Serbia and Hungary completed the list of the semifinalists of the men’s Olympic water polo tournament in Tokyo.
The third quarterfinal of the men’s Olympic tournament was an encounter between two reigning champions. But, the game was a one-sided contest most of the time. Serbia, the Olympic champion from Rio, defeated World champion Italy 10:6, after leading 9:3 at halftime.
European champion Hungary defeated Croatia, which gold in 2012, and silver in 2016. Hungary recorded a 15:11 win, but this game was quite exciting, unlike the duel Italy – Serbia
The Serbs reached the semifinals for the 4th time in a row. Serbia debuted as an independent country in Beijing in 2008 and won the bronze. It finished 3rd in London in 2012, as well. The Serbs won the gold medal five years ago in Rio. In the first Olympic water polo final in the 21st century, in Athens in 2004, Serbia, as a part of the team of Serbia and Montenegro, lost to Hungary. Four years before, Serbia and Montenegro won the bronze.
Hungary won three gold medals in a row (2000, 2004, 2008), but after that, they failed to make the semifinals in London and Rio. They finished 5th both in 2012 and in 2016.
Serbia is the only of the semifinalists of the Rio Games that continue the battle for a medal in Tokyo. Five years ago, Serbia clinched the title, ahead of Croatia, Italy won bronze, and Montenegro finished 4th.
Day 6, Quarterfinals: USA – Spain 8:12, Greece – Montenegro 10:4, Italy – Serbia 6:10, Hungary – Croatia 15:11.
Reports of the first two quarterfinal matches – HERE
Semifinals (Friday): Greece – Hungary (15:30 local time/08:30 CET), Spain – Serbia (19:50 local time/12:50 CET).
Semifinals 5th – 8th place (Friday): Montenegro – Croatia (14:00 local time/7:00 CET), Italy – USA (18:20 local time/11:20 CET)
Italy – Serbia 6:10 (2:5, 1:4, 1:0, 2:1) – play by play and statistics
Italy: Del Lungo, Di Fulvio 1, Luongo 1, Figlioli, Presciutti 2, Velotto, Renzuto, Echenique, Figari 1, Bodegas 1, Aicardi, Dolce. Head coach: Campagna.
Serbia: B.Mitrovic, Mandic 2, Dedovic 1, Randjelovic , Lazic, D.Pijetlovic, Rasovic 2, Aleksic, Jaksic, Filipovic 3, Prlainovic 2, S. Mitrovic. Head coach: Savic.
Extra player shots: Italy 4/15, Serbia 3/6. Penalty shots: Serbia 0/1.
Italy and Serbia faced off in the knock round of the Olympic Games for the third time in a row. But, in London and Rio de Janeiro, it happened in the semifinals. Nine years ago, Italy beat Serbia 9:7 and won silver after losing to Croatia in the final, while Serbia finished 3rd. Serbia defeated Italy 10:8 on its way to the 2016 Olympic title. The Italians won bronze in Rio.
This time, one of the two powerhouses goes home without a medal. It is Italy.
Serbia had the same recipe for a win as in the group matches against Australia and Montenegro. The title-holders took a flying start. They knocked down the World champions in the first half. After that, they controlled the match. The second half of the game belonged to the Italians, but Serbia’s win was never in danger.
There were a lot of goals in the opening minutes. The Olympic champions took a 1:0 and 2:1 lead, but Italy equalized on both occasions. In the third minute, Dusan Mandic fired the ball from 7-8 meters for 3:2. He pulled a trigger and opened Serbia’s series of goals. Shortly after, the Serbs went 5:2.
Serbia’s defense was outstanding. Branislav Mitrovic proved that he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world (he posted 15 saves today). A minute and a half before the first break, Italy had 6 on 3, but the Serbs defended their net with three-man downs.
There were no goals for a while in the second period. In the 14th minute, Mandic converted a man-up for 6:2. A minute later, Serbia’s captain Filip Filipovic found the net from a distance and his team earned a significant 5-goal advantage (7:2). Serbia’s 5:0 series was stopped by Niccolo Figari, who scored from an extra (3:7). However, Andrija Prlainovic closed the second quarter with two goals in the last minute of the first half (a power-play goal and action goal) to give Serbia a 9:3 lead.
Italy couldn’t come back after a shocking first half. Serbia slowed down in attack after the middle break, but they continued playing very well in defense. Serbia killed Italy’s five man-ups in the third period. Luongo scored with a power-play advantage in the 22nd minute (4:9), but it was too late for a comeback.
Italy’s best scorer in Tokyo Francesco Di Fulvio had a very poor percentage of a shot today (1/5). He scored his only goal in the match for 5:9 in the 27th minute. However, Filipovic responded immediately with his 3rd goal for 10:5 and that was the end of the contest. In the remaining time, Italy scored just a consolation goal.
Serbia will face Spain in the semifinals. In the last few years, Spain has recorded five consecutive wins over Serbia at major competitions – in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Europa Cup, 2019 World Championships, 2020 European Championships, 2020 World League and in the group stage of the Olympic tournament in Tokyo.
We’ll see if the Spaniards are able to continue their streak, or Serbia will play in the final for the second time in a row.
Hungary – Croatia 15:11 (2:3, 5:2, 4:3, 4:3) – play by play and statistics
Hungary: Nagy, Angyal 1, Manhercz 7, Zalanki 1, Vamos 2, Hosnyanszky 1, Pasztor 1, Jansik, Erdelyi, Varga 2, Mezei, Harai. Head coach: Marcz.
Croatia: Bijac, Macan, Fatovic 1, Loncar 1, Jokovic 1, Bukic 4, Vukicevic 1, Buslje, Milos 1, Vrlic, Obradovic 2, Garcia. Head coach: Tucak
Extra player shots: Hungary 7/11, Croatia 8/16. Penalty shots: Hungary 0/1.
At the end of the match, the difference between Hungary and Croatia was four goals, just like in the earlier game Serbia – Italy. But, the encounter between Croatia and Hungary was an exciting match. The two teams fought a hard battle, while Serbia secured a win in the first half.
The teams were neck and neck until 5:5. Late into the second period, Hungary built a 2-goal lead (7:5). Still, Croatia managed to equalize (8:8), but after that, the European champions produced a 4:0 series which proved vital for their win.
Krisztian Manhercz, who didn’t show what was expected of him in the group stage, was Hungary’s power engine today. He had almost a perfect percentage of shots (7/8). Goalkeeper Viktor Nagy has to be praised too, primarily because of the brilliant performance in the second half. He posted some fine saves in the crucial moments.
The first quarter was balanced, but Croatia was the team that was earning a one-goal lead, while Hungary leveled the score two times (1:1, 2:2). In the eighth minute, an experienced Paulo Obradovic converted a man-up, and the Croats entered the second period leading 3:2.
Krisztian Manhercz gave Hungary a 4:3 lead with two consecutive power-play goals. But, Croatia responded with two (Jokovic and Bukic) and went ahead in the middle of the quarter (5:4).
Shortly after Bukic’s goal, Manhercz converted 6 on 5 for 5:5. After that, there were a few mistakes on both sides of the pool and lost balls. Defenses worked well. It seemed that nobody would have an advantage at halftime. Still, 46 seconds before the middle break, Angyal made 6:5. After that, Obradovic didn’t convert a man-up. Hungary’s leader Denes Varga closed the first half with an excellent goal from 8-9 meters. It happened just 4 seconds before the buzzer, and Hungary earned a 2-goal lead for the first time (7:5).
Luka Bukic, who netted four goals today, scored from the left for 6:7 in the 18th minute with an extra player. Actually, Viktor Nagy saved that shot, but after a VAR review, referees concluded that the ball passed the goal line before Nagy stopped it.
Zalanki found the net for 8:6, but the Croats equalized midway through the third period (8:8). However, Hungary dominated in the following minutes. Nagy posted several brilliant saves. Hungary’s offense worked well, and the European champions earned an 11:8 lead before the final period.
The Hungarians kept their momentum after the last break. Manhercz scored his 6th goal today for 12:8. Croatia couldn’t score for almost eight minutes. Finally, Fatovic broke the deadlock in the middle of the quarter with an extra player (9:12). However, Vamos answered with a goal from a distance (13:9). Croatia put a lot of effort into a comeback, but Hungary kept a 3-goal or 4-goal advantage. The European champions entered the final minute with a 14:11 lead. Szilard Jansik converted a penalty with 11 seconds to go for the final score.
Hungary will play Greece in the semifinals. The Greeks upset the Hungarians on Day 1 (10:9). The European champions have a strong wish to take revenge for that defeat.