Croatia and Italy are the last two teams that secured top spots in their respective groups and places in the quarterfinals at the men’s tournament at the 35th European Championships in Split. They joined Spain and Hungary, which secured 1st places in their groups earlier. Actually, Hungary didn’t mathematically cement 1st place before the last round, but only a miracle could move them from the top position.
The highlight of the day was a derby of Group B, in which Greece and Croatia faced off. The Croats didn’t score a goal in the first half of the match. Still, they earned a point in a low-scoring encounter (5:5) and kept first place.
Italy beat Montenegro 13:8 and confirmed 1st place in Group A
The third important game of today’s program was an encounter between Romania and the Netherlands, which was decisive for 2nd place in Group C. The game ended with no winner (12:12), and the Dutch stayed in 2nd place because of a better goal difference.
There were no surprises in the other matches, but France had to work hard to beat Malta.
Day 3 – results, Group A: Italy – Montenegro 13:8, Georgia – Slovakia 16:11. Group B: Croatia – Greece 5:5, Malta – France8:15, Group C: Romania – Netherlands 12:12, Germany – Spain 6:17, Group D: Hungary – Israel 23:4, Serb – Slovenia 17:6.
Crossover round (September 4): Montenegro – Romania, Georgia – Netherlands, Greece- Israel, France – Serbia (the full medal to the medals is at the end of the article)
Italy – Montenegro 13:8 (1:0, 3:3, 6:2, 3:3)
The derby of the group was an even contest for more than two quarters and a half. Italy secured a win in the second half of the third period. The “Settebello” netted five unanswered goals in the last 03:34 minutes wof the third quarter, they jumped from 5:5 to 10:5 and Montenegro couldn’t come back.
The first half was a close, defensive battle. Italy scored an opening goal already in the second minute, and shortly after had a chance to double the advantage from a penalty shot. Still, Lazovic saved a shot from Di Somma. Both defenses worked well in the first quarter. Montenegro had three man-ups in the first eight minutes, but didn’t convert a single.
Giacomo Cannella scored from a penalty shot for 2:0. But Montenegro caught up with the rival shortly after and leveled at 2:2 and again at 3:3. Cannella gave Italy a 4:3 lead before the third period. Montenegro missed a chance to equalize for the third time in the dying seconds of the first half. But Mrsic made it 4:4 in the 19th minute, with a very nice goal. Italy responded immediately (Marziali with a man-up), but Djurdjic converted Montenegro’s 6 on 5 to equalize (5:5).
The crucial period started in the 21st minute. Dolce scored with an extra player for 6:5, which was followed by one missed chance at each end of the pool. Then, Montenegro’s Popadic committed a personal foul in Italy’s half of the field. The “Settebello” started a counter-attack. Di Fulvio made no mistake, and scored for 7:5. Shortly after he added one more goal, Damonte made it 9:5. Montenegro lost the ball in its last attack in the third, and Italy got a new chance to score from a counter-attack. Just two seconds before the buzzer, Cannella found the net for 10:5.
Montenegro played well in the final period, but it couldn’t endanger Italy’s victory.
Giacomo Cannella and Vincenzo Dolce scored three goals eac for Italy. Vasilije Radovic and Bogdan Djurdjic netted two for Montenegro.
Alessandro Campagna, Italy’s head coach, said that he had expected a game like this was:
“We analyzed Montenegro, which plays very well. They are aggressive, play nice water polo. I think that we had more endurance in this high-intensity game. In the crucial period, in the second half of the third period, we played without centre-forward, but with several fast players, with a lot of swimming and several stolen ballswe made the difference.
Vladimir Gojkovic, Montenegro’s head coach, wasn’t unsatisfied:
“We played a good game, with the exception of the last four minutes of the third period. Our opponent was the team which showed the most this summer. We could score a few more goals in the first half, but all in all, we played well today. Before the Split tournament, I said that we had improved our play since the World Championships, and I believe that we proved that.”
Georgia – Slovakia 16:11 (5:1, 4:3, 4:3, 3:4)
The Georgians collected three points that sent them to the cross-over round. Georgia made a crucial difference in the first five minutes. It quickly earned a 5:0 lead, and Slovakia never recovered from an opening shock. The Slovaks reduced the gap to three early in the second period (2:5, 3:6). But the Georgians, who had a very good percentage of extra player shots (7/11), rebuilt a 5-goal lead before the middle break. In the second half, the difference was never smaller than five goals.
Dusan Vasic contributed to Georgia’s victory with four goals, and he added three assists and three steals.
The Georgians celebrated the victory, but that wasn’t the only reason they were all happy. Georgia’s goalkeeper Irakli Razmadze proposed to his girlfriend Liza after the match with Slovakia. Of course, she said “Yes”, so he achieved two wins in one day.
Greece – Croatia 5:5 (2:0, 0:0, 1:3, 2:2)
Genidnounias broke the deadlock in the 5th minute of the big derby, while Vlachopoulos doubled the Greeks’ advantage three minutes after. Croatia had more chances in the first eight minutes, but goalkeeper Limarakis was outstanding. Still, it should be mentioned that Bijac was also, up to the task.
Limarakis boosted his team’s self-confidence with a couple of new saves at the beginning of the second quarter. But, as the middle break was approaching, Croatia had more trouble creating good scoring opportunities. However, the hosts played well in defense, so they were in the game even though they didn’t find the net in the first 16 minutes.
The Croats, finally, got on the scoreboard in the 18th minute when Marko Zuvela converted a double-man up. It didn’t take a while before the Croats leveled at 2:2. Centre-forward Josip Vrlc equalized from a nice backhander.
Papanastasiou gave the Greeks a 3:2 lead, Kharkov leveled at 3:3. Four seconds before the end of the quarter, Vlachopoulos scored for 4:3. Still, the referees canceled the goal, because one Greek player (Skoumpakis) was closest to the goalkeeper inside the 2m area at the moment of Vlachopoulos’ shot.
Early in the fourth period, Croatia went ahead for the first time. Jerko Marinic Kragic converted a man-up for 4:3. But, Greece answered with two goals in the middle of the period and regained a lead (Papanastasiou and Vlachopoulos). Still, immediately after, Buric scored after a nice Lazic’ assistance for 5:5.
Greece’s goalkeeper Limarakis was a hero of the first half, but Croatia’s number 1 Marko Bijac was the man of the match. He posted several excellent saves in the dying minutes and, primarly because of his performance, Croatia saved a point and confirmed 1st place in the group.
Bijac posted 12, and Limarakis 15 saves.
After Bijac’s 12th save, 33 seconds were left on the clock. The Croats didn’t score in their last attack/ Three seconds before the end, Greece called a time-out and set up a 7 on 6. But, there was no enough time. Genidounias’s long-distance shot in the last second went wide.
Ivica Tucak, Croatia’s head coach, said:
“We expected a hard match, of course, Greece is one of the best teams in the world. We didn’t play well, we felt a big pressure during the game, but the most important thing is that we advanced to the quarterfinals.”
Theodoros Vlachos, Greece’s head coach, commented:
“I am satisfied with the performance of my team against an excellent team. We were focused and played as we agreed. We were very close to a win over Croatia in front of their fans. We could score one of two goals more, and that could be decisive.
Malta – France 8:15 (1:1, 2:4, 4:3, 1:7)
France beat Malta convincingly, but, as the score by the quarters says, the French proved who the favorite was only in the fourth quarter.
France was far from its best today. A very motivated and brave team of Malta knew how to punish all the French’s mistakes.
Only two goals were scored in the first period, and Galea gave Malta a 2:1 lead early in the second. France managed to build a 2-goal lead by the middle break (5:3). Still, Malta didn’t surrender. Plumpton halved the distance in the 17th minute (4:5). France struggled in the attack. However, it earned a 3-goal advantage in the third period (7:4, 8:6). Malta was able to come close at the finish of the third quarter, scoring two goals in the last 94 seconds (Zammit and Gialanze). Everything was open before the final period (7:8).
But, France tightened its defense in the final period. The French played a strong pressing and held Malta far from their goal. France scored three goals in the first two minutes of the fourth, went to 11:7 and took control.
France won, but today’s performance doesn’t promise much before the match against Serbia in the crossover round, although Serbia didn’t play well in the group stage.
2. Greece 5
3. France 4
4. Malta 0
Romania – Netherlands 12:12 (3:3, 2:3, 3:4, 4:2)
The big match of the day in Group C was an encounter between the Netherlands and Romania, which decided 2nd place in the group. The Dutch led most of the time. They even had a 3-goal advantage. However, the Romanians proved that they had reached a high level of shape and fought hard unti the end. Still, the players of the Netherlands barely saved a point, which was enough for them to keep 2nd place, because they have a better goal difference.
The Netherlands scored in the first two possessions and earned an early 2:0 lead. Still, the Romanians started coming back in the middle of the first period. They leveled at 2:2, 3:3, 4:4, and 5:5. The Dutch had a 6:5 advantage at halftime, as Gielen converted a man-up with 42 seconds to go.
Fulea equalized early in the third – 6:6. Midway through this quarter, the Netherlands scored three unanswered goals, went to 9:6 and some believed that everything was decided. In the 24th minute, the Romanians reduced the gap to one (8:9), but just three seconds before the last break, Janssen scored from a 6 on 5, and the Dutch entered the final period leading 10:8.
The same player opened the fourth quarter with a goal from a counterattack. Three goals separated the rivals again (11:8). But, Romania was able to come back once more. The Romanians were coming closer and closer. In the 30th minute, Georgescu found the net from the left and leveled at 11:11. Romania had a chance to go in front, but it lost the ball 77 seconds before the end. The player who stole the ball – Lucas Gielen, finished the next Dutch attack. He fired the ball from seven meters for 12:11 with 54 seconds left on the clock. And that was the end of the contest. Romania leveled with a man-up at 00:21, but after that, the Dutch kept the ball and the golden point.
Romania’s Tudor Fulea was outstanding with an excellent percentage of shots (6/7) and two assists, but it wasn’t enough for a win. Pascal Janssen scored three goals for the Netherlands.
The Netherlands will have quite an easier task in the crossover round, since it will face Georgia, while Romania’s rival will be one of the medal contenders.
Harry van der Meer, the head coach of the Netherlands, commented:
This was a really difficult game. We played pretty well in the first half. But we lost one of our players because of an injury (centre-forward Bilal Gbadmassi got injured in the 1st half – Ed). After that we got into a hard situation. During the whole match we didn’t show our best, but we knew the draw is going to be enough for the second place in the group. I’m happy that we could save a point and have a chance to go to the quarter-finals.
Bogdan Rath, Romania’s coach, said:
“In the first two quarters, we made some mistakes. I think the Netherlands scored goals from our mistakes, that was a kind of a gift. Usually, I’m happy if we don’t lose a match at the Championships. But now, I should say that I’m sad, because we had the chance to win. I’m not too satisfied with our performance, but on the other hand, I’m happy that we had the chance to win against the Netherlands and finish 2nd in the group.”
Germany – Spain 6:17 (1:5, 1:7,4:3, 0:2)
The game couldn’t affect the standings in this group, but Spain displayed a very good performance and proved too strong for the Germans at this moment. Germany is one of the biggest disappointments of the Split tournament.
Cente-forward Roger Tahull (4 goals), Alvaro Granados (3) and Alberto Munarriz (3) were Spain’s power engines today. The world champions had a 10-goal lead already at halftime (12:2). The teams exchanged the goals in the third period, but this quarter belonged to the Germans. Two minutes before the last break, Zoran Bozic converted a man-up for 6:15. It was Germany’s first goal with a power play advantage in Split. But, today the Germans didn’t have many opportunities to score with an extra player. Spain played disciplined in the defense and committed only four personal fouls, so Germany’s conversion was 1/4.
After their sixth goal, the Germans couldn’t add any. They lost many balls in the fourth quarter, in which Spain scored two goals and stretched the margin to 11 – 16:7
1. Spain 9
2. Netherlands 4 (+6)
3. Romania 4 (0)
4. Germany 0
Hungary – Israel 23:4 (4:0, 7:2, 6:1, 6:1)
As expected, Hungary confirmed 1st place in the group with an easy win over Israel. The reigning champions rushed to a 7:0 lead (11th minute) before Israel scored its first goal. However, the Hungarians didn’t relax until the final buzzer, although everything was decided already in the first half. Their 23rd goal came just 50 seconds before the end.
Kristztian Manhercz, the best scorer of the match, had a perfect percentage of shots – 6/6.
Serbia – Slovenia 17:6 (5:2, 2:3, 6:1, 4:0)
The Serbs, playing without the most experienced players Randjelovic and Mandic, started slowly. As their head coach Dejan Savic said after the match, “they were sleepy” in the first half. Serbia made too many mistakes in defense, and missed too many chances in the attack. Slovenia made the most of it. After a 5:2 first period, Slovenia cut the deficit to one goal twice in the second quarter (4:5, 5:6). Strahinja Rasovic secured the Olympic champions a 2-goal lead before the second half (7:5).
After a 3-minute break, the game entered the rhythm everybody expected. Serbia played much better and dominated. Slovenia scored its last goal in the 18th minute. A 43-year-old veteran Matej Nastran (who played for Partizan Belgrade a long time ago), converted a man-up for 6:9. In the remaining time, the Serbs, led by Strahinja Rasovic (4 goals), produced an 8:0 series for a comfortable 17:6 victory.
4. Slovenia 0
Cross-over round (September 4)
Match 1: Montenegro – Romania (15:00)
Match 2: Georgia – Netherlands (16:30)
Match 3: Greece – Israel (19:00)
Match 4: France– Serbia (20:30)
Quarterfinals (September 6)
QF1: Hungary – winner match 1
QF2: Croatia – winner match 2
QF3: Spain – winner match 3
QF4: Italy – winner match 4
Semifinals: (September 8)
SF1: winners QF1 – QF3
SF2: winners QF2 – QF4
Finals (September 10)
Final: winner SF1 – winner SF2
Matches for classification 3rd – 8th
Semifinals (September 4)
Slovakia – Germany (10:00)
Malta – Slovenia (11:30)
For 15th place (09:00)
For 13th place (10:30)