Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia started a new Olympic cycle with wins in the 1st round of the European Qualifications for the World League Super Final.
Hungary convincingly beat Montenegro in the match of Group A in Gyor (14:9).
The other two games played today offered more excitement. Olympic champion Serbia defeated World Champion Italy 12:9 in Sabac (Group B)
Croatia was the only team that recorded an away win. The Croats edged out Greece, the runner-up of the Tokyo Olympics, in a game in Athens – 12:11.
The fourth match scheduled for today (Germany – France) has been postponed due to coronavirus cases, as we reported yesterday.
There are only three rounds in the group stage of the European qualifications, and eight of the 12 teams will pass through them. Thus, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia practically secured a place in the Final Eight of the European qualifiers after winning the first round. Moreover, if there are no surprises in the next two rounds, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary will finish at the top of their groups.
Today, the Hungarian Water Polo Federation confirmed that the F8 would be staged in Budapest between April 14 and 16.
Hungary – Montenegro 14:9 (4:1, 4:3, 3:2, 3:3)
Hungary: Vigvari 4, Manhercz 3, Jansik 2, Zalanki 1, Erdelyi 1, Mezei 1, Vadovics 1, Bedo 1.
Montenegro: Mrsic 2, Ukropina 2, Spaic 2, Petkovic 1, Popadic 1, Perkovic 1.
Some of the key players were missing from both teams today. Still, the hosts had a more experienced squad in today’s game and they were favorites. After a slow start (the first goal was scored in the fifth minute), Hungary earned a 3-goal lead in the last three minutes of the first period (4:1). Szilard Jansik converted a man-up early in the second quarter to stretch the margin to four (5:1). The Montenegrins halved the deficit (4:6), but Hungary re-built a 4-goal lead with two goals at the finish of this quarter (8:4).
The home side controlled the match. Led by Kristztian Manhercz and youngster Vendel Vigvari, Hungary went to 14:7 midway through the fourth period. Aleksa Ukropina netted two goals in the remaining time to reduce the gap.
Germany – France postponed
Serbia – Italy 12:9 (3:1, 3:3, 3:2, 3:3)
Serbia: Mandic 3, S.Rasovic 3, Drasovic 2, Randjelovic 2, Lukic 1, V.Rasovic 1.
Italy: Marziali 3, Iocchi Gratta 2, FOndelli 2, N.Presciutti 1,Di Fulvio 1.
Last summer, Serbia outplayed Italy in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo tournament on its road to the 2nd consecutive Olympic gold. The same rivals met in Sabac this evening, but today’s encounter can’t be called a replay of the Olympic quarterfinals. Italy arrived with only three Olympians (Del Lungo, Di Fulvio, , N.Presciutti). Serbia had five Olympic champions on the roster (B.Mitrovic, Mandic, Randjelovic, Lazic, S.Rasovic).
Serbia, which had great support from the stands, opened the match with a 2:0 lead. Fondelli put the visitors on the scoreboard. Shortly after that goal, he had a chance to equalize from a penalty. But his shot went over the bar. Serbia added one more goal before the first break (3:1). After just 20 seconds of play in the second period, Dusan Mandic fired the ball from a distance for 4:1. Italy came very close to the hosts three times (3:4, 4:5, 5:6) in the following minutes. After Italy’s fifth goal, the Serbs netted two with a power-play advantage (Mandic and Drasovic) and went to 8:5. From that point on, the distance between the teams was never smaller than two goals.
In the 26th minute, Nicholas Presciutti converted a man-up to narrow the gap (7:9). In the middle of the quarter, the Serbs netted another two consecutive goals playing with a man up(Randjelovic and Drasovic). They earned a 4-goal lead for the first time (11:7), which was the end of the contest. Everything was clear.
Greece – Croatia 11:12 (4:3, 2:2, 1:3, 4:4)
Greece: Fountoulis 4, Vlachopoulos 2, Kapotsis 1, Papanastasiou 1, Argyropoulos 1, Solanakis 1, Kakaris 1.
Croatia: Fatovic 2, Vukicevic 2, Benic 2, Basic 2, Zovic 1, Bukic 1, Buric 1, Vrlic 1.
The encounter between Greece and Croatia was a close contest, even though the Greeks needed just 75 seconds to earn a 2:0 lead. The hosts had a 3:1 and a 4:2 advantage.
The visitors caught up with the hosts in the 10th minute, after Loren Fatovic scored from a 6 on 5 (4:4). Early in the fourth period, the Greeks built a 2-goal lead again – Fountoulis scored for 7:5. But, shortly after, Croatia took control. By the end of the third period, the Croats produced a 3:0 run (all three goals were with a man-up) and went in front for the first time (8:7).
Greece became the team that had to chase the rival. The hosts leveled at 8:8 and 9:9 in the early stage of the fourth quarter.
However, Croatia made a new series of three straight goals (Vukicevic, Zovic, Bukic). The visitors had a 12:9 advantage with 01:58 left on the clock. Greece couldn’t come back. Their 11th goal for the final score (11:12) came too late – seven seconds before the final buzzer.
A powerplay conversion made the difference in this match. Croatia scored nine goals with an extra player (9/14), while Greece converted only three of their 12 man-ups.
Group A: Hungary – Montenegro 14:9
Group B: Germany – France (postponed)
Group C: Serbia – Italy 12:9
Group D: Greece – Croatia 11:12
Group A: Montenegro – Romania
Group B: France – Spain
Group C: Italy – Slovakia
Group D: Croatia- Russia
Group A: Romania – Hungary
Group B: Spain – Germany
Group C: Slovakia – Serbia
Group D: Russia – Greece
April 14: Quarterfinals (1A – 2B; 1B – 2A; 1C – 2D; 1D – 2C).
April 15: Semifinals
April 16: Final day