Just like before the quarterfinals, our guest blogger Suhi List made his analysis and predicted the outcome of tomorrow’s big final of the Olympic male tournament, Greece – Serbia (Sunday, August 8, 09:30 CET).
The show of, arguably, the most awkward Olympic tournament is coming to an end. Titleholder Serbia will play Greece for the gold medal.
For most people, that’s quite an unexpected final showdown, but after everything we’ve seen here, in Tokyo, more than the deserved one.
Greece is still 7-1-0 here, with the only draw coming in a match against Italy where they had 6-2 at the end of a 3rd quarter and then losing the final one 0-4. What they have shown so far is close to incredible, mostly as Greece was always considered to be a highly talented team that lacks a top goalkeeper and a left-hander. The junior teams have ruled Europe and the world on the last couple of occasions, so they’ve introduced some new guys like Papanastasiou, Argyropoulos, and Gkiouvetsis, while some highly talented individuals like Kakaris will come after these Olympics. However, still no left-hander and ‘no’ goalkeeper. That can also be seen through Olympiacos, which is the main driver of everything that’s going on in Greek water polo, and they’ve been shopping for the same type of players.
Then came Tokyo, and what they have done with their unconventional defense has shown that Zerdevas is a much better goalkeeper than everyone thinks, while they can beat anyone on a given day without having a left-hander. The way each individual positions himself in a block when the opposing players are shooting is nothing short but perfection at this point, so Zerdevas exactly knows where he needs to stand. They’re not afraid to give fouls on the 5m line as that might be one of the crucial things against Serbia in the finals since that’s the individual quality which only, they possess.
In previous years the offensive part was mainly structured around Fountulis and Gounas on the left, same as Genidounas and Vlacholopoulos on the right. What they would do on their individual quality and extraordinary shooting would mean if Greece would win or lose. Today the things are rather different. There is no Gounas on the left, but Papanastasiou, who can also play right if needed, same as he’s done in Jug, but also, his defensive part is superior to many players in the world, despite his (very) young age. Gkiouvetsis is somewhat similar in offensive duties, while posts in man-up situations are much more dangerous than before. Also, plenty of utility players like Dervisis, Kapotsis, and, especially, Agyropolous and Skoumpakis play both ways very efficiently. Center pairing is the same for many years now, and even though they seem slow and uninterested, they get the job done, as they have always been. How Fountulis (first and foremost) and Vlacholopoulos have changed their game and gave the keys of the team to Genidounas is something that shows how teamwork and team spirit are working here. After so many years under Vlachos in the national team and Olympiacos, you’d expect they’re fed up, but they’ve proved wrong.
It’s hard to write something about Serbia that hasn’t already been written. The team that excites all the fans around the globe for many years, and the team which has peaked in Rio, or that’s what everyone thought until the victory against Spain yesterday. They had their fair share of ups and downs in Tokyo, but the way they trashed Italy in quarters, then rose above Spain and refs in semis is something that only the biggest teams can do.
As always, when going gets tough, they have such an incredible individual in Prlainovic, Filipovic, Mitrovic, and Mandic that they can turn around the match in 30 seconds. None other team comes even close to having that.
Their center-backs are probably the best they can get, especially in the offensive part, as both Jaksic and Alekisc are two-way defenders who will score when you leave them some space. Rasovic and Dedovic are first-time Olympians, but it hasn’t changed a single thing in the way how this team plays, while the same goes for Lazic is a backup center to veteran Pijetlovic.
One of the strengths here is Mitrovic on goal, who has been nothing short of remarkable so far, and it will be interesting to see how he performs in the finals.
One would expect that is not going to be a high-scoring match, as if it goes that way, then Serbia has an edge here. On the other hand, both matches that Serbia lost in this tournament were in the group stage, where they conceded 13 against Spain and 14 against Croatia. Greece main task will be to close down Filipovic and Mandic, but also not to concede many easy goals. With the way they play their defense in an extra-man situation, I would expect they’ll be more focused on left-handers, leaving some more room for Prlainovic, Mitrovic, and Rasovic, as you can’t cover them all. Of course, one of the main things here is how the refs will handle this one, and I certainly do hope we’ll see Kun and Severo, as that would mean we’ll have a fair one (hopefully). Greece virtue is patience in the attack, and they will try to make this match a slow one, with as fewer opportunities as possible, and to be very careful not to give Mitrovic on goal any chance to become a hero. They’re not afraid of winning a match throughout the defense. A logical choice, as per above is Greece +1,5 and under 17,5/18,5 goals.