Russia made a big surprise on Day 4 of the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Rotterdam. The Russians beat one of the biggest favorites Croatia– 14:13. Russia overcame a four-goal deficit in this match, won two points, and climbed into 1st place in Group B.
A derby was played in Group A, too. But, that match didn’t offer a lot of excitement. Montenegro opened the match excellently and defeated Greece – 8:4.
Montenegro still hasn’t mathematically secured 1st place in Group B. However, if there are no new surprises in the upcoming two days, Montenegro and Croatia will meet already in the semifinals.
The Romanians bettered Germany (12:7) and kept their Olympic hopes alive. Germany is still with no points and it won’t move from the last position in Group B.
Georgia defeated Brazil and secured 3rd place in Group A. Brazil finished the tournament as the last-placed team in Group A.
The last game of the day, the encounter between France and the Netherlands (Group B), was ended with no winner – 11:11. France was very close to a win, but the Dutch earned a point two seconds before the end. With this tie, the Netherlands qualified for the quarterfinals. Romania and France will face each other tomorrow. That game will be the battle for the last available spot among the best eight.
Day 4 – Group A: Greece – Montenegro 4:8, Georgia – Brazil 12:8, Canada bye, Group B: Romania – Germany 12:7, Croatia – Russia 13:14, Netherlands – France 11:11.
Men’s Olympic Qualifications, Rotterdam, Day 4
Greece – Montenegro 4:8 (1:4, 1:1, 1:1, 1:2)
Greece: Skoumpakis 1, Fountoulis 1, Argyropoulos 1, Mourikis 1.
Montenegro:Brguljan 2, Petkovic 2, Ukropina 1, Ivovic 1, Spaic 1, Matkovic 1.
A month ago, Greece beat Montenegro 12:7 in the final of the European Qualifications for the World League.
Today’s encounter between the same rivals produced a completely different storyline. Montenegro stunned Greece in the opening minutes and controlled the match until the end. Montenegro’s defense, commanded by captain Drasko Brguljan (he was picked for the player of the game), Aleksandar Ivovic, and goalkeeper Dejan Lazovic did a great job today.
Montenegro opened the match with a 4:0 blast. Montenegro needed less than seven minutes to score four goals. After that, they kept the advantage thanks to excellent defensive play. Dimitrios Skoumpakis put the Greeks on the scoreboard in the 8th minute.
The Greeks couldn’t recover from an opening shock. They managed to reduce the gap to two (2:4) in the 13th minute, but Montenegro rebuilt a 4-goal lead (6:2) early in the third period.
Greece came close once more – 4:6 (26th minute), But, Montenegro didn’t let the opponent find the net in the last six minutes, while it scored two goals for a nice 8:4 victory.
Georgia – Brazil 12:8 (3:1, 3:1, 2:1, 4:5)
Georgia: Shushiashvili 3, Elez 3, Baraldi 2, Vapenski 2, Jelaca 1, Jakhaia 1.
Brazil:B.Gomes 2, Real Vergara 2, G. Guimaraes 2, Freitas 1, Franco 1.
Georgia broke the rival in the first half. The Brazilians kept up with the Georgians in the first five minutes. Two minutes before the first break, the score was 1:1. However, Georgia scored three goals and jumped to a 4:1 lead. The South Americans came close just once (2:4 in the 13th minute). But, Georgia responded with two goals and had a 6:2 lead at halftime. After the middle break, there were no goals for a while. Marko Elez found the net in the 20th minute to make 7:2 and there was no way back for Brazil. Georgia dictated the pace until the end, although the fourth period belonged to the Brazilians.
Georgia can even finish in 1st place in the group. But the Georgians need a miracle for that achievement since they will play against Montenegro, while Greece (which edged out Georgia 11:10 on Day 1) face Canada tomorrow.
1 Montenegro 3 – 6
2 Greece 3 – 4*
3 Georgia 3 – 4*
4 Canada 3 – 2
5 Brazil 4 – 0
*equal points: Greece – Georgia 11:10.
Croatia – Russia 13:14 (5:3, 4:4, 4:4, 0:3)
Croatia: Fatovic 4, Vukicevic 2, Loncar 1, Jokovic 1, Bukic 1, Buslje 1, Milos 1, Vrlic 1, Butic 1.
Russia: Kharkov 5, Merkulov 2, Nanagev 2, Shepelev 1, Kiselev 1, Dereviankin 1, Ashaev 1, Pronin 1.
Russia played quite well in the first three competition days, and it has a very good team. Still, Croatia was the favorite. But, after today’s loss, it seems that yesterday’s game against France (13:10) wasn’t just one bad day for the Croats.
The Croats controlled the match for most of the time. They had a four-goal lead in the third quarter, but Croatia didn’t score a single goal in the last ten minutes, and Russia recorded the win after a remarkable comeback.
Croatia started slowly, just like yesterday, against France. Russia led 1:0 and 2:1, but, the Croats built a 2-goal advantage before the end of the first quarter (5:3). Ante Vukicevic stretched the margin to three – 6:3 in the 10th minute. The Russians tried to stay close as much as possible. During the second period, the difference was two or three goals. In one moment, the Croats had a 9:5 lead, but the Russians halved the distance to 7:9 before the middle break.
Ivan Nagaev opened the third period with a goal from an extra player for 8:9. Still, the Croats dominated the following minutes. Their captain Andro Buslje scored a goal from a distance for 13:9. It happened two minutes and 12 seconds before the end of the third quarter. Nobody could think that that was last Croatia’s goal in the match.
Russia didn’t give in. They reduced the gap to two before the final quarter 11:13. In the early stage of the fourth period, Konstantin Kharkov (who plays for the Croatian club Mladost) scored two goals with a power-play advantage to level the score – 13:13 with 04:55 minutes to go. Those were Kharkov’s 5th and 6th goals in the match. He was voted the player of the game.
The Croats got nervous, and they started making mistakes in the attack, while Russia played disciplined. Two minutes and a half before the final buzzer, Daniil Merkulov converted a man-up and put the Russians in front – 14:13. Merkulov plays in the Croatian League, as well as Kharkov. He arrived at Jug Dubrovnik a few years ago.
The Croats tried to come back. If they had won one point, they would have kept first place in the group. Croatia had a chance to equalize in the last attack. Fifteen seconds before the final buzzer, Andro Buslje sent the ball into the net from a long-distance shot. But, the referees annulled the goal because Croatia’s center-forward Vrlic was in the two-meter area in front of Russia’s goal.
Most of Russia’s goals came after personal fouls. Russia had an excellent percentage of the extra player shots (10 of 12), and scored one goal from a penalty (1/1). Croatia netted four goals with a man-up (4/8), and had one chance from a penalty but didn’t score.
Everything is still open in this group. Russia has to beat the Netherlands tomorrow to keep 1st place. Croatia will meet last-placed Germany tomorrow. The Croats will have a chance to get back atop the group, only if the Dutch defeat Russia tomorrow.
Romania – Germany 12:7 (1:1, 4:4, 4:1, 3:1)
Romania: Radu 3, Ghiban 3, Georgescu 2, Prioteasa 2, Antipa 1, Vatrai 1.
Germany: Cuk 2, Schuetze 2, Strelezkij 1, Stamm 1, Restovic 1.
Romania achieved the first victory in Rotterdam and stayed in the race for the quarterfinals.
The first half of the encounter between Romania and Germany was balanced, but the Germans took the lead just once (3:2). A 39-year-old Romania captain Cosmin Radu opened the third quarter with a goal for 6:5. Denis Strelezkij equalized in the 20th minute (6:6). After that, the Romanians kept Germany goalless for more than 11 minutes, while they scored five goals and went up 11:6 to secure the points.
Tomorrow, Germany will close the tournament with the game against Croatia. That will be Hagen Stamm’s last game on Germany’s bench. His resignation isn’t a consequence of poor results in Rotterdam. A 60-year-old head coach had earlier decided to leave the national team after the current Olympic cycle.
Netherlands – France 11:11 (2:3, 0:2, 3:4, 6:2)
Netherlands: Winkelhorst 3, Muller 3, Van Ijperen 1, Lindhout 1, Janssen 1, Koopman 1, Veenhuis 1.
France: Marzouki 3, Missy 2, Vernoux 2, Khasz 1, Crousillat 1, Vanpeperstraete 1, Babic 1.
This match was very similar to the derby game Russia – Croatia. France was the better rival for three quarters, but it didn’t keep a big advantage.
The sides were tied – 2:2, two and a half minutes before the first break. Then, the French tightened their defense. Goalkeeper Clement Dubois and his teammates blocked many shots by the Dutch. By halftime, France earned a 5:2 advantage. In the first attack in the third period, Jorn Winkelhorst ended the hosts’ scoreless phase that lasted 11 minutes for 3:5. But, shortly after, the French doubled their advantage (7:3) and maintained a four-goal difference until the last break (9:5).
It seemed that the French had secured three points. But, the Dutch produced a stunning comeback. They made a 4:0 run and leveled the score – 9:9 with 02:26 minutes to go. Still, France regained the lead immediately after – Khasz scored for 10:9. Winkelhorst responded from an extra – 10:10.
Just 19 seconds before the final buzzer Mehdi Marzouki scored his 3rd goal, and France was leading again – 11:10. But, the thriller wasn’t over yet.
The hosts had an extra man in the last attack (7 on 6)- the goalkeeper Wagenaar was in the center-forward position. And those tactics gave a good result. Just two seconds from the end, Jorn Muller scored an equalizer – 11:11 and the Netherlands booked the ticket for the quarterfinals.
If the match Romania – France ends in a draw, the criterion for the final classification will be the results of the games against
the highest placed team. At the moment, Russia is in 1st place. Romania won a point against Russia (9:9), while France lost to Russians (12:13). Because of that, Romania is ahead of France.
1 Russia 4 – 7
2 Croatia 4 – 6
3 Netherlands 4 – 5
4 Romania 4 – 3*
5 France 4 – 3*
6 Germany 4 – 0
*equal points – results against the highest-ranked team: Romania – Russia 9:9, France – Russia 12:13.
Day 5 (February 18)
Montenegro – Georgia (13:00)
Canada – Greece (14:30)
France – Romania (17:30)
Russia – Netherlands (19:00)
Croatia – Germany (20:30)