Italy is the big winner of Day 4 of the World Cup Division 1.
The “Settebello” produced a magnificent comeback to beat Croatia in Group A in Zagreb. The Croats controlled the match in the first three quarters. The hosts had a five-goal lead heading into the final quarter. Early in the fourth period, the European champions were four goals ahead of the Italians (13:9). But, the silver-medalists from the 2022 World Championships made a 5:0 series after the Croats’ 13th goal and earned a 14:13 victory.
Yesterday, Italy beat Hungary narrowly (9:8). With two wins in the derbies, Italy almost ensured one of two available tickets for the Final Eight from Group A. Until the end of the tournament, Italy will play against the USA (which is qualified as a host) and France.
As expected, Hungary defeated Japan convincingly (17:7).
Serbia earned essential points in its efforts to book the ticket for California. The Olympic champions defeated Montenegro 11:9 in the derby of the day in Group B in Podgorica. The Serbs had a strong third quarter to take the lead and held on for the victory.
Greece ran over Australia (20:5) in the second match of Day 4 in Podgorica.
Italy – Croatia 14:13 (2:4, 4:4, 1:4, 7:1)
Italy: Del Lungo, Di Fulvio 2, Alesiani, Marziali 3, Ferrero, Condemi 1, Renzuto Iodice 2, Echenique 1, N.Presciutti 1, Bruni 1, Di Somma 2, Dolce 1, Massaro. Head coach: Campaagna.
Croatia:Bijac, Buric, Fatovic 1, Duzevic, Lazic 1, Bukic 1, Biljaka, Zuvela, Marinic Kragic 4, Vrlic, Basic 3, Kharkov 2, Popadic. Head coach: Tucak.
Croatia got off to a great start. The Croats, who had great support from the packed stands, earned a 3:0 lead in the first five minutes. After the hosts’ third goal, Italy got a chance to score from the penalty line, but Bijac saved a shot from Di Somma and additionally boosted his team’s self-confidence. The hosts kept Italy goalless until the 7th minute when Marziali converted a man-up. Renzuto added another power-play goal and Italy came very close with 52 seconds left on the clock (2:3). However, Basic scored an action goal shortly after and Croatia headed into the second period with a 4:2 lead.
Basic converted a man-up in the host’s first possession in the second half and Croatia regained a 3-goal lead. Italy cut the deficit to one (5:6, 6:7). Still, the Croats had a 2-goal lead at halftime as Jerko Marinic Kragic converted a man-up for 8:6.
Renzuto halved the deficit with a man-up in the 18th minute (7:8). But, the Croats ruled the field in the third quarter. Jerko Marinic Kragic scored two power-play goals for 10:7. Kharkov made it 11:7 from a counter-attack. Marinic Kragic sent the ball into the net from the 5m line 69 seconds before the last break, Croatia went to 12:7 and it seemed that the contest was over.
The Italians scored two quick goals in the first minute of the fourth period (Condemi and Presciutti) for 9:12, but Kharkov scored from a 6 on 5 shortly after, and Croatia earned a 13:9 lead. However, nobody saw what was coming.
Italy rose from the dead. The rhythm of the game changed completely. Italy dominated, while Croatia started sinking. Lorenzo Bruni leveled at 13:13 with 80 seconds left on the clock. That was followed by another unsuccessful attack from Croatia. The hosts lost the ball. Francesco Di Fulvio set the final score with a goal from 6 meters with 23 seconds to go – 14:13. Immediately after, Croatia’s head coach Ivica Tucak called a time-out to set up the last attack, but there was no goal. Del Lungo saved a shot from Basic in the last second.
Italy emerged as the winner of a big thriller and took revenge for a 10:11 loss to Croatia in the semifinals of the European Championships in Split.
Croatia will seek its chance to qualify for the tournament in Los Angeles in the match against Japan and in the last derby of the tournament, against Hungary.
Japan – Hungary 7:17 (2:4, 2:4, 2:5, 1:4)
Japan: Tanamura,Adachi 1, Watanabe 1, Ogihara 1, Nitta, Suzuki, Date 1, Takata, Arai, Inaba 2, Okawa 1, Araki, Sasano. Head coach: Shiota.
Hungary: Levai, Angyal 2, Manhercz 2, Aranyi, Vamos 3, Molnar 1, Nagy, Burian 1, Nemet 3, Fekete 3, Vismeg 1, Ven.Vigvari, Vogel. Head coach: Zs.Varga.
Hungary was still without injured Szilard Jansik, but goalkeeper Soma Vogel was on Hungary’s roster for the first time at the tournament in Zagreb. Vogel jumped into the water only in the fourth quarter.
The Japanese fought hard and were motivated, as usual. But the Japanese had no chance against Hungary, which arrived in Zagreb without Denes Varga and Gergo Zalanki and couldn’t count on Jansik after the 1st game.
Hungary took an opening 3:0 lead. Japan trailed 2:4 at the first break, but Hungary doubled its advantage (6:2) shortly after the beginning of the second quarter with two power-play goals (Manhercz and Molnar). Japan reduced the gap to three twice (3:6 and 4:7), to see Hungary’s 3:0 run. Nemet closed the first half by scoring in the very last second. Vismeg and Vamos netted in the early stage of the second half to give Hungary a 10:4 lead. The Europeans increased the margin to ten (17:7) by the end of the match.
After the third loss, Japan has no chance of qualifying for the Final Eight. The challenging matches against the USA and Croatia are ahead of Hungary, which mustn’t make mistakes in the remaining two games. It needs two wins to advance to the F8. If there are no big surprises, an encounter between Croatia and Hungary on March 14 will probably be decisive in the battle for the last available F8 ticket in this group.
1. Italy 3 games – 9 points
2. Hungary 3 – 6
3. Croatia 3 – 6
4. USA 3 – 6*
5. France 3 – 0
6. Japan 3 – 0
*The USA is already qualified for the Final Eight as the host
DAY 5 (March 12)
Croatia – Japan (18:30)
France – Italy (20:30)
Hungary and USA bye
Montenegro – Serbia 9:11 (2:2, 3:3, 2:5, 2:1)
Montenegro: Tesanovic, Mrsic, Banicevic, Averka, Cuckovic 2, Dj.Radovic 2, Vidovic 1, Ukropina 2, Perkovic, Spaic, Matkovic 1, Va. Radovic 1, Djurovic. Head coach: Gojkovic.
Serbia: Mitrovic, Mandic 1, S.Rasovic 1, Randjelovic, Lazic, Lukic 1, Drasovic, V.Rasovic, Radulovic 3, Ubovic 2, Jankovic 1, Milojevic 2, Misovic. Head coach: Stevanovic.
Montenegro and Serbia have young teams of similar qualities, so neither of the sides was a favorite. The balanced battle in the first half proved that there was no significant difference between the two teams.
Montenegro took the lead four times. Serbia leveled on each occasion. In the 13th minute, the visitors went ahead for the first time. One of the youngest on the Serbian team, Vuk Milojevic converted a man-up from a close-range shot for 5:4. Djuro Radovic leveled from a penalty shot. Serbia was increasingly aggressive in the final minutes of the first half, but couldn’t regain the lead. Petar Tesanovic did a great job, posting four saves in the last 60 seconds.
Just as in the matches against Australia and Greece, the third quarter was the best part of Serbia’s play. At the beginning of the second half, the team quickly exchanged extra player goals (Strahinja Rasovic netted for Serbia, and Ukropina for Montenegro). But, after Ukropina’s equalizer, the Serbs’ storm started. They dictated the pace in the third quarter and scored four unanswered goals in 04:10 minutes and jumped to 10:6. Vasilije Radovic closed the third quarter, scoring for 7:10.
Montenegro was a better rival in the fourth period, opened by Uros Cuckovic, who scored an excellent goal. He stole the ball and started a counterattack, swimming almost the entire length of the field to make it 8:10. But, Milojevic responded with an extra player goal for 8:11.
The Montenegrins’ deep defense in the fourth quarter didn’t leave much space for the Serbs, who didn’t find a way to create scoring opportunities. At the other end of the pool, Montenegro had a lot of good chances in the fourth period, but only Matkovic hit the back of the net (30th minute). Serbia kept the lead and recorded a valuable win, primarily because of an excellent performance by Branislav Mitrovic. The experienced goalkeeper posted several saves in crucial moments of the fourth period.
At the end, Serbia had a very good percentage of extra player shots – 6/9. Montenegro scored five goals with a man-up, even though it had more chances than Serbia (5/14).
“We knew that it would be a challenging game.They play at home and have a very young and aggressive team. We secured the victory thanks to defense and we are happy to be one step closer to Los Angeles”, Marko Radulovic, the best scorer of the game said.
Greece – Australia 20:5 (7:0, 3:1, 3:2, 7:2)
Greece:Zerdevas, Genidounias 2, Skoumpakis 1, Kalogeropoulos 1, Fountoulis, Papanastasiou 5, Gkillas 1, Argyropoulos 2, Nikolaidis 3, Kakaris 2, Dervisis 1, Vlachopoulos 2. Tzortzatos. Head coach: Vlachos.
Australia: Porter, Nangle 1, Berehulak 1, Negus, Power 1, Lambie, Pavillard, Mardsen 1, A.Ford, Putt, Poot, Edwards 1, Hedges. Head coach: Hamill.
Few expected that Australia could surprise Greece. But, on the other side, nobody could expect that the game between the Olympic silver medalists and the second-best non-European team, would turn into a one-sided contest already in the opening minutes.
The first quarter was training for the Greek goal-getters. The Europeans led 7:0 after the first eight minutes, even though they missed two penalty shots in the opening quarter. Dervisis gave Greece an 8:0 lead shortly before Australia scored its first goal in the match , which happened in the 12th minute (Edwards 1:8). The game’s rhythm was slow in the middle two quarters, but Greece controlled the match. Australia was aware that the comeback was impossible. Still, after the third period, it seemed that the Australians could avoid a double-digit defeat. But, Greece added some sped up in the fourth quarter and sank Australia with a 20:5 victory.
The goalkeepers’ statistics say something about the game and Greece’s domination in all aspects of water polo. The Greeks’ goalkeepers (Zerdevas and Tzortzatos) combined only seven saves. Australia’s goalkeepers Porter and Hedges collected 11 saves.
1.Spain 3 games – 9 points
2. Greece 3 – 6
3.Serbia 3 – 6
4. Montenegro 3 – 3
5. Georgia 3 – 3
6. Australia 3- – 0
DAY 5 (March 12)
Montenegro – Australia (17:30)
Spain – Serbia (19:30)
Greece and Georgia bye
For the full schedule, live scores and statistics, visit Total Waterpolo Arena
More articles about the World Cup and the former World League