Montenegro and the United States will play in the final of the 2021 Men’s World League in Tbilisi tomorrow.
Montenegro defeated Greece 8:4 in the derby of the semifinal day. Montenegro’s series of six consecutive goals in the second half was crucial for the win.
Team USA upset World champion Italy (10:8) in the second semifinal. That game saw one 4-minute suspension, which partly affected the outcome.
Montenegro will play in the World League final for the 4th time. The Montenegrins won the trophy in Podgorica in 2009 (an 8:7 victory over Croatia) and in Budapest three years ago (they defeated Hungary in a penalty shootout). In the 2010 final, played in Nis, Montenegro suffered a loss to Serbia after a penalty shootout.
The United States’ male water polo team has played for the gold medal twice and lost two finals to Serbia (3:7 in Genoa in 2008, and 6:10 in Huizhou in 2016)
Asian teams Japan and Kazakhstan will play for 5th place. Georgia and France will face off in the 7th-place match.
Day 5 – Semifinals 1st – 4th place: Greece – Montenegro 4:8, USA – Italy 10:8. Semifinals 5th – 8th place: France – Japan 10:16, Georgia – Kazakhstan 15:16 (PSO).
Day 6 – FINAL: Montenegro – USA, Bronze-medal match: Greece – Italy, For 5th place: Japan – Kazakhstan, For 7th place: France – Georgia.
Greece – Montenegro 4:8 (2:2, 1:0, 0:4, 1:2)
Greece:Genidounias 1, Kapotsis 1, Dervisis 1, Gkiouvetsis 1.
Montenegro:Matkovic 2, Ivovic 1, Brguljan 1, Perkovic 1, Ukropina 1, Spaic 1, Banicevic 1.
Extra player shots: Greece 2/3, Montenegro 4/8.
Montenegro reached the FINA World League final match for the fourth time in the country’s history after a hard defensive battle with Greece.
The Greeks and the Montenegrins faced each other for the second time in this season of the World League. Greece defeated Montenegro in the final of the European qualifications (12:7). But, Montenegro was better than Greece (10:9) in the final of the Olympic qualifications less than two months later.
Greece started better today and took a 1:0 lead in the 2nd minute (Kapotsis). The Montenegrins couldn’t find a way to broke Greece’s defense until the 7th minute when captain Brguljan converted a man up to equalize. But, Dervisis responded immediately, also with a power-play advantage. Montenegro’s Matkovic closed this period with a new goal from an extra-player shot – 2:2.
There were many missed shots, blocks, and saves in the second period of the game. The only goal in this quarter was scored 11 seconds before the end by Genidounias, who found the net for 3:2.
That goal encouraged the Greeks, but the Montenegrins dominated in the third period. In the middle of the quarter, center-forward Perkovic equalized -3:3. This goal put the Montenegrins on the right track. By the end of the 3rd period, Matkovic, Spaic and Ukropina added a goal each, for a 6:3 advantage.
Three minutes and 57 seconds before the end, Aleksandar Ivovic scored his first goal in the match (after seven missed, blocked, or saved shots) for 7:3. A minute later, Banicevic increased the margin to five (8:3) and closed the contest. Greece couldn’t come back. Gkiouvetsis scored a consolation goal in the 30th minute.
The teams’ best scorers were far from their best today. Greece’s captain Ioannis Fountoulis didn’t score a goal (0/5), while Konstantinos Genidounias had a poor percentage of shots (1/6), as well as Montenegro’s star Aleksandar Ivovic (1/8).
Montenegro’s goalkeeper Petar Tesanovic with 71,4 percentage of the saves (10/14) was one of the heroes, but the team effort led Montenegro to the final.
USA – Italy 10:8 (4:4, 2:3, 3:0,1:1)
USA: Daube 3, Vavic 2, Obert 2, Irving 2, Hooper 1.
Italy:Figlioli 2, Fondelli 2, Aicardi 2, Echenique 1, Di Fulvio 1.
Extra player shots: USA 7/13, Italy 1/6. Penalty shots: USA 1/2 , Italy 2/3.
The USA stunned Italy with a 2:0 lead. The Americans had a 2-goal advantage (3:1) in the 6th minute, but Italy responded strongly, with three straight goals, and went in front – 4:3. Still, Johnny Hooper leveled at 4:4 ten seconds before the end of the 1st period.
During the second period, the Italians built a 2-goal lead twice (6:4 and 7:5), but the USA cut the deficit before halftime (6:7).
Italy entered into the second half of the game without the MVP of the 2019 World Championships Francesco Di Fulvio, who committed his third personal foul 26 seconds before the middle break.
New problems for the Italians started in the early stage of the third quarter. In the 18th minute, center-forward Matteo Aicardi was red-carded for a brutality foul (he fouled Alex Bowen). The USA was awarded a penalty shot, and Italy played with a man fewer in the water in the next four minutes. Daube equalized from a penalty (7:7). Max Irving gave the Americans an 8:7 lead. Daube converted a double man-up in the 20th minute (Velotto was excluded) for 9:7.
Shortly after the USA’s 9th goal, Italy had a 5 on 4 (two Americans were excluded), but Cupido blocked Echenique’s shot.
Both sides had good opportunities to score in the final minutes of this quarter, but the USA kept a 9:7 advantage until the last break.
After four consecutive goals by the American team, Pietro Figlioli ended Italy’s goalless phase that lasted more than 11 minutes. He scored an action goal in the 26th minute for 8:9 and boosted the Italians’ hopes. But, they couldn’t find the net in the remaining six and a half minutes. Both goalkeepers did a great job in the final period. Three minutes and eight seconds before the last buzzer, Marko Vavic converted a man-up for 10:8. Italy had chances to come back and equalize, including one 6 on 5, but there were no goals, and the Americans booked a ticket for the final.
Hannes Daube was the best scorer (three goals). USA’s goalkeeper Drew Holland gave a significant contribution to the victory with 14 saves. Italy’s goalie Marco Del Lungo also posted 14 saves.
France – Japan 10:16 (4:3, 1:4, 5:2, 0:7)
France: Vernoux 4, Crousillat 4, Do Carmo 1, Lepoint 1.
Japan: Inaba 5, Adachi 2, Yoshida 2, Suzuki 2, Arai 2, Takata 1,Koppu 1, Shiga 1.
Extra player shots: France 3/5, Japan 1/ 4 Penalty shots: France 2/2, Japan 3/3.
Georgia – Kazakhstan 15:16 (2:3, 5:0, 3:4, 1:4, PSO 4:5)
Georgia: Vapenski 3, Shushiashvili 3, Jelaca 2, Bitadze 1,Magrakvelidze 1, Baraldi 1.
Kazakhstan: Vukasnovic 4, Shakenov 3, Ukumanov 1, Ruday 1, Medvedev 1, Markovic 1.
Extra player shots: Georgia 5/12, Kazakhstan 6/11 Penalty shots: Georgia 1/1, Kazakhstan 1/ 2.
Penalty shootout: Vapenski 1:0, Shakenov 1:1, Imnaishvili 2:1, Medvedev 2:2,Shushiashvili 3:2, Vuksanovic 3:3, Magrakvelidze 4:3, Ukumanov 4:4, Jelaca – post, Aubakirov – Shubladze saved, Vapenski – Makhmetov saved, 4:5 Shakenov.
Japan and Kazakhstan, the winless teams after four competition days, will face in the 5th-place match.
Japan convincingly defeated France thanks to an incredible 7:0 run in the fourth quarter. After the first period, France led 4:3. A 19-year-old center-forward Thomas Vernoux scored all four goals for France in the first eight minutes. The second period belonged to the Japanese, who were led by Yusuke Inaba. He scored five goals today (three from a penalty), and he has 19 goals on his tally before the last day. France equalized twice in the third period (8:8, 9:9). Denis Do Carmo gave the French a 10:9 lead shortly before the last break. It seemed that the fourth period would be a continuation of the big battle, but after the last break, the match turned into a lopsided contest. The Japanese showed something of their best and recorded a 16:10 victory.
Although Kazakhstan scored the first two goals in the match and had a 2:0 lead in the 6th minute, Georgia dictated the pace most of the time. The hosts went into the second half with a four-goal advantage (7:3). The Kazakhs opened the third period with three goals and came very close (6:7), but Georgia retook control and earned a 10:7 advantage before the final period. Three minutes before the end, Georgia was two goals ahead (11:9), but Kazakhstan secured a draw – 11:11 and after that, recorded a win in a penalty shootout.