The 19th Fina World Men’s Junior Water Polo Championships in Belgrade ended with a dramatic penalty shoot out between Greece and Croatia. With flaweless precision and not a single missed penalty, Greece celebrated their world title, with Croatia as runner up and Serbia in 3rd place. The Serbian hosts defeated the Hungarian youngsters in the bronze medal match leading up to the grand final.
In a game where Serbia never lost their lead against relentless Hungarians, the hosts were able to touch up yesterday’s disappointment with the semi final loss against Greece. They successfully concluded the tournament on their home turf with a Bronze Medal around their necks.
Serbia’s Petar Velkic reviewd their performance for Total Waterpolo:
Today you placed 3rd, are you satisfied looking back at the semi finals?
Of course we are, we fought hard for this.Unlucky game against Greece, we gave it everything we have, but it is what it is. We left our hearts in the pool, gave it our maximum and always played with full strength. 3rd place is good, but we could have gone all the way.
A great tournament culminated in a dramatic final, where the Croatian youngsters were able to take the lead in the beginning. The strong willed Greeks never gave up, fought their way back and take the lead towards the end of the game. Croatia’s players showed nerves and were able to score the equalizer during the last few seconds of the game, dragging the game into the penalty shoot out, where the Greeks showed what they are made of. Without missing a single penalty, they defeated Croatia in the most dramatic fashion and secured the world title.
We talked to the euphoric Alexandros Papanastasiou immediately after their dramatic victory, who was struggling to find the right words:
Congratulations! How do you fell about this great victory?
I can’t really discribe this feeling. I never felt this way and I already hope to be able to feel it again someday. Right now I can’t discribe anything, sorry.
You had a tough game against Spain, against Serbia, now a penalty shoot out in the finals. How did you manage to get through all that?
I don’t really know – It was our training, our will power, all of these things…I actually haven’t realized yet what has happened yet. My feelings are so intense, the games were really tough. The comeback against Spain, which we played really well gave us this victory. Again we were behind and again we came back.
Croatia’s Fran Cubranic, who was voted best goalkeeper of the tournament, was able be satisfied despite the bitter loss in the finals:
If somebody told me that we would end up with a silver medal, I would have been really worried. The only game we lost was in this vague fashion by penalty shoot out. My brothers and I are definetly dissappointed, but we cannot be unhappy, since this is the second place on the world championships.
Are you happy with your own perfromance?
I think that the goalkeeper is a key figure in any team. A good performance always has great impact the overall game. I can say, that I’m definetly satisfied.
With this we can put the 19th Fina World Men’s Junior Water Polo Championships in Belgrade 2017 in the books and set our sights for the upcoming season’s national leagues. We hope to see many of the youngsters strive for new hights in their own teams and can’t wait to see them live up to their potential.