Montenegro and Greece are the first two teams that have qualified for the final tournament of the World League (Tbilisi, June 26 – July 2).
Today, in the semifinals of the European Qualification Tournament in Debrecen, Montenegro convincingly defeated World champion Italy (14:10), while Greece edged out Spain in a very thrilling match with a last-gasp goal – 12:11.
The top three teams from the tournament in Debrecen will go to Tbilisi. Italy and Spain will battle for the last remaining ticket in the third-place match tomorrow. Greece and Montenegro and will play in the final game.
Hungary and Serbia will battle for 5th place. Croatia and France will meet in the encounter for 7th place.
Day 2, results – Semifinals (1-4): Italy – Montenegro 10:14, Greece – Spain 12:11; Semifinals (5 – 8): France – Serbia 6:10, Hungary – Croatia 13:11.
Italy – Montenegro 10:14 (3:4, 1:4, 3:5, 3:1)
Italy: Di Fulvio 3, Echenique 3, Luongo 2, Dolce 2.
Montenegro: Spaic 4, Petkovic 2, Perkovic 2, Matkovic 2, Popadic 1, Ukropina 1, Ivovic 1, Banicevic 1.
Montenegro and Italy had hard matches in the quarterfinals yesterday, but the Montenegrins, obviously, recovered better than the World champions.
There were a few twists and turns in the first quarter. The Montenegrins scored the first goal in the match, but Italy quickly responded with two goals to go in front (2:1), for the first and the last time. But not for a while. Montenegro took control. The bronze medalists at the 2020 European Championships led 4:3 after the first quarter. They added two goals in the first two possessions in the second (Ukropina from an extra player and Ivovic from a penalty) for a solid 6:3 lead. At halftime, the distance between the sides was four goals (8:4), and Montenegro continued to dominate after the middle break. Italy’s defense couldn’t find a solution to stop Vladan Spaic and his teammates. In the 19th minute, Montenegro jumped to an 11:5 lead. After that, Marco Del Lungo was replaced by Gianmarco Nicosia in front of Italy’s goal. However, it was too late for a comeback. The World champions managed to reduce the gap, but Montenegro’s win wasn’t in danger.
Vladan Spaic led the winning team with four goals. All ten of Italy’s goals were scored by four players (Francesco Di Fulvio and Gonzalo Echenique scored four each).
Dejan Lazovic, the goalkeeper of Montenegro, posted 10 saves, while both Italian goalies collected five (Del Lungo 3 and Nicosia 2). The power-play goals also made a difference. Montenegro had a very good extra player efficiency percentage of extra player shots – 57,1 % (8 of 14). On the other side, Italy scored five goals with a man-up with a poor percentage (5/19).
The team of Italy was coached by an assistant coach Amadeo Pomillo because Alessandro Campagna was excluded for protest in the quarterfinal match against Hungary.
“We didn’t play well in defense and our powerplay didn’t improve since yesterday either. The first period was OK, but then we started missing our chances and Montenegro played really well in offense. It was our second game after a long time, we need to spend more time together to reach the level we once had. We have to rebuild our team so we have to use our time well until the Olympics.”
Vladimir Gojkovic, coach, Montenegro
“Yesterday we needed some luck and we were in an uncertain situation but today it changed, we played really well, we did some great things in offense. It was our goal to qualify for the Super Final, now we achieved that and hope to play one more game at this level. However, we still need to stay on the ground as our big task is to qualify for the Olympics so have to stay calm until Rotterdam.”
Quotes source: FINA Press Release
Greece – Spain 12:11 (2:3, 2:2, 4:1, 4:5)
Greece: Fountoulis 3, Papanastasiou 2, Skoumpakis 2, Argyropoulos 2, Genidounias 1, Dervisis1, Vlachopoulos 1.
Spain: Munarriz 3, Granados 2, Barroso 2, Famera 1, Fernandez 1, Perrone 1, Bustos 1.
The first half was an even contest, but Spain was ahead for most of the time. Greece didn’t take a lead until the middle break. The Spaniards had a 4:2 advantage with two minutes left in the second period. The Greeks leveled the score in the 16th minute (4:4), but eleven seconds before the middle break, Alberto Munarriz gave the Spaniards a 5:4 lead with his 3rd goal.
Konstantinos Genidounias kicked off the third quarter with an action goal for 5:5. In the following minutes, Dimitrios Skoumpakis and Stylianos Argyropoulos found the net and the Greeks earned a 2-goal lead (7:5). A minute and 47 seconds before the last break, Spain scored its first goal in the second half (Barroso from an extra for 6:7), but Ioannis Fountoulis converted a penalty for 8:6 in the 24th minute, and the Greeks entered the last period with a 2-goal advantage.
Spain managed to come back. Perrone equalized in the middle of the fourth period (9:9). Shortly after, the Greeks built a new 2-goal advantage. Papanastasiou and Skoumpakis hit the back of the net for 11:9. Still, the drama wasn’t over yet. Spain responded with two goals. Barroso converted a man-up for 10:11. Alvaro Granados hit the back of the net from a penalty to level the score 11:11 with 01:35 minutes remaining on the clock.
However, the Greeks had the last laugh. Their coach Theodoros Vlachos called a time-out 31 seconds before the end. They set up a good action, which was finished by Stylianos Argyropoulos’ goal for 12:11.
After that, Spain, the silver medalist at the last two major competitions (World and European Championships) had six seconds to equalize and secure a penalty shootout, but that proved wasn’t enough. Greece kept a minimal advantage and advanced to the final.
The statistics also, show that this was a very balanced battle. Greece scored five goals from an extra player (5/12), Spain four (4/9). Greece’s goalkeeper Konstantinos Galanidis blocked 12 shots, while Daniel Lopez (Spain) finished the match with 10 saves.
After the win, which was a little bit surprising, Greece coach Theodoros Vlachos said:
“The two teams know each other really well as most of the players meet on club level too and I think after three or four years my team finally play with confidence against Spain. This is great as Spain could play for the gold medal in the last three big tournaments so it’s a big win for us and may show that we are on the right track before the Olympic qualification tournament. I liked my players’ approach, how they kept going during the whole match, I can say that I was satisfied with their performance.”
David Martin, the head coach of the Spanish team, underlines that Spain plays without the first pick center-forwards (Tahull and De Toro) in Debrecen:
“Congratulation to Greece, they played really well today. It’s not easy to maintain a good level for three days, I think ours was not on the level we expected, Greece played much better today. We are without our center-forwards and the game we have to play requires more moves and I think we were a bit exhausted in the second half.”
Quotes source: FINA Press Release
France – Serbia 6:10 (3:3, 1:1, 1:3, 1:3)
France: Vanpeperstraet 2, Caumette 1, Vernoux 1, Crousillat 1, Camarasa 1.
Serbia: Prlainovic 3, Mandic 3, Filipovic 2, Dedovic 2.
Serbia started slowly today but avoided a surprise. By the middle of the first period, France earned a 2:0 lead and had a 3:1 advantage, but the Olympic champions managed to equalize in the finish of the first period (3:3). France regained an advantage two times (4:3 and 5:4). In the middle of the third quarter, the Serbs finally found their rhythm, they reduced the number of mistakes, and with three goals in 1:40 minutes, they went in front (7:5) before the final quarter. The favorite controlled the match in the last eight minutes.
Hungary – Croatia 13:11 (3:2, 4:6, 1:1, 5:2)
Hungary: Ven. Vigvari 3, Ger. Kovac 3, Manhercz 2, Sedlmayer 2, Angyal 1, A. Nagy 1, Hosnyanszky 1, Erdelyi 1.
Croatia: Fatovic 2, Jokovic 2, Bukic 2, Buslje 2, Dobud 1, Buric 1, Benic 1.
Hungary defeated Croatia thanks to a remarkable comeback in the final minutes of the game.
There were even 15 goals in the first half of the encounter. Hungary was the first team that earned a 2-goal lead (3:1). From the 8th to 12th minute, the Croats produced a 5:1 run and turned around a 2-goal deficit to a 2-lead (6:4). Hungary retook the lead shortly after (7:6). Still, Croatia responded with two goals and entered the third period with a slim advantage (8:7).
Before the final quarter, the Croats led 9:8. Gergo Kovacs equalized in the first possession in the third quarter, but Croatia regained a 2-goal lead in the 27th minute. However, they couldn’t score in the last five minutes, while the hosts netted four goals. Hungary equalized in the 31st minute (Adam Nagy from an extra). Just 13 seconds from the end, Krisztian Manhercz added another power-play goal for 12:11. Then, all the Croats, including the goalkeeper, went in front of Hungary’s goal in an effort to secure a penalty shootout. But, the hosts’ goalkeeper Soma Vogel (who replaced Viktor Nagy and played all 32 minutes), saved Benic’s shot three seconds from the end. In the last second, Daniel Angyal got the ball and sent it into the unguarded net for the final score – 13:11.
Quarterfinals (January 8)
France – Greece 3:12
Montenegro – Croatia 15:14 (PSO)
Italy – Hungary 9:8
Played in March: Serbia – Spain 11:13
Semifinals (January 9)
For places 1st – 4th
Italy – Montenegro 10:14
Greece – Spain 12:11
For places 5th – 8th
France – Serbia 6:10
Hungary – Croatia 13:11
Matches for the final classification (January 10)
7th-place match: France – Croatia (14.45)
5th-place match: Serbia – Hungary (16.30)
3rd-place match: Italy – Spain (18.15)
Final: Montenegro – Greece (20.00)
*The schedule is subject to change