World champion Spain defeated Greece in the derby of Day 1 of the World Cup Division 1.
Spain beat Greece 11:8 in Group B in Podgorica, despite Greece being a better rival for more than two quarters. Until the finish of the third quarter, the Spaniards trailed. In the last ten minutes, they fired on all cylinders and scored five goals in 06:46 minutes to turn around a 5:7 deficit to a 10:7 lead, which was crucial for their win.
The outcomes of the other matches were more or less expected, but there were thrilling encounters. The most exciting match of the day was a clash between Georgia and Montenegro in Podgorica. The Montenegrins recorded a 13:12 victory, thanks to a last-gasp goal. Serbia opened the tournament in Podgorica with a 10:6 victory over Australia.
The closest contest of Day 1 in Group A in Zagreb was an encounter between European champion Croatia and Team USA. Croatia earned three points in a 30-goal match (16:14). Italy beat Japan with ease – 13:7. Hungary bettered France 10:6
World Aquatics Water Polo World Cup Division 1, Day 1
Group A (Zagreb)
Italy – Japan 13:7 (3:1, 4:1, 4:3, 2:2)
Italy: Del Lungo, Condemi, Alesiani, Iocchi Gratta 1, Ferrero, Cannella 1, Renzuto, Echenique, Marziali 3, Bruni 3, Di Somma 2, Dolce 3, Massaro. Head coach: Campagna.
Japan: Tanamura, Adachi, Watanabe 1, Ogihara, Nitta, Suzuki 1, Date 1, Takata, Arai, Inaba 3, Okawa, Araki 1, Nishimura. Head coach: Shiota.
Italy, playing with Francesco Di Fulvio, opened the tournament with a win over Japan, as expected. The “Settebello” built a big advantage in time and slowed at the game’s finish. The Italians led 3:0 in the first quarter. By the middle break the favorite widened the gap to five (7:2).
Italy forced a penalty shot in its first possession in the second half. Di Somma sent the back into the net from a penalty line for 8:2. Two and a half minutes before the end, Bruni scored for 10:3. The Italians slowed the rhythm after that. As usual, Japan didn’t surrender, but it couldn’t come close to the silver medalists from the 2022 World Championships.
Croatia – USA 16:14 (5:5, 5:2, 4:3, 2:4)
Croatia: Bijac, Buric 1, Fatovic 3, Krapic, Butic, Bukic 2, BIljaka 1, Zuvela, Marinic Kragic 3, Vrlic, Basic, Kharkov 6, Popadic. Head coach: Tucak.
USA: Holland, Hooper 1, Dodd 1, Abramson 1, Daube 1, Cupido 1, Hallock, Woodhead, Bowen 4, Dodd 3, Ehrhardt, Irving 2, Weineberg. Head coach: Udovicic.
High-scoring games have been usual in the encounters between Team USA and European teams in the last few years. Still, the European champion emerged as the winner in the duel with the best non-European team this time.
Already in the first quarter, both teams cared more about the attack than defense. The teams were neck-and-neck. Croatia led 1:0, 2:1, 3:2. Team USA went ahead in the middle of the quarter (4:3) and in the 6th minute again (5:4). Still, in the 8th minute, the Croats caught up with the Americans – Jerko Marinic Kragic converted a penalty shot to a 5:5.
At the beginning of the second quarter, Biljaka scored an action goal for 6:5, and from that point on, the hosts were always ahead. Loren Fatovic netted for 7:5 in the 10th minute. Team USA kept up with Croatia and cut the deficit to one goal (6:7, 7:8). But, at the finish of the first half, Croatia built a 3-goal lead for the first time. Konstantin Kharkov scored the fourth of his 6 today’s goals in Croatia’s last possession in the first half to make it 10:7.
Croatia dictated the pace in the third quarter. The Americans attempted to come back, but unsuccessfully..They reduced the gap to two a few times. However, Croatia earned a 14:10 advantage before the final quarter. Everything was practically decided in Croatia’s first possession in the fourth quarter, after Loren Fatovic found the net from a penalty shot for 15:10. But, the Croats couldn’t celebrate too early. In the 30th minute, Abramson scored from a 6 on 5 and narrowed the distance to two (14:16). Still, it turned out that it was the last goal and the hosts recorded a 2-goal win.
There were even 41 exclusions. Referees excluded Croatian players 22 times. The Americans committed 19 personal fouls. Croatia had five penalty shots and scored from each. Team USA scored three goals from four opportunities from the 5m line. Bijac saved a shot from Bowen early in the third quarter.
France – Hungary 6:10 (3:2, 1:4, 1:1, 1:3)
France: Fontani,Guerin, Crousillat 2, Bouet 1, Khasz, Izdinsky, Zivkovic 1, Bjorch 1, Marzouki 1, Canonne, Vanpeperstraete, De Nardi, Rossi. Head coach: Bruzzo.
Hungary: Levai, Angyal 1, Manhercz 1, Pohl 1, Vamos 3, Molnar, Nagy, Burian 1, NEmet 1, Fekete, Jansik, Ven. Vigvari, Szakonyi. Head coach:Zs.Varga
France proved that it had continued progressing and could be an equal opponent to the powerhouses. But, on the other side, Hungary proved it was one of the best teams in the world, although it came to Zagreb without Denes Varga and Gergo Zalanki.
France played better than the European silver medalists in the first quarter, and earned a 3:2 advantage before the second eight minutes. But, after the first break, the teams switched roles. Hungary controlled the match. The favorite opened the second quarter with two quick goals. In the 11th minute, it earned the lead for the first time (Vigvari scored for 4:3). Minute and a half before the middle break, Manhercz doubled the Hungarians’ advantage. In the dying seconds, Nemet converted a man-up for 6:4.
Both defenses did their jobs well in the third quarter. Vamos stretched the margin to three midway through the quarter (7:4). Just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Crousillat found the net from the distance to give the French some hope (5:7). That hope disappeared in the final eight minutes. Hungary imposed its rhythm and recorded a comfortable four-goal win.
Debutant Daniel Szakonyi was in front of Hungary’s goal. He played well and showed that the competition for Hungary’s first goalkeeper had become stronger.
Croatia – France (18:30)
USA – Japan (20:30)
Hungary and Italy bye
Group B (Podgorica)
Australia – Serbia 6:10 (2:1, 1:3, 0:3, 3:3 )
Australia: Porter, Marsden, G. Ford, Negus, Power, Lambie 1, Pavillard 2, Byrns, A.Ford 1, Putt, Poot, Edwards 2, Hedges. Head coach: Hamill
Serbia: Mitrovic, Mandic 1, S.Rasovic, Randjelovic 1, Toholj 1, Radulovic 2, Drasović 1, Dimitrijevic, Stanojevic 3, Ubovic 1, Milojevic, Vucinic, Misovic. Head coach: Stevanovic
The win over Australia and a very good defensive play encourage a new Serbian team and head coach Uros Stevanovic, who made his debut on Serbia’s bench in official matches today.
Both teams started slowly and made many mistakes in the first quarter. Both of the sides created few opportunities to score. Australia was better and entered the second quarter leading 2:1. However, Serbia started dictating the pace after the first break.Branislav Mitrovic posted several good saves, but his teammates made his job easier because they played a “deep defense” and kept Australia far from Serbia’s goal. Most of the “Sharks’” attempts to score were from a perimeter.
With two goals by Nemanja Stanojevic in the first two minutes of the second quarter, Serbia went in front – 3:2. The “Aussies” leveled at the finish of the quarter, but Nemanja Ubovic responded immediately to give Serbia a 4:3 lead.
As the score shows, the third quarter was vital for Serbia’s win. The Europeans’ defense dominated. In the 21st minute, Nebojsa Toholj scored the first goal in the second half, and two goals separated the rivals for the first time – 5:3. Toholj found the net in a quick attack with a power-play advantage. The man-up attacks were Serbia’s strong weapon today. The Serbs had an excellent percentage of extra player shots (5/7), while Australia scored only twice from a 6 on 5 (2/7).
By the end of the quarter, Serbia went to 7:3. Pavillard opened the final period with a goal from a penalty shot (4:7), but Serbia controlled the match. It regained a 4-goal lead and kept it until the end.
“I am very happy. We beat a very good opponent. We needed some time to find the rhythm and solutions to break Australia’s defense. After we did it, everything was as it should be. We know what we are able for and what we have to improve, Nemanja Stanojevic, the MVP of the match said
Greece – Spain 8:11 (3:2, 3:3, 1:2, 1:4)
Greece: Zerdevas, Genidounias 1, Skoumpakis 1, Kalogeropoulos 1, Fountoulis 2, Papanastasiou 1, Dervisis, Argyropoulos, Nikolaidis, Kakaris 1, Vlachopoulos 1, Tzortzatos. Head coach: Vlachos.
Spain: Aguirre, Munarriz 5, Biel, Sanahuja 1, De Toro, Gimila, Famera, Cabanas 2, Tahull 1, Perrone 1, Mallarach, Bustos 1, Lorrio. Head coach: Martin.
Greece earned an early lead (Genidounias from a penalty in the second minute) and kept the advantage for a while. Munarriz put the Spaniards on the scoreboard in the 6th minute, but Vlachopoulos replied immediately. Munarriz leveled once again, but Papanastasiou beat the buzzer. In the last second of the quarter, he scored from a counter-attack for 3:2.
An exchange of goals continued in the second quarter. Two rivals of similar qualities were in a neck-and-neck race. There were not many exclusions and chances with an extra player. The Greeks committed four, and the Spaniards five personal fouls in the first half, including one penalty foul on each side (during the entire match, there were few power-play goals – Greece’s conversion after 32 minutes was 1/6 and Spain’s 1/4). Greece took a one-goal lead three times in the 2nd period, Spain leveled twice, but it had no response after Ioannis Fountoulis found the net for 6:5 with a beautiful action goal from seven meters.
Fountoulis gave the Greek team a 2-goal lead in the 18th minute by converting a penalty shot (7:5). Greece was a better rival for most of the third quarter. It had a few chances to stretch the margin to three but failed, partly because of a few very good saves by Unai Aguirre. Spain’s attack was harmless in the first four minutes of the second half. But, in the 21st minute, Alberto Munarriz, the man of the match, scored his third goal by converting a penalty to open the Spaniards’ series. Cabanas leveled the score at 7:7 a minute and a half before the last break.
The world champions scored three consecutive goals in the first three minutes and a half of the fourth quarter (Munarriz 2 and Perrone) and earned a 10:7 lead. Shortly after Perrone made it 10:7, Kakaris ended Greece’s goalless phase, which lasted for almost ten minutes. However, the Greeks couldn’t recover from a 0:5 shock.
“The key to the victory was Alberto Munnarriz, who was amazing today. We came without two important players, Alvaro Granados and Marc Larumbe, but managed to reach the victory, which is very important not just because of three points, but because of self-confidence”, Spain’s captain Felipe Perrone said.
Montenegro – Georgia 13:12 (1:3, 5:5, 3:0, 4:4)
Montenegro: Tesanovic, Da. Radovic 1, Macic, Averka 2, Cuckovic, Popadic, Dj. Radovic 4, Ukropina, Perkovic 1, Cetkovic 1, Matkovic 2, V.Radovic 2, Andric. Head coach: Gojkovic.
Georgia: Razmadze, Akhvlediani 2, Dadvani, Shushiashvili 3, Bitadze 1, Jelaca 2, Jakhaia, Saric, Imnaishvili 1, Adeishvili, Vasic 3, Dzikhtsiarenka, Gvetadze. Head coach: Stanojevic.
Both encounters between Montenegro and Georgia last year were close contests, so something similar was expected in today’s duel. Last year, Montenegro defeated Georgia 14:11 in the 7th-place game at the European Championships and 10:9 in the group stage at the World Championships.
The rosters have been changed since last summer. Marko Petkovic retired from the Montenegrin national team, but Djuro Radovic returned. Georgia arrived in Podgorica without leftie Boris Vapenski, one of the leaders in the past few years. Montenegrin Stefan Pjesivac, Dinamo’s center-forward, will play for Georgia in the future, but not in Podgorica.
Georgia dictated the pace from the beginning, it had the match in its hands, but it couldn’t play in the same rhythm until the end. After the first eight minutes, Georgia led 3:1. The hosts leveled at 3:3 and 5:5, but Georgia rebuilt a 2-goal lead by the end of the first half.
After the middle break, the Montenegrins were more aggressive in the attack and played more organized than in the first two periods. They had a lot of opportunities to score, but Georgia’s goalkeeper Irakli Razmadze was outstanding, he posted one save after another. Still, in the 21st minute, Konstantin Averka broke the deadlock. By the end of the third period, Montenegro added two unanswered goals. Djuro Radovic scored from a penalty shot 37 seconds before the last break and Montenegro went ahead for the first time – 9:8.
However, the opening minutes of the final quarter belonged to Georgia. Nika Shushiashvili opened the 4th quarter with two goals to put Georgia in front – 10:9. The Montenegrins responded with two and took an 11:10 lead in the 30th minute. However, that wasn’t the end of the drama. Four goals were scored in the last 85 seconds. Georgia leveled at 11:11 and 12:12 (33 seconds from the end). But, Djuro Radovic had the last word. Eight seconds before the final buzzer, he found the net from the deep right to set the final score – 13:12.
Djuro Radovic was there when it was the most important. He scored the last three goals for Montenegro in the last two minutes.
“It was a tough game. I wasn’t at the level I am used to. But, we have a lot of amazing players on the team, and because of that we managed to beat Georgia. The most important thing is that we won three points today. But, we don’t think about the game against Georgia. We are already preparing for the next challenging game against Spain, Montenegro’s goalkeeper Petar Tesanovic commented.
Montenegro – Spain (17:30)
Georgia – Australia (19:30)
Serbia and Greece bye
For the full schedule, live scores and statistics, visit Total Waterpolo Arena