Croatia booked the last available ticket for the Tokyo Olympic Games after beating Russia in a fascinating bronze-medal match at the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Rotterdam.
Croatia defeated Russia after a long penalty shootout series – 25:24! The match was decided after the 15th series of shots. In regular time, the score was 11:11.
All in all, there were no surprises in the final ranking in Rotterdam. Montenegro, Greece, and Croatia were heavy favorites in the race for the Olympic Games, and these three teams qualified for the Olympic Games. Montenegro took the gold medal, as it edged out Greece 10:9 in today’s final.
All three teams maintained their continuities of Olympic appearances. Greece has been a regular Olympic Games participant since 1980. Croatia and Montenegro haven’t missed the OG since the countries became independent (Croatia has been playing at the Olympics since 1996, and Montenegro since 2008).
Russia played very well throughout the tournament. The Russians won well-deserved 1st place in Group B, after a surprising victory over Croatia, and they were very close to repeat that feat and beating the big Croatian team once more. Still, the Croats were the favorites in the match against Russia (as well as Greece in yesterdаy’s semifinals(. Of course, the Russians, who haven’t played at the Olympic Games since 2004 (they won the bronze medal in Athens 17 years ago), can’t be happy after the tournament in Rotterdam. They were very close to earning the Olympic ticket. But, they shouldn’t be unsatisfied. They started coming back to the circle of the best European teams.
Teams qualified for the men’s water polo tournament in Tokyo: Serbia (2019 World League winner), Italy, Spain (finalists of the 2019 World Championships), USA (2019 Pan American Games winner), Hungary (2020 European champion), Kazakhstan (2018 Asian Games winner), Australia (Oceania qualifier), South Africa (Africa qualifier), Montenegro, Greece, Croatia (Qualification Tournament) and host Japan. The draw will be made this evening (find out more at the end of the article)
Day 8 – Final: Montenegro – Greece 10:9, bronze-medal match: Croatia – Russia 25:24 (PSO – 11:11), For places 5th-6th: Netherlands – France 10:9, For places 7th-8th: Georgia – Canada 18:10.
Montengro – Greece 10:9 (2:3, 3:3, 1:2, 4:1)
Montenegro: Matkovic 5, Brguljan 2, Ivovic 2, Popadic 1 (Kandic 7 saves).
Greece: Argyropoulos 4, Genidounias 1, Skoumpakis 1, Fountoulis 1, Dervisis 1, Gkiouvetsis 1 (Galanidis 15 saves).
Extra player shots: Montenegro 2/9, Greece 3/6. Penalty shots: Montenegro 1/1, Greece 1/1.
The final match was in the shadow of the exciting bronze-medal game. The encounter between Montenegro and Greece decided nothing. Both teams qualified for the Olympic Games yesterday, they achieved their goals, and they will be in the same pot in this evening’s draw. The Greeks and the Montenegrins celebrated big success yesterday, and today’s game was just for pride.
Greece was seeking revenge for a 4:8 defeat to Montenegro, and that was the Greeks’ biggest motivation.
The match was an even contest until 4:4. The Greeks were taking the lead, but the Montenegrins equalized four times. The Greeks made a two-goal difference (6:4) in the 14th minute, but the Montenegrins reduced the gap by the middle break (5:6).
Greece rebuilt a 2-goal lead in the third period (7:5 and 8:6). Argyropoulos scored his 4th goal today for 8:6, with 02:23 remaining on the clock in the third quarter. After that, Montenegro took control and broke Greece’s defense, which worked well in the first three periods. Goalkeeper Galanidis blocked a lot of shots.
Montenegro produced a 4:0 series in the fourth period. A 21-year-old Dusan Matkovic (who was voted the player of the game) scored three goals in this quarter, while Aleksandar Ivovic added one, and the Montenegrins earned a 10:8 lead. Konstantinos Genidounias found the net eight seconds before the end to close the match and end Greece’s goalless phase that lasted 10 minutes and 15 seconds.
Greece didn’t achieve the second consecutive win over Montenegro in the gold medal matches (early in January, Greece defeated Montenegro 12:7 in the final of the European Qualifications for the World League)
Croatia – Russia 25:24 (4:3, 2:4, 3:1, 2:3 – PSO 14:13)
Croatia: Vukicevic 2, Buslje 2, Vrlic 2, Fatovic 1, Jokovic 1, Bukic 1, Milos 1, Buric 1 (Bijac 12 saves)
Russia: Kharkov 3, Merkulov 3, Kholod 2, Suckhov 1, Kiselev 1, Pronin 1 (Ivanov 1 save, Kostrov 11).
Extra player shots: Croatia 8/14, Russia 8/14. Penalty shots: Croatia 1/1, Russia 0/1.
Penalty shotoout: Nagaev 0:1, Vukicevic 1:1, Merkulov 1:2, Jokovic 2:2, Kharkov 2:3, Fatovic 3:3, Kholod 3:4, Bukic hit the post, Shepelev – Popadic saved, Vrlic 4:4, Nagaev 4:5, Vukicevic 5:5, Merkulov 5:6, Jokovic 6:6, Kharkov 6:7, Fatovic 7:7, Kholod 7:8, Bukic 8:8, Shepelev 8:9, Vrlic 9:9, Nagaev 9:10, Vukicevic 10:10, Merkulov 10:11, Jokovic 11:11, Kharkov 11:12, Fatovic 12:12, Kholod 12:13, Bukic 13:13, Shepelev – Bijac saved, Vrlic 14:13
Croatia scored an opening goal in the 2nd minute when Maro Jokovic converted a penalty shot. The Croats dictated the pace in the first period, but the Russians managed to equalized twice (1:1, 2:2). Croatia jumped to a 4:2 lead in the 6th minute. Konstantin Khrakov found the net from a man-up for 3:4.
Already in the first quarter, Russian coach Evstingeev made a change in front of the goal. Ivanov started the match, but he was replaced by Kostrov shortly after the beginning.
The Russians caught up with the Croats in the first possession in the 2nd period (Kiselev 4:4).
Lovre Milos immediately responded for 5:4. However, Russia scored two unanswered goals after that. Ivan Suchkov put the Russians in front from an extra – 6:5 in the 13th minute. But, they enjoyed the lead for only 14 seconds, as Ante Vukicevic scored from a power-play advantage for 6:6.
Both teams missed a few nice chances. Besides, the Croats started making mistakes in the attack. Russia had a 7:6 lead at halftime because Daniil Mrekulov sent the ball into the net 36 seconds before the middle break.
Russia had a great chance to double an advantage early in the third quarter. They forced a penalty shot, but Dmitrii Kholod sent the ball high above the bar. In the next attack, Buric hit the back of the net for 7:7.
Luka Bukic gave Croatia a new lead, but Daniil Merkulov found the net from a distance in the 23rd minute – 8:8.
Merkulov’s teammate in Jug Dubrovnik, Loren Fatovic closed this period with a goal for 9:8 just four seconds before the last break. Croatia didn’t score a single action goal in the third period, all there with a man-up.
There were no action goals in the fourth period, all five were scored with a power-play advantage.
Merkulov scored an equalizer – 9:9 in the third minute of the final period, Croatia’s captain Buslje responded immediately for 10:9. Then came Kharkov for 10:10.
A minute and 20 seconds before the end, luck was with Croatia, Kostrov saved a shot from Jokovic, but the Croats grabbed the ball after that save, and Vrlic scored for 11:10. Just 16 seconds from the final buzzer Kholod equalized once more.
In the next attack, Croatia made a foul six seconds before the end and missed the last chance to win.
Some of the key players of both teams couldn’t take part in the shootout, because of the exclusions – Macan, captain Buslje, Garcia had three personal fouls each in Croatia. Russians Pronin, Suckhov and Kiselev finished the match before the 32nd minute.
The penalty shootout was a highlight of this drama. Before Croatia’s fourth shot in the series, Russia changed goalkeepers. Ivanov replaced Kostrov. He didn’t save, but that change proved as a good move, as Luka Bukic hit the post. After that, Croatia coach Ivica Tucak also changed a goalie. Bijac was replaced by Popadic, who saved a shot from Shepelev. There were a few more changes of the goalkeepers on both sides, but the scorers made no mistake, until the 15th series when Bijac saved Shepelev’s shot. Josip Vrlic didn’t miss after that and Croatia booked the ticket for the Olympic Games.
Yesterday, Croatia lost the semifinal match against Montenegro after the penalty shootout. Today, they came out as the winners of the drama.
Netherlands – France 10:9 (4:2, 1:3, 0:3, 5:1)
Netherlands: Veenhuis 3, Van Ijperen 3, Jansen 2, Lindhout 1,Gbadamassi 1 (Wagenaar 6 saves)
France: Marion-Vernoux 2, Vernoux 2, Canonne 2, Bouet 1, Missy 1, Crousillat 1 (Garsau 9 saves)
Extra player shots: Netherlands 4/9, France 5/8. Penalty shots: Netherlands 3/4, France -.
Four days ago, France had a four-goal lead (9:5) before the final quarter of the match against the Netherlands in the group stage, but the hosts secured a point in the end (11:11). Today’s encounter between the same rivals offered almost the same storyline, but the Dutch emerged as the winners.
The teams were in a neck-and-neck race during the first half. At the middle break, it stood 5:5. France took control in the third quarter, and entered the final period with an 8:5 advantage. But, the hosts were able to come back. After less than three minutes of play in the last quarter, they equalized – 8:8. Ugo Crousillat gave the French a 9:8 lead. The Dutch responded with two quick goals and earned a 10:9 advantage, with 02:23 remaining on the clock. France had a chance to equalize in the last attack, but Wagenaar saved a very good shot from Crousillat two seconds from the end.
Georgia – Canada 18:10 (4:2, 8:3, 3:2, 3:3)
Georgia: Magrakvelidze 4, Jelaca 3, Shushiashvili 3, Bitadze 2, Elez 2, Baraldi 2, Imnashvili 1, Jakhaia 1 (Razmadze 7 saves, Shubladze 2 saves)
Canada: D’Souza 5, Djerkovic 2, Patterson 1, M.Spooner 1, Cote 1 (Radenovic 1 save, Reiher 8 saves)
Extra player shots: Georgia 8/10, Canada 5/10. Penalty shots: Georgia 0/1, Canada 3/3.
Georgia defeated Canada for the second time in Rotterdam. On Tuesday, the Georgians beat Canada by three goals (14:11) and secured crucial points in a race for 3rd place in Group A. Today, the Georgians cruised to the win after demolishing the North Americans in the first two quarters.
Montenegro – Netherlands 13:7
Greece – France 17:14 (PSO)
Georgia – Croatia 6:15
Canada – Russia 9:17
Classification 5 – 8
Netherlands – Georgia 14:11
France – Canada 11:9
Classification 1 – 4
Montenegro – Croatia 14:12 (PSO)
Greece – Russia 13:10
Seventh-place game: Georgia – Canada 18:10
Fifth-place game: Netherlands – France 10:9
Third-place game: Croatia – Russia 25:24 (PSO)
Final: Montenegro – Greece 10:9
The draw for the Olympic Games will be held this evening in Rotterdam, shortly after the final game.
Pot 1: Italy and Spain
Pot 2: Serbia and Hungary
Pot 3: USA and Australia
Pot 4: South Africa and Kazakhstan
Pot 5: Montenegro and Greece
Pot 6: Croatia and Japan
Pot 1: USA and Spain
Pot 2: Russia and Australia
Pot 3: Hungary and Netherlands
Pot 4: Canada and China
Pot 5: South Africa and Japan