Spain won an outstanding battle against Hungary, arguably the best match of the tournament so far and will meet Greece in the final as the latter team stunned the Serbs in the second semi-final. The first one was a real thriller where Hungary took a flying start but the Spaniards came back from three goals down and with some outstanding defense in the third period they stopped the roaring Magyars to win 12-11 in this epic game producing 70 shots.
Then Serbia led till the middle of the third period, but at 7-5 they began to waste the best chances, including a second penalty, then three man-ups in the last two minutes and the Greeks’ disciplined and enthusiastic play brought its result, a fine 9-8 win.
Hungary continued flying high with the speed they gained their heroic eight-final win and their flawless performance against Montenegro – that sent them 4-1 ahead after eight minutes. Though the Spaniards started climbing back, at 7-4, still in the second, the Magyars seemed to keep the game under control.
But their rivals found the tools to beat the Hungarians goalie who conceded 6 goals against the US and 3 against the Montenegrins but now Mark Grieszbacher had to be substituted at the beginning of the third when the Spaniards equalized for 7-7. Soon they were 7-8 up, but to enhance the drama, the hosts’ reserve goalie Daniel Korom stopped a penalty and after a goalless struggle of 11:21 minutes the Magyars could level the score at 8-8. With two fast goals, Spain went 8-10 up and they still had a 9-11 lead with 3:28 to go.
But the Hungarians fought on and in a span of 27 seconds they managed to go even again and there were still 2:08 minutes left from the game. Though Spain’s man-up had gone, after the save and the ensuing corner-throw they could set up their centre-forward Oscar Asensio who decided the match with a brilliant goal while the home guys were unable to convert their last 6 on 5 – so just like in last year’s semi-final at the U17 Europeans, Spain bettered Hungary once more.
The contest of the two last unbeaten teams saw the Serbs leading by two goals for most of the time in the first half and even in the third. However, after 7-5 they missed a crucial man-up, later a penalty (the second in the match) and soon the Greeks started rolling.
Early in the fourth, they expanded their rush to 0-4 and even though the Serbs could pull one back they missed their last three (!) 6 on 5s as the Greek defense worked properly.
In the first game played for the 5-8th place, Croatia jumped to a 7-2 lead by halftime with a great 5-1 run in the second period. Even if the Montenegrins had some better spells in the third, they couldn’t come closer than three goals.
Then, at the beginning of the fourth, the five-goal cushion was reset and the game was virtually decided there. Indeed, the second half turned into a scoring festival, while the first half produced 9 goals, the second brought 16, eight goals apiece.
Soon the Italians joined them as they downed the Aussies in eight minutes. They gained a 0-6 lead in the first period and even if had an 11:10-minute silence, their rivals could only come back to 6-3 at the beginning of the third and soon the Italians were back and settled everything by scoring four more goals in this period.
The previous matches saw mostly one-sided contests. The US team started rolling in the second period against Russia, won the middle two quarters 8-2 and gained a comfortable win to clinch the 9th place. Brazil was merciless against 11-men and worn-out Colombia and booked the 11th place. Egypt downed New Zealand for the 13th place, and Canada did the same with the Saudis for the 17th position.
The morning saw two close fights: South Africa came from behind to beat Argentina, Todd Howard netted 6, including the last two in the last two minutes. The opening match ended in a penalty shootout, China overcame Uzbekistan and even though they couldn’t win a game in regular time in the tournament, they still finished 19th.
Quarters: 4-1, 3-5, 0-2, 4-4
No seats remained unoccupied in the temporary stands as more than 2,000 fans wanted to see the home side making the final – though the Spanish team showed some brilliant form as well. Just 27 seconds into the game the crowd already was already on its feet as Gergo Fekete scored from the center, soon he delivered a penalty, Benedek Baksa converted, 80 seconds gone and the hosts were 2-0 up.
His next attempt under pressure was stopped by the goalie and the Spanish also stopped the Magyars’ run as Lluc Bertan put away their first extra from the back. The ball was stolen in a Spanish man-up, then Akos Vekony’s penalty was well saved by Unai Aguirre – but leaving Baksa unmarked at 5m proved to be a wrong idea soon and he sent a bouncing shot to the net for 3-1 with 1:55 to go in the first. The Hungarian blocks worked well and Tamas Csorba scored from a dying man-up after a recovered ball from the first shot so the hosts enjoyed a 4-1 lead after eight minutes.
Mark Grieszbacher showed his first big save in a man-down, then Fekete fought himself into shooting position but Aguirre made a crucial catch and Sanahuja Bernat could beat the goalie with an action shot from the outside. It looked to be a crucial moment as it could have been 5-1, instead, the Spaniards had a man-up for 4-3 but Grieszbacher made another save.
Aguirre also was on fire and soon it was 4-3 indeed, Ivan Alcon found the bottom left corner from an outside shot. The Magyars reacted well, Botond Bobis netted a 6 on 5 with safe hand but the Spaniards could go on with scoring action goals, Prieto added the next, still, Bobis was merciless once more, again from a man-up, then he buried a penalty for 7-4, with 2:28 to go till the middle break.
Aguirre had another important save on Baksa’s shot from a 6 on 5 (it could have been +4) and Bertan targeted the ball precisely to avoid Grieszbacher’s left and soon he lobbed the goalie from a free-throw with only 1.2sec remaining. So it stood 7-6 as Grieszbacher seemed to struggle with the balls sent to his left hand (the last four Spanish goals all went in there).
When Sergio Prieto scored from the first man-up in the third for 7-7, it was time to go for the home hero of the previous two matches – but the side-effects of the previous minutes stayed with the team as Bobis hit the bar from the next extra. The Magyars hurried some shots but Aguierre and the woodwork stood tall and soon the Spaniards took the lead to expand their rush to 0-4 as Bertan netted his fourth from a 6 on 5.
The Spanish defense could mark better Fekete in the center so the Magyars’ offense was frozen, however, the incoming goalie Daniel Korom boosted his mates’ spirits by stopping Sanahuja’s penalty in a crucial moment. Giving away the ball from the first pass in a man-up after a time-out didn’t help the home side and they missed their last few-second extra at the end thus left the pool for the last break without scoring in the entire period. In this phase Korom delivered a couple of important saves, still, the Hungarians were trailing by one before the final period (lost the middle two 3-7).
After 11:52 minutes the Magyars could finally score again, Baksa put the ball away from 2m in an extra but the Spaniards responded brilliantly, with back-to-back free-throw goals from Sanahuja and Bertan they jumped to an 8-10 lead in a span of 57 seconds (these two scored 8 goals combined). At the other end, the Spanish defense did a tremendous job, they smartly mixed the hard pressing on the perimeter to block the feeding of the center-forward and the zone-defending.
Hungary’s last chance for any kind of recovery was a technical break due to a crucial monitor’s failure at the jury table with 4:11 to go (right after their time-out finished). It seemed to help a bit, Fekete regained some strength and scored a big one from the center after the restart but the Spaniards also kept their composure and Bernat sent the ball home from the wing in their next extra. When Aguirre posted three saves in a row, the first two in man-down it seemed that it was over the hosts.
It was not. They gathered all they had in the tank, managed to earn a penalty, Bendeguz Ekler buried it with 2:35 remaining. And soon it was even: Alcon sent a shot wide, Bobis turned, gained a stroke advantage on the left wing, got a precise assist and pushed the ball through Aguirre’s arms from a counter – in 27 seconds the Magyars were back at 11-11.
With 1:38 to go Spain could play in extra after a time-out, Korom made the save but after the corner, the Spaniards could feed Oscar Asensio in the center and he was able to grab the ball while pressed by two defenders and scored a goal what turned out to be the winner.
Hungary got a last chance, a 6 on 5, but the crucial pass was stolen in the air and even if Korom stopped a forced one-on-one at the other end with 0:06 on the clock, Fekete turned back unmarked but he had to shoot the ball under time pressure from 10m and Aguirre stopped it to put a worthy end to the best match of the tournament.
The Spanish keeper was picked the game’s MVP (again after the quarters), he was really tremendous, had 18 (!) saves on 29 shots for 62% – the two Hungarians had 10 combined (on 22 shots), so the stats highlighted the fact which really made the difference today.
Quarters: 1-2, 3-3, 4-2, 1-1
The second semi was a bit more tactical, the big rush from the first was never repeated here (teams had 13 shots less compared to the other match). Marko Radovic opened the Serbs’ account with a fine action goal but Nikolaos-Sry Papanikolaou equalized to put Greece on the scoreboard after 3:52 minutes. Despite a missed penalty by Sulc, Radovic netted his second again from action to gave the Serbs the lead which they kept till the end of the first.
Kristian Sulc doubled the margin from the first possession, just beating the shot-clock buzzer for 1-3 and even though Papanikolaou tipped the ball in from close range in a man-up, Sulc did the damage again, this was the 4th action goal from the Serbs and they led 2-4. A missed Greek man-up was followed by Dimitrios Dimou’s blast but the Serbs put away their first 6 on 5 to hold on for 3-5.
Then came a crucial moment: Serbia earned a 6 on 5, but Dimou made a great steal, swam straight onto the goal, earned a penalty and Aristgipis Chalyvopoulos converted it 22 seconds before the middle break (4-5).
The third period was launched by a quick exchange of action goals, then the Serbs broke two goals clear, got the rebound in a man-up and Petar Mitrovic sent in from close-range on the second attempt (5-7). The Serbs had a chance to go +3 but Radovic’s shot was caught by Piovan in a man-up and that cost his team dearly.
The remaining 5:05 minutes saw an outstanding 3-0 rush from the Greeks: Efstathios Kalogeropoulos kicked off the party with a great shot from a man-up, then he sent the ball under the bar from 7m with 3:00 to go. The Serbs missed another man-up, what’s more, Brankovic’s penalty was well saved by Piovan 35 seconds from time and with a patiently composed man-up – despite earning it at 0:14 – Dionusios Braime sent the ball home from the right wing, just one second before the buzzer.
Believe it or not, the Greeks led 8-7 and their great spell was still lasting in the fourth, again, a well-played man-up saw them doubling their lead, Ippokratis Chalyvopoulos scored with just 3sec on the shot-clock (just like in the other SF, a 0-4 rush brought the big turn to the encounter).
The Serbs could overcome their offensive problems by a nice set-up man-up by the two Mitrovics, Arsenije’s assist was pulled in from close range by Petar – it ended a drought lasting 8:41 minutes. As the pressure was mounting, the number of mistakes also grew, the teenage boys’ hands didn’t move as confident as in the previous periods.
The Greeks missed an extra, then the Serbs wasted back-to-back 6 on 5s and only 2 minutes were remaining. Papanikolau tried a shot from the center but sent the ball over the bar while being marked heavily and the Serbs called for a time-out to find out something for their possibly last possession to save the game to a shootout.
With 32sec to go, they got the desired man-up but Vukasin hurried the finish, let the ball fly after just two passes and five seconds (the Serbs missed their last three 6 on 5s), the goalie caught it and the Greeks just needed to keep the ball for the remaining 22 seconds. They did it and reached the final with some outstanding efforts in the second half.
Quarters: 1-2, 1-5, 4-3, 4-5
Croatia seemed to have recovered better from the disappointment they went through on the quarter-final day while losing to Spain. The Montenegrins perhaps suffered from the post-effects of their evening loss to Hungary, the reigning European champion team’s offense was demoralized by the hosts and 18 hours later they were unable to gear up in time.
They could score only twice in the first half while their defense couldn’t withstand the pressure, succumbing seven times. In the quarters the Montenegrin goalie could help his team with 16 saves – now he could stop only one ball in 16 minutes.
Enjoying a 2-7 lead, the Croats’ defense loosened up a bit, with 2:09 before the last break the Montenegrins came back to 6-9 and had a possession to pull one more back but the shot was saved and Marko Radulovic netted an action goal at the other end 50 seconds from time. And Filip Krzic opened the fourth with another great goal in the last second of the first possession for 6-11, and the game was decided at that very moment. Four more arrived from both teams, ensuring some entertainment for the fans enjoying the game and the sunshine alike.
Quarters: 0-6, 1-0, 2-4, 3-2
The game seemed to be over after eight minutes: Italy blew the Aussies away with a 0-6 rush in the first period. After a killed Aussie man-up an early double in 51 seconds founded the Italians’ march, soon they were 0-3 up, each came from the action. The closing moments were really telling: Michele Mezzaroba scored another action goal for 0-5, nine seconds later Filippo Ferraro had a great steal, and with 0:02 to go Michele de Robertis finished the counter – two goals in the last 18 seconds, and Italy was 6 up already.
Unlike the Rolling Stones, the young Azzurri seemed to get satisfaction and they slept over the second period, Domenico Iodoce sent the ball over the bar from a penalty and after 14:07 minutes James Gillfeather managed to break the Aussies’ silence, but they were still trailing by five at halftime.
And the Aussies smelt something as they went on netting two more in a span of 31 seconds and had a man-up to go back to two but a bad pass flew over the side-rope. And soon the Italians woke up again, though they missed man-up soon Mezzaroba blasted one from the right wing for 3-7, halting their scoreless struggle lasting for 11:10 minutes. He soon added more, one from a penalty, another from a counter for 3-9 (he was 5/5 at this stage), so the minor excitements were ceasing towards the end of the third.
The last period five more goals, at the end the difference remained the same as after the first quarter – indeed the game had been decided there.
Quarters: 3-4, 4-1, 4-1, 3-2
Both teams played a tie against host Hungary on connecting days: the Russians gave away a two-goal lead in the last round of the prelims, dropped to third place and lost to Italy in the eight-finals. Had they kept at least one goal from their lead, they would have met the Americans in the eight-finals – instead, the US boys faced the Magyars, conceded a late equalizer then lost the shootout so their last game was due on a penultimate day for the 9th place.
But at least they bid a nice farewell to the tournament. The Russians seemed to run out of gas and enthusiasm for the third period as latest – after taking a fine start and leading 3-4 the Americans took over the control, won the middle two periods 8-2 and sailed away with the win. The two best Russian shooters, Vasilev and Frolov, couldn’t push their team, missed 6 shots apiece, while the best American player, Hannes Daube netted 4 from as many shots and the team also offered a fine combined effort to clinch the 9th place. Russia, the only European team outside the top eight, finished 10th.
Quarters: 1-3, 1-3, 2-7, 1-3
Colombia’s fairytale run ended with another defeat, this time the big neighbors beat them with ease. Playing each match with nine field players only, the Colombians gave all they had and didn’t have too much left for this last game. The Brazilians dominated right from the beginning and floored their rivals in the third by netting seven goals within one period.
Quarters: 3-0, 2-1, 5-1, 4-2
Egypt was proved to be the king, or rather the pharaoh of the ‘lower house’ – among the teams not making the eight-finals the Africans really stood out. They beat Saudi Arabia 36-1, Argentina 22-6 and now New Zealand 14-4. They didn’t let the New Zealanders into the game, took a 3-0 lead right at the beginning and didn’t look back.
Quarters: 2-1, 3-3, 2-3, 1-2
It was a fine battle where all boys gave their utmost to win this last encounter of the tourney. The Argentinians staged a better start, deep into the second they led 5-2 but the South Africans could score twice in 54 seconds to trail by only one at halftime.
In the third, they had another fine spell to go 6-7 ahead but with 40 seconds before the last break, Antones Balbi netted an action goal and after a lengthy phase with a lot of swimming and less precise shooting he scored his 4th to put Argentina ahead once more at 8-7. But they couldn’t score anymore while the Todd Howard saved South Africa once more, he scored his 5th, from a man-up, to level the score with 1:59 remaining and added a 6th one, this time a great distance shot to win the game 31 seconds from time.
Quarters: 2-4, 2-4, 0-5, 1-7
As long as their reserves lasted, the Saudis could keep up with the Canadians, though they could score only from man-ups. They converted 4 in the first half but only one in the second and while they were trailing 4-8 after two periods they lost the next two 1-12 as they were clearly worn out.
Quarters: 3-1, 2-4, 2-2, 4-4 – pen: 2-3
The motivation behind fielding an unauthorised played on the previous day – substituting an over-aged player for an injured one without notifying anyone – is still a mystery as the Uzbeks did it against Saudi Arabia, a team they beat by 10 goals and no one could see why they couldn’t achieve something similar with ten field players…
Since the ‘trick’ was revealed, their win was gone and instead of playing for the 17th place they found themselves in the middle of a dogfight against China. And, in the spirit of the great Dostoyevsky novel Crime and Punishment, they were dropped to the bottom place as after a series of twists and turns they could save the match to a shootout with 0:42 to go but missed their last three attempts in the shootout and finishes 20th. China, without winning a match here in regular time, came 19th.