mexico playing chasing. Ukraine rained in four goals — three on action — to finish the half with a healthy four-goal margin. This was boosted to six at the final break and onwards to victory. Ukraine was pressured on extra-man attack, converting two from six, but defending five from six. Julio Dominguez scored three and Paris Ponce two for Mexico with Ukraine’s danger men being Oleksandr Rychun with four and Maksym Hurzan with three.


MONTENEGRO 22 SLOVENIA 6 (5-2, 6-0, 7-3, 4-1)

Montenegro plundered another large win to go with the 12-goal and eight-goal victories on the first two days. This is one team to watch for come finals day, where it should be highly placed. It was most destructive in the middle half with 13 goals — amazing considering there is only 12 minutes of actual play. Slovenia was on a win to nothing after suffering two soul-destroying penalty shootout losses, including that heart-aching 21-shot shootout against South Africa on Wednesday. It did well to slot two goals in the first quarter, but then the pain set in and now it has to recoup in the hope of making it to the top of the rankings in divisions three and four competition. Andrej Golubovic led all scorers with five, followed by Luka Savic and Danilo Roganovic with four each for Montenegro. Marcel Lipnik belted in four, lifting his tally to a tournament-high 15. Montenegro was perfect at six from six on extra-man attack and Slovenia managed two from three.

SOUTH AFRICA 6 EGYPT 10 (1-3, 2-3, 1-2, 2-2)

Egypt won the African “championship” against a team that was spent from its 21-shot penalty shootout against Slovenia the day before. Egypt was in control throughout and tapered in the final quarter when Matthew Fenn slotted his third goal on extra in the last minute for the quarter draw. Hassan Ahmed Essameldin shot four goals and Yassin Mohamed Wael Elnemr three for Egypt. The star of the team was possibly goalkeeper Yassin Sherif Ramadan Eladly with a magnificent 12 saves. South Africa was the king of extra man, converting three from seven and stopping all three Egyptian attacks. Fenn’s three gives him 10 goals in Gzira.


CROATIA 9 CANADA 6  (1-1, 1-2, 5-0, 2-3)

Croatia came from 3-2 down at halftime to defeat Canada 9-6, using a 5-0 battering ram in the third period to achieve the result that gained group supremacy with three consecutive victories. It took just three minutes for Croatia to turn the match, denying Canada a penalty score and only allowing one shot on extra man to miss after Croatia had reached 7-3. It was sublime water polo and as close to total control you can get. The go-ahead goal came off a high cross pass on extra by Dominik Beljan. No. 5 came from the countering Patrik Turk, the sixth from Turk at centre forward and the seventh from right-hand-catch Nardo Dragas. Canada struck back with the first two of the fourth period, Dragas scored the eighth and ninth Croatian goals and Ivan Khramtsov used his centre skills for the final goal at 9-6. He finished with three for Canada and Dragas four for the Croatians, bringing his week’s tally to 13. The pressure from both teams kept the extra-man count low, Croatia gaining one from four and Canada one from three. The real difference was Croatia’s 29 shots to 16.

TURKIYE 6 AUSTRALIA 8 (1-2, 2-1, 2-3, 1-2)

It was not to be Turkiye’s day and hoping to win with one action shot is a big ask. Australia gifted four penalty goals and one extra-man goal while it took home three action goals, one from the penalty line and four on extra. The latter statistic would please triple Olympian player John Fox and 2012 Aussie Sharks Olympic coach as the mini Sharks made it two victories and second spot in the group. Batur Yildis snared two penalty goals to nullify Australia’s two-goal advantage in the third period, before Australia’s Mitchell Lazarus accepted a high cross to score on extra as the buzzer was sounding for 6-5 at the final break. Sava Todic pushed the margin out to two on extra and Jett Semmens made it three with a superb action goal at 3:28.Turkiye went to a timeout, had the shot rejected but reclaimed and Eymen Turan scored the only action goal at 2:52. There was plenty of action, exclusions and a yellow card, but nothing came of it and Australia was through into second place. Australia nailed four from eight on extra and defended three from four. Those four Turkish penalty goals were dangerous.


KAZAKHSTAN 10 ROMANIA 12 (5-3, 1-5, 1-3, 3-1)

Romania pulled off a magnificent victory, coming from 5-1 down at the quarter to win 12-10. It secured second place in the group and kept Kazakhstan winless. Kazakhstan should have gone to 6-3 but for a saved penalty attempt midway through the second quarter. Romania went on attack, regained a rebounded shot and scored for 3-4 — in what proved to be the turning point in the match. A score on counter after a deft turn at two metres gave Romania the lead. A penalty goal followed and then Ramazan Abilkassym drilled one from the top left for 7-6 behind. Denis Feke blasted from the top at the other end and Romania had the score at 8-6 by halftime — an amazing turnaround from 5-1 down at the quarter break. The third quarter belonged to Romania 3-1 and at 11-7 it was well on the way to victory, despite Kazakhstan’s 3-1 win of the fourth period.

GREECE 8 MALTA 4 (2-0, 2-1, 2-1, 2-2)

It was not to be for the Maltese fans with its national team slipping under the waves as Greece produced a third victory. It was Greece’s closest opponent following a nine-goal differential over Romania and five goals over Kazakhstan. Greece was consistently on the mark and made sure of getting to the next stage where it will clash with Georgia, a much harder opponent. Ilias Angelopoulos, captain Dimitrios Chatzis and Dimitrios Sarros scored twice each for Greece. Sam Engerer made two for 11 goals this week. Greece was only able to score two from six on extra and Malta one from three.

Final Points

Group A: Serbia 9, Brazil 6, China 3, Peru 0.
Group B: Spain 9, Bulgaria 6, Czechia 3, Zimbabwe 0.
Group C: Hungary 9, Germany 6, Singapore 3, Poland 0.
Group D: United States of America 9, Netherlands 5, Israel 4, New Zealand 0.
Group E: Italy 9, Georgia 6, Ukraine 3, Mexico 0.
Group F: Montenegro 9, Egypt 5, South Africa 2, Slovenia 2.
Group G: Croatia 9, Australia 6, Turkiye 3, Canada 0
Group H: Greece 9, Romania 6, Malta 3, Kazakhstan 0.

Day 4 Schedule

Cottonera Indoor Pool
Divisions 3 & 4
09:00, 3A v 4D, China v New Zealand
10:15, 4B v 3C, Zimbabwe v Singapore
11:30, 4C v 3B, Poland v Czechia
12:45, 4A v 3D, Peru v Israel
15:15, 3E v 4H, Ukraine v Kazakhstan
16:30, 4F v 3G, Slovenia v Turkiye
17:45, 3F v 4G, South Africa v Canada
19:00, 4E v 3H, Mexico v Malta

Tal-Qroqq Sport Complex:
Divisions 1 & 2
09:00, 1A v 2D, Serbia v Netherlands
10:15, 2B v 1C, Bulgaria v Hungary
11:30, 2C v 1B, Germany v Spain
12:45, 2A v 1D, Brazil v United States of America
15:15, 1E v 2H, Italy v Romania
16:30, 2F v1G, Egypt v Croatia
17:45, 1F v 2G Montenegro v Australia
19:00, 2E v1H,  Georgia v Greece