The last big water polo game in 2019 will be the encounter between Serbia and Croatia in Belgrade on Sunday. This game is the match of Day 2 of the European Preliminaries of the World League.
In the middle of December, both teams started the preparations for this match, as well as the European Championships in Budapest (12 – 26 January).
As a part of the preparation, Croatia traveled to Australia, while Serbia went to the USA. Both teams have finished their visits to other continents in the last few days.
Croatia played three games against Australia in Sidney.
In the first test, staged on December 17th, the Croats defeated Australia 10:8 (3:3, 3:1, 2:1, 2:3). The bronze medalists from the 2019 World Championships, beat hosts in the second match, too, two days later. The close contest went to a penalty shootout. Croatia won 12:11 (1:1, 2:3, 2:2, 2:1, PSO 5:4). Finally, in the third game, on Saturday, Croatia celebrated a 9:7 (4:1, 1:2, 3:3, 1:1) win, to complete the tour with a perfect 3-0 record.
It was planned that Serbia and Team USA face off in a three-game series in South California, but they met only twice.
In the first game, played in San Diego, Team USA edged out Serbia 13:12 (3:4, 4:2, 3:2, 3:4). On Friday, the two teams faced off in Torrance. Serbia took revenge for the first defeat, by beating the Americans 16:11 (3:2, 2:2, 5:4, 6:3).
The third game was scheduled for Sunday in Goleta. But, the final match of the series was canceled due to inclement weather including high winds.
Serbian water polo players didn’t waste time on the day off. Some of them went to the “Staples Center” to watch the NBA League game Los Angeles Lakers – Denver. One of Denver’s best players is Nikola Jokic, a member of the Serbian national basketball team.
Croatia’s coach Ivica Tucak had 17 players at the tour in Australia – goalkeepers: Marko Bijac, Ivan Marcelic. Field players: Andro Buslje, Marko Macan, Hrvoje Benic, Maro Jokovic, Xavi Garcia, Lovre Milos, Andrija Basic, Ante Vukicevic, Loren Fatovic, Luka Bukic, Luka Loncar, Josip Vrlic, Franko Lazic, Luka Lozina, Rino Buric.
Dejan Savic, the head coach of Serbia, picked 18 players for the preparations in the USA – goalkeepers: Gојко Pijetovic, Branislav Mitrovic, Stefan Zivojinovic. Field players: Filip Filipovic, Dusan Mandic, Viktor Rasovic, Nikola Dedovic, Andrija Prlainovic, Stefan Mitrovic, Gavril Subotic, Strahinja Rasovic, Milos Cuk, Drasko Gogov, Nemanja Vico, Dusko Pijetlovic, Milan Aleksic, Nikola Jaksic, Sava Randjelovic.
They are all candidates for the upcoming World League match, which will be played in the Tasmajdan pool. The previous encounter between these two teams was staged in the same venue in July. Five months ago, Serbia defeated Croatia 12:11 in the final of the World League, played under heavy rain. Of course, on Sunday, the teams will meet in the indoor pool.