In day-four action, it was all about who would make the medal quarterfinals and the top nations produced with Serbia, Hungary Spain, United States of America, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro and Greece getting across the line.

Spain was made to work for its 11-9 win over Germany; Italy held out Romania 10-8 and Montenegro fended off Australia 8-5 thanks to a 3-0 opening quarter.

In division three and four with teams fighting for classifications 17-32, the margins were also big. The closest were China’s 11-7 win over New Zealand and South Africa’s 15-11 margin against Canada.


SERBIA 10 NETHERLANDS 4 (5-1, 2-1, 1-1, 2-1)

Serbia set up the victory with five different kinds of scores in the opening quarter as Netherlands could only respond with one. Serbia scored with an outside shot, from centre forward, on counter, on action and on extra-man attack. Only a penalty goal was missing. With the tone of the match settled, the next three quarters were controlled affairs with Netherlands trying everything to get through the defensive lines. The kickouts favoured Serbia, who converted five from eight and defended a massive five from seven. This proved the difference between the two teams. Serbia shot 24 times to 17, so it was one-way traffic for the team aiming for the podium. Andreij Micic scored three for Serbia and Kimi Christ two for Netherlands.

BULGARIA 5 HUNGARY 15 (2-4, 3-1, 0-5, 0-5)
Champion Hungary made sure of tuning up well for the quarterfinals with a shut-out second half after strangely being level at five by halftime. Bulgaria’s fizz fizzled as Hungary pulled up the shutters, had the better of the extra-man situations, shot five more times and converted three penalty fouls and stopped one Bulgarian attempt. Hungary was 3-0 ahead with Bulgaria drawing level at 2:21 in the second quarter and then 5-5 inside the final minute as two goals were traded. Bulgaria had just five unsuccessful shots in the third period with only one making the goalkeeper and two hitting the post. Another five shots in the fourth failed to make it home, including one on penalty, which was saved. Hungary was most productive and made sure of a quarterfinal berth. On extra, Hungary went two from four and Bulgaria none from one. Zeteny Hidasi, Benedek Rabb and captain Noah Pinter scored three each for Hungary. Stefan Dimitrov and Kristiyan Zhelyazkov scored two for Bulgaria.

GERMANY 9 SPAIN 11 (3-3, 2-1, 0-4, 4-3)

Spain was meant to be the leading team in this encounter, but Germany failed to follow the script and kept Spain at bay for most of the first period until Spain levelled for the second time (after 1-1), just eight seconds from the quarter buzzer on action. Dimitrij Vasilev scored twice to have Germany at 5-3 in the second quarter, but Spain responded to trail by a goal at halftime. Germany was on a high, while Spain was biding its time, ramping up in the third period with two Marc Comabella goals for the 6-5 lead at 4:24. When Enzo Fernandez accepted a cross pass to score from four metres at 2:22, Germany went to a timeout to stem the flow. No goal came and Spain scored again for 8-5 to close the third period with the deepest of left-hand shots from Bernat Martinez. Vasilev had a penalty shot saved and Tiago Carrio opened the fourth-period scoring from seven metres and Spain was four clear. Germany’s first goal after 14 and a half minutes came through Noel Palata off the right-post position on extra. Fernandez scored on counter; Palata scored off a counter pass for 10-7 down; Marian Kob converted a penalty foul for 10-8; Daniel Merida scored on extra for 11-8 and Tobias Scherrieble converted extra for 11-9, but at 0:36 it was too late and Spain was through to the top eight. It was a thrilling match and all credit to Germany for taking Spain so close and winning the second and fourth periods. Germany scored five from seven on extra and Spain three from three. Germany missed one of its two penalty attempts and Spain was successful with one. Kob and Palata scored three each for Germany with Mauro Millan, Comabella and Fernandez netting two apiece.

BRAZIL 6 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 11 (2-4, 2-1, 1-4, 1-2)

In the battle for American honours, it seemed to be an uneven contest. The match was tied at one, but that was it for Brazil as USA drew away to 3-1 and 4-2. Consecutive goals in the second quarter had Brazil one behind. USA went to 7-4 when Kai Keneko made sure of a penalty shot. Tristan Tucker scored from two metres and on extra to lift USA to 9-5 at the final break. Kaneko closed the scoring with a minute to spare and USA was into the top eight. Tucker was USA’s best with four and Marcelo Winter grabbed two for Brazil. On extra-man attack, Brazil went three from five and USA two from four. Overall, USA had five more shots than Brazil.

ITALY 10 ROMANIA 8 (1-2, 3-2, 3-2, 3-2)

Italy emerged a winner, but it was not easy and concentration was the key. Romania had a 2-0 lead thanks to two penalty strikes and Italy only made the sheet through a Francesco Maffei extra-man score four seconds from time. A third penalty had Romania 3-1 up and Andrei Rotaru scored from the centre for 4-1, setting the stage for a huge upset. However, Italy had the match level in under three minutes, well before halftime. A fourth penalty goal took Romania into the lead again with Italy responding and Romania scoring from two metres for a 6-5 advantage. The turnaround came through an Italian penalty goal for 6-6 and a Francesco Corelli score six seconds from the buzzer — its first lead of the match.  Italy went to 9-6 and Romania scored from the centre and the penalty line (No. 5) for 9-8 with 2:32 remaining. Giorgio Marangolo snared an action goal at 1:11 for 10-8. A Romanian timeout yielded nothing and Italy survived a possible disaster. Credit must be given to Romania for such a fine match. Corelli finished with three and Adrian Pop-Cotuna two for Romania. Surprisingly, those five penalty shots for Romania were taken by five different players. On extra, Italy went three from six and stopped all six of Romania’s chances. The penalty success was two to five.

EGYPT 4 CROATIA 19 (2-4, 1-3, 1-6, 0-6)

Croatia came through as expected and Egypt was denied a third win in Gzira. It scored first and levelled at two, but from then on, the stronger, faster and bigger Croatians took control, allowing only the one goal against in the middle periods. Matej Soric, Nardo Skejic and Nardo Dragas all scored three goals in the onslaught as nine players made the sheet. Dragas now has 16 goals for the week. Croatia controlled the extra-man situations with five from seven and defending three of four. Two of Egypt’s goals came from the penalty line, so there was only one goal on action. Croatia now has to tackle Italy to make it to the medal rounds.

MONTENEGRO 8 AUSTRALIA 5 (3-0, 2-3, 1-0, 2-2)

The joy of a three-goal buffer and denying your opponent a goal in the opening quarter, makes for a happy result, or at least, a fulcrum on which to bounce to victory. Take away this three-goal margin and three quarters of the match were even. Australia will rue that lost chance, thinking “what if?”. It was an excellent match for three quarters and Montenegro will say, rightfully, it was an brilliant four quarters, doing what it needed to grasp a top-eight position. Australia had the best chance to lead, missing an extra-man play and having a penalty shot saved in those opening minutes. Montenegro’s goals came on action with one on counter. Australia opened the second quarter with the first two goals for 3-2 down and narrowed it again at 4-3 before Montenegro went to the long break two up. Australia had four shots go awry in the third as Montenegro snuck in an action goal. The first four minutes of the fourth were scoreless with Montenegro having a penalty shot saved. Goals were traded and it was 8-4 with a minute left and the Aussies scored the last goal 19 seconds from time. Danilo Roganovic scored three and Paule Dabic two for Montenegro. Taj Young and Savo Tadic netted two each. On extra-man attack, Australia converted four from six and denied Montenegro three times. Montenegro had 22 shots to 17.

GEORGIA 7 GREECE 17 (3-4, 1-5, 0-4, 3-4)

Greece has been bluffing it this week, seemingly not firing on all cylinders. The mechanic must have done something overnight after a four-goal win against Malta as Greece blasted out of the blocks in the second quarter after there were three drawn scores in the first. The 5-1 period showed Greece at its true light and to follow up with a 4-0 quarter sets the team up for the coming matches. Georgia rebounded in the final quarter, consecutive goals lifting it to 14-6 behind but it was too little too late. Where Greece showed its class was on extra-man attack, converting a tournament-best eight for nine and defending three from seven. Greece had the benefit of two penalty shots, connecting with one. Georgia’s hero was Merabi Matchavariani with five goals. Greek captain Dimitrios Chatzis and Dimitrios Sarros scored four each with Konstantinos Bitsakis chiming in with three.


CHINA 11 NEW ZEALAND 7 (1-3, 3-1, 5-2, 2-1)

New Zealand’s star shooter, Sabastian Dunn, netted three goals in the opening quarter to set his team up for what looked like a good win. However, China fired back, won the second period 3-1 to level the match and then smashed the Kiwis in the third quarter with a three-goal advantage that improved by one in the last period. Dunn was not finished, scored another centre-forward goal in the second period, converted a penalty in the third and converted extra-man attack at 10-7 with his team in with a whisper of a chance. His six goals doubled his scoring tally for the week. China’s Zhihong Chen and scoring master Yiheng Yang scored three each with Yang now perched on 18 goals. China scored two from four on extra and New Zealand one from three.

ZIMBABWE 5 SINGAPORE 17 (1-5, 3-5, 0-5, 1-2)

Singapore gained its second win of the week with a convincing display against Zimbabwe who might be finding the rigorous schedule demanding. Zimbabwe rallied in the second quarter, but it was Singapore’s constant attacking play that brought rewards. Blaise Scheepers opened the scoring for Zimbabwe and his second strike — Zimbabwe’s top scorer — came nearly seven minutes later for 7-2 in arrears. Singapore was already in the box seat and used counter-attack well, claiming seven goals from this action. Singapore converted four from six on extra and Zimbabwe scored its only attempt. Singapore can point to the extra-man count and goalkeeper Luca Savo’s 11 saves. The real statistic was the Singaporean defence that only allowed 11 Zimbabwe shots to Singapore’s torrent of 35. Jaycus See top-scored with four and Jaime Xie three as nine Singaporeans scored.

POLAND 15 CZECHIA 8 (4-2, 4-1, 4-2, 3-3)

Poland made sure of making the higher level with a command performance that had the match sewn up at halftime. Poland’s statement augurs well for the rest of the tournament. Poland lost to Singapore, Hungary and Germany in the group stage, so today’s debut victory came from passion and desire to make a name for itself in Gzira. The quarter scores speak for themselves as Czechia was left to try and win the match through extra-man goals — five from 10 compared to Poland’s one from two. Poland had seven more shots as befitting a team on fire. Adrian Pawlak and Franciszek Gutowski scored three apiece for Poland while Nathan Bauer, Adam Prikryl and Arseny Pashkovsky netted twice each for Czechia.

PERU 0 ISRAEL 15 (0-3, 0-4, 0-3, 0-5)

Hapless Peru could not make the scoresheet — a first for the tournament and an unusual statistic at world level — while Israel did everything in its power to maintain its brilliant defence. Iker Vasquez was the busiest shooter for Peru with five attempts as Israel smashed through the quarters at will. Israel converted all five extra-man opportunities and Peru missed all four of its hopes for a goal. The defence was such that Peru only had 13 shots to Israel’s 25. For Israel, Itay Manor scored three goals and Omer Carmon and Eyal Vashidi two apiece.

UKRAINE 12 KAZAKHSTAN 6 (3-2, 2-3, 2-0, 5-1)

Ukraine collected its second win in two days to push its way up the classifications. The match was tied at all the numbers to five before Ukraine gained two extra-man goals to  finish the third period with a two-goal advantage. Kazakhstan drifted off the mark in the last quarter as Ukraine cemented the victory. Ukraine went four from four on extra and defended three from five and converted two of three penalty attempts. Kazakhstan had its penalty attempt saved. Maksym Hurzon netted three as nine Ukrainians made the sheet. Arystan Umergaliyev scored twice for Kazakhstan.

SLOVENIA 6 TURKIYE 16 (2-6, 4-1, 0-5, 0-4)

Turkiye, upset by the two-goal loss to Australia the day before, gained its second victory in Gzira with some excellent statistics — six from seven on extra-man attack while defending four from eight and rattling in two penalty goals, meaning it sent in half its goals on action.  Slovenia opened the scoring and allowed Turkiye to dictate for a 7-4 advantage. However, Slovenia snared two extra-man goals in less than 40 seconds late in the second quarter to be in with a chance. Slovenia had three shots blocked and one hit the post in the third as Turkiye powered to 12-6. Another fruitless quarter banished Slovenia to the lower reaches. Aljaz Santak and Maksim Gligorovski scored twice each for Slovenia and the star of the match, Batur Yildiz, claimed six goals and Demir Gulsoy three for Turkiye. Yildis now has 16 goals with two six-goal matches.

Image Source: South Africa v Canada/Timmy Cutugno/World Aquatics

SOUTH AFRICA 15 CANADA 11 (2-1, 3-4, 5-2, 5-4)

This was one of the more spirited match-ups of the day with the two Commonwealth countries going head to head. South Africa had a penalty-shootout win to its credit and Canada had lost all three leading into the encounter. The Africans were 2-0 ahead and saw that advantage wiped out by 4:29 in the second quarter. It went to 3-3 with South Africa making the play before Canada converted a penalty foul for the 4-3 lead. South Africa had to play catch-up twice for the 5-5 halftime scoreline. South Africa went up and Canada drew level at six. It became 8-6, 8-7 and 10-7 by the final break. South Africa stepped up and two Matthew Fenn goals brought it to an unassailable 14-7 at 2:38. That means that the final five goals came in a flurry, almost on every attack. Noah Reiback slotted four goals, as did Fenn for his Gzira tally of 14. Thomas Francke netted three. Canada’s best was Nash Porter with three.

Image Source: Mexico v Malta/Timmy Cutugno/World Aquatics

MEXICO 8 MALTA 22 (3-5, 2-7, 1-4, 2-6)

Malta delighted its adoring crowd once again with a second win and a one-goal loss in the bag. Malta shot to 4-0, allowed Mexico into the match at 4-3 before closing the period two up. The second period was a magnificent seven goals and 12-5. The rest of the match was strongly in favour of Malta as both teams struck trouble on extra-man attack, Malta converting two from five and Mexico three from seven. Malta had the better of the shooting at 30 to 23 and scored all three penalty attempts to Mexico’s one. Malta’s strikeforce was Max Lanzon, Andre Aquilina and Sam Engerer (15 for the week) with four goals each. Alan Hurtado and Paris Ponce sent in two each for Mexico.

Day 5 Schedule

Tal-Qroqq Sport Complex:
09:00, L49 V L50 Netherlands v Bulgaria
10:15, L51 V L52 Germany v Brazil
11:30, L53 v L54 Romania v Egypt
12:45, L55 v L56 Australia v Georgia

15:00, W49 v W50 Serbia v Hungary
16:30, W51 v W52 Spain v United States of America
18:00, W53 v W54 Italy v Croatia
19:30, W55 v W56 Montenegro v Greece

Cottonera Indoor Pool
09:00, L81 v L82 New Zealand v Zimbabwe
10:15, L83 v L84 Czechia v Peru
11:30, L85 v L86 Kazakhstan v Slovenia
12:45, L87 v L88 Canada v Mexico

15:15, W81 v W82 China v Singapore
16:30, W83 v W84 Poland v Israel
17:45, W85 v W86 Ukraine v Turkiye
19:00, W87 v W88 South Africa v Malta