Classification 1-4 Semifinals

Image Source: Serbia v Montenegro/Federico Soler/World Aquatics

Match 53 SERBIA 13 MONTENEGRO 9 (6-0, 2-2, 1-3, 4-4)

We talk often of how a good start can set up a match-winning performance. Just two or three goals down can be detrimental. Imagine in a world semifinal, when a team goes 8-0 ahead. This happened here as Serbia punched its ticket for the final and a repeat of the 2022 gold-medal match where Hungary and Serbia faced off. Serbia was 6-0 up at the first break and 8-0 ahead with Montenegro scoring its first through Srdan Janovic at 5:22. It started a run where Montenegro won the remaining part of the match 9-5. Strahinja Gojkovic took it to 8-2, which remained the score at halftime. Three minutes into the third quarter, Kosta Bodiroga scored off counter for 9-2 and Gojkovic responded on extra. Janovic and Gojkovic scored from the top for 9-5 at 3:21 — five goals in eight minutes, a huge turnaround. Gojkovic narrowed it to 9-6 early in the fourth period. Vuk Kojic and Luka Gladovic took control for 11-6 and goals were traded until 13-8 when Gojkovic scored the 13-9 goal, 19 seconds from time. Serbia was through to the final, with a certain amount of ease.

Match Heroes
Filip Novakovic
netted three for Serbia and Gladovic (15 in total) and Strahinja Krstic (19) two each. Gojkovic (12) crunched in six goals and Janovic (17) two for Montenegro.

Turning Point
Serbia jumping into the water and crashing to a 8-0 lead — in a semifinal — just stunning.

Stats Don’t Lie
Serbia converted seven from 2 on extra and defended six from eight. Both teams missed their one penalty attempt.

Bottom Line
Montenegro could not come back from so many goals down, even though it virtually won most of the match. Serbia, second two years ago, retains its top-two ranking with what was a fabulous start. It already has runs on the board, having beaten Hungary 13-12 on day one.

Image Source: Italy v Hungary/Federico Soler/World Aquatics

Match 54 ITALY 15 HUNGARY 18 (4-7, 4-7, 3-1, 4-3)

There was plenty of passion in this match and the VAR judge was kept busy, especially in the dying stages. Botond Balogh scored Hungary’s first two goals as the score went to 5-3 and 7-4 by the first break. Goals were traded and Balogh struck on extra for 9-5, a lead trimmed to two via Antonio de Simone on extra and Francesco Scordo on counter. Four Hungarian unanswered goals, including two from Maxim Cseh, increased the scoreboard to 13-7. Scordo and Balogh swapped extra-man goals inside the final minute giving Hungary the 14-8 halftime lead. Goals were traded to 15-9 and de Vecchis and Pettonati scored quickly for 15-11 by 3:09. It jumped to 16-13 two minutes into the last period  and two minutes later, Pettonati brought the margin to two on extra. Andras Toth and Scordo converted extra-man plays for 17-15. Hungary called a timeout at 2:22, gained a third foul on Scordo and Mor Benedek converted the man up for 18-15 at a crucial moment — 1:54. Centre forward Lorenzo Demarchi was excluded for aggressive play on his defender after a VAR review, but with substitution. Benedek was excluded and Pettonati had his shot saved. Hungary took a timeout at 0:41 to steady the ship and the match petered out with Hungary making consecutive finals.

Match Heroes
(15 in total) scored four goals while six others scored twice for Hungary. Scordo (10), de Vecchis (11) and Pettonati scored three each for Italy.

Turning Point
Having two periods of 7-4 gives you the right to dictate the match, if you are smart enough to retain that differential.

Stats Don’t Lie
Hungary converted 10 from 14 on extra-man attack and Italy an also commendable eight from 14. Both scored their penalty allotments with Italy two and Hungary three.

Bottom Line
Hungary had the class and the momentum to want to defend its crown.

Classification 5-8 Semifinals

Image Source: Spain v Croatia/Federico Soler/World Aquatics

Match 51, SPAIN 18 CROATIA 16 (6-4, 6-2, 3-4, 3-6)

Spain will play for fifth after decisive two quarters that had the match well in hand. Spain scored the first two goals and maintained that advantage until quarter time. A four-goal tidal wave in the second quarter pushed he margin to six, almost unassailable at this level and this stage of the tournament. Duje Cuzzi converted extra to stem the tide only for Albert Sabadell and Carlos Nunez to nullify for 12-5. Sime Zilic gained one back for Croatia, 35 seconds from halftime. Goals were traded and Sabadell converted extra for 14-7. Len Dujmic and Mizlav Curkovic narrowed it to five. Javier Fernandez replied scored on extra for 15-9 and Maro Susic finished the period at 15-10. Croatia pulled it to within three by 5:44 but Tomas Perrone made it four again straight after. Three Croatian goals brought the match to within one at 2:26 but Marc Rodriguez scored on the next attack from centre to close all scoring at 18-16. The two-goal difference harks back to the first two goals of the match.

Match Heroes
Albert Sabadell
had a field day for Spain with seven goals and Tomas Perrone chipped in with five to bring his tally to 23. Carlos Nunez grabbed three for 14. Duje Cuzzi scored four times for 14 in total for Croatia and Maro Susic three.

Turning Point
The first two goals. Also, the three-goal swing by Croatia in the fourth that nearly forced a shootout.

Stats Don’t Lie
Here were some huge numbers. Spain went 10 from 13 on extra and Croatia nine from 13, most impressive. Spain scored one from the penalty line and Croatia missed one of two. Croatia was the bigger shooter at 35-28.

Bottom Line
Spain claimed the bronze medal at the last outing, so it is eager for fifth place. Croatia was fifth. Sadly, seventh will be the best it can achieve here in what is a tougher competition that that in Belgrade.

Image Source: Greece v USA/Federico Soler/World Aquatics

Match 52 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 12 GREECE 14 (2-6, 4-5, 4-1, 2-2)

Greece claimed victory in the first half 11-6 and allowed USA win the second 6-4. Having a three-goal advantage and then 6-1 in that opening quarter, the scene was set for a Greek roll to the end. USA pinched a goal for 6-2 at the first break. Greece went 7-2 ahead with USA bringing the match to within three, three times by 9-6. Georgios Mitrakis on penalty and captain Christos Laskaridis on action had Greece at its most dangerous position of 11-6 heading into the second half. Connor Ohl and Maddox Arlett brought the differential to three and more than four minutes later, Camden Kocur trimmed the fat to two. Orestis Zervoudakis and Arlett traded goals by the final break. Spytholean Karatzas scored from centre for 13-10 with Gavin Appledorn grabbing two extra-man goals two minutes apart for 13-12 at 1:43. Konstantinos Belesis scored his most important goal of the week at 1:16 for 14-12, enough to win the match.

Match Heroes
slammed in four for 15 in Buenos Aires while captain Laskaridis made three for 11. Appledorn (15) and Bode Brinkema (11) scored three apiece for USA. Ohl netted two more.

Turning Point
The three goals early on were enough to make it a hurdle too far for USA. It’s like playing a league season. The first match counts just as much as the one at the end of the season.

Stats Don’t Lie
Greece converted three from seven on extra-man attack and USA four from eight. Greece gained one penalty goal and USA two from four attempts. Greece made eight steals to two and put took 35 shots to 30.

Bottom Line
Greece was hoping for a top-four position, so fifth will have to do, should it get past Spain. USA was ninth in 2022, so a step up the ladder.

Classification 9-12 Semifinals

Match 49, TURKIYE 12 AUSTRALIA 13 in penalty shootout FT 9-9. Pens: 3-4 (2-3, 2-1, 3-3, 2-2)

Australia gave up a 9-7 advantage in the final quarter to allow Turkiye back into the match to level and force the encounter to a shootout, which it won and collected a fourth victory — only losing to Spain in the crossovers. Turkiye opened the scoring before Australia went 2-1 ahead and 3-2 on extra through Auguste Korac, nine seconds from the buzzer. Efe Naipoglu levelled at 5-3 in the second quarter and Orhan Alpman gave Turkiye the 4-3 edge on extra 37 seconds from halftime. Korac scored a second, on extra, for 4-4, seven seconds from time. Sean Bright scored from the centre to start the third period and team-mate Zachary Izzard converted extra for 6-4. Barkin Tufek on extra and Mithat Ayaksiz from the top, had the match at 6-6. Goals were traded with Turkiye making the play. Ashton Brown gave the Aussies an 8-7 lead on the first attack and Izzard took it to 9-7 more than six minutes later. Naipoglu converted extra at 0:52 after two Aussies gained their third major fouls. Korac was the next Aussie to gain a third foul at 0:10 and Alpman made sure of the equaliser, four seconds from time, forcing the shootout. Australia had its first shot saved; Turkiye its second and fifth, leaving Brown to put away the winner.

Match Heroes
(13), Izzard, Korac and Bright scored twice each for the Aussies. For Turkiye, Naipoglu (22), Ayaksiz and Alpman (14) netted a pair each.

Turning Point
So many, but probably that final ejection for the equalising goal.

Stats Don’t Lie
Australia buried five from eight on extra and defended seven from 13. Turkiye shot 34 times to 24, but Australia’s accuracy was the key.

Bottom Line
Australia gets a chance for ninth place, but whatever the result, it will be better than the 11th in Belgrade. Turkiye was 13th last time.

Match 50, NEW ZEALAND 9 BRAZIL 14 (2-5, 4-4, 3-3, 0-2)

A good start always helps when the final quarter arrives. Brazil started with three goals and maintained that margin until the first break, thanks to Lucas Wulfhorst with his counter-attack that had the ball in the back of the net on the buzzer. Wulfhorst converted a penalty to start the second period and punched the margin to three with a long shot for 7-4. Liam Dodunski countered for the Kiwis — 7-5 — and Ollie Schnauer plucked a goal from afar for 8-6 as Brazil was making the headway. Henrico Martins converted extra-man attack for 9-6 — that three-goal margin again — a minute from halftime. Henry Cody and Sam Keightley brought the margin to one by the middle of the third period. Pedro Ribeiro, Martins and Wulfhorst took the margin to four before Dodunski struck again just before the final break, for a three-goal margin, again. Brazil shut New Zealand out of the final quarter and slotted two for 14-9. It meant that the Kiwis were equal to Brazil for a large swathe of the match. However, that three-goal start was always the stumbling block.

Match Heroes
(12) and Wulfhorst (23) topped the scoring with five goals each for Brazil. Dodunski (15), Keightley (14) and Henry scored two each for New Zealand.

Turning Point
Those three goals in the first quarter that acted like a shadow over the match.

Stats Don’t Lie
Brazil scored five from seven on extra and the Kiwis one from two. Both teams converted three penalty goals and Brazil made 11 steals to six.

Bottom Line
Brazil, 15th in Belgrade, has made huge gains in Buenos Aires while New Zealand, in playing for 11-12, is guaranteed a better ranking than 14th two years ago.

Classification 17-18

Match 48, SOUTH AFRICA 8 CHINA 17 (2-7, 1-6, 2-3, 3-1)

China virtually won this match in the opening quarter with a 5-0 start that South Africa could not respond to. Although it scored twice in that first period, the second quarter was no better as China racked up another six goals to one to go into the third period with a commanding 13-3 advantage. Ross Rovelli scored South Africa’s third goal at 12-3 with a blast from the top. Jinyi Liu went on counter for 14-3 in the third period with Oliver Ditz replying. Zirui Deng and Xuxuan Xu on extra moved the score to 16-4. Adam October replied for the final scoring of the period. Deng and Rovelli traded goals by halfway through the quarter and inside the final minute, Rovelli scored twice to boost South Africa’s numbers.

Match Heroes
Diheng Li
scored four times to be his team’s best in Buenos Aires with four goals today. Jialong Tang and Zirui Deng scored three apiece for China. Ross Rovelli, South Africa’s top scorer who finished with 12 goals, scored four. Adam October chimed in with three, his best match.

Turning Point
The first half where China was in total control.

Stats Don’t Lie
China scored both extra-man chances and stopped two of three. China was strong on penalties, scoring all five and saving all three of South Africa’s attempts. South Africa made five steals to one and took the more shots — 35-27.

Bottom Line
China goes home with 17th position in its first visit and South Africa slips from 16th to 18th.

Classification 19-20

Match 47, URUGUAY 10 COLOMBIA 22 (2-5, 4-4, 4-6, 0-7)

Colombia deserved this victory. It scored 19 goals against Japan and lost; went down by a goal to China and was even in with a chance against Argentina. Colombia started with venom, scoring the first two goals and finishing the period 5-2 in front. Lucas Piretti and Juan Salom pulled the margin back to one in the second quarter, and Piretti did it again for 6-5 behind on extra at 2:09. Colombia went out to 9-5 with Emiliano Scelza converting a penalty at 0:18 for 9-6 at the turn. Colombia punched in the first two for 11-6 in the third period and it became 12-7 with Piretti pumping in a centre-forward goal for 12-8. Jean Lopez made it 13-8 on penalty. Scelza and Piretti replied for 13-10. Daniel Lopera and Jean Lopez lifted Colombia to 15-10 at the last break. The fire had gone from Uruguay’s belly and Colombia started a landslide, finishing with a 7-0 quarter and a 12-goal margin to finish their competitions.

Match Heroes
Colombian captain Juan Lopez rifled home eight goals to take his tally to 25. Kevin Perez scored three goals. Piretti blasted home four goals for Uruguay to finish the tournament on 24 goals. Scelza and Salom (12) netted a pair each.

Turning Point
The final quarter as Uruguay slumped and Colombia surged.

Stats Don’t Lie
Colombia converted two from three of extra and denied Uruguay six of its nine attempts. Colombia went five from six on penalty and Uruguay two from four. Uruguay, though, made seven steals to four.

Bottom Line
Neither team was in Belgrade two years ago, so these are benchmark classifications to build on.

Day 8 Schedule

Classification 15-16
Match 55. 09:00. JPN v KAZ

Classification 13-14
Match 56. 10:30. CAN v ARG

Classification 11-12
Match 57. 12:00. TUR v NZL

Classification 9-10
Match 58. 13:30. AUS v BRA

Classification 7-8
Match 59. 15:00. CRO v USA

Classification 5-6
Match 60. 16:30. ESP v GRE

Classification 3-4
Match 61. 18:00. MNE v ITA

Classification 1-2
Match 62. 19:30. SRB v HUN