Montenegro won its third gold medal in the FiNA World League after defeating the USA in an exciting gold-medal match of the Super Final in Tbilisi.
Montenegro, one of the strongest favorites, edged out the USA 9:8 in the final. This is the third gold (2009, 2018, 2021) for Montenegro and the sixth medal in total (they have one silver and two bronzes). Team USA still hasn’t won a gold in the Men’s World League. The Americans added the fourth medal to their tally (three silver and one bronze medal).
Greece defeated Italy in the bronze-medal match.
Day 6 – Final: Montenegro – USA 9:8. Bronze-medal match: Greece – Italy 10:8, For 5th place: Kazakhstan – Japan 10:17. For 7th place: Georgia – France 5:10.
Final standings (prize money): 1. Montenegro ($ 100.000), 2. USA ($ 70.000), 3. Greece ($ 50.000), 4.Italy ($ 35.000), 5. Japan ($ 30.000), 6. Kazakhstan ($ 25.000), 7. France ($ 20.000), 8. Georgia ($ 15.000)
Individual awards – MVP of the tournament: Aleksandar Ivovic (Montenegro), Best scorer: Yusuke Inaba (Japan) 21 goals, Best goalkeeper: Drew Holland (USA)
Montenegro – USA 9:8 (2:0, 2:2, 3:3, 2:3)
Montenegro: Ivovic 5, Petkovic 2, Spaic 1, Matkovic 1.
United States: Daube 3, Hallock 2, Hooper 1, Bowen 1, Irving 1.
Extra player shots: Montenegro 1/4, USA 1/6. Penalty shots: Montenegro 2/2, USA 2/3.
The tournament in Tbilisi was opened on Saturday with an encounter between Montenegro and the USA in the first round of Group A. The Montenegrins celebrated a 10:6 win on Day 1.
The same rivals faced off in the game that closed the 2021 Super Final, but the final was much more exciting. Montenegro led throughout the game. The USA managed to equalize just once (2:2). Still, everything was open until the very end.
On Saturday, the USA opened the match with a 2:0 lead, and Montenegro made a comeback after that.
Today, the Europeans started better. Vladan Spaic opened the scoring in the 1st minute, while Aleksandar Ivovic gave Montenegro a 2:0 lead in the 5th minute.
But, Team USA proved that it wouldn’t surrender easily. After less than three minutes of play in the second quarter, the score was 2:2. That was followed by several minutes of a hard battle with no goals. The Montenegrins regained a 2-goal lead with two quick goals in the 14th and 15th minute (Petkovic and Ivovic).
The third period was opened by Hannes Daube and his 2nd goal for 3:4. Shortly after, the USA had a chance to equalize from a penalty, but Kandic saved Daube’s shot.
Even five goals were scored in the last three minutes of the third quarter. Ivovic converted a penalty for 5:3 at 02:54. A minute later, Marko Petkovic scored an action goal, and the distance between the sides was three goals for the first time (6:3). But, the Americans responded with two goals from penalty shots (Bowen and Irving) and they trailed by a goal (5:6) 12 seconds before the end of the quarter.
Four seconds before the end of the period, the MVP of the tournament Aleksandar Ivovic closed the quarter with an action goal and Montenegro went 7:5 up.
In the 27th minute, Montenegro earned a new penalty. Ivovic took responsibility again and made no mistake. Montenegro regained a 3-goal advantage (8:5). But, the Americans didn’t say their last word. Johnny Hooper scored an action goal, center-forward Hallock added one and the USA cut the deficit (7:8) with 03:05 minutes to go.
Ukropina assisted Matkovic to score in the 31st minute and double Montenegro’s advantage (9:7), but the drama wasn’t over yet. Just 38 seconds before the end, Hannes Daube netted his 3rd goal (8:9). The Montenegrins’ earned a man-up with just 32 seconds remaining. They didn’t shot for a 20-seconds exclusion period. Nine seconds from the end, Montenegro’s captain Drasko Brguljan had his shot blocked. Still, the USA had no time to equalize.
Vladimir Gojkovic, Montenegro head coach commented:
“USA played much better than in our group game (won 10-6) and congratulations to them and also I congratulate all my team. This is an important step going into the Olympics.”
Dejan Udovicic, USA head coach, said:
“We lost tonight; we were close in the end. We should be satisfied, but it is just part of the journey going to the Olympic Games.”
Quotes’ source: FINA
Greece – Italy 10:8 (3:4, 2:1, 4:1, 1:2)
Greece: Genidounias 3, Fountoulis 2, Skoumpakis 2, Papanastasiou 1, Dervisis 1, Argyropoulos 1.
Italy: Bodegas 4, Echenique 2, Di Fulvio 1, Luongo 1.
Extra player shots: 3/9, Italy 4/7. Penalty shots: Greece 1/1, Italy 0/1.
After a few twists and turns, Greece defeated Italy in the bronze-medal match. The Italians entered the game with 12 players (because Aicardi was excluded for brutality yesterday). Still, the World champions, led by center-forward Michael Bodegas opened the game quite well. Italy built a 2-goal lead in the first period (3:1 and 4:2). But, Genidounias beat the buzzer. He converted a man-up just a second before the first break and halved the distance (3:4).
In the 15th minute, Greece went in front for the first time (Skoumpakis for 5:4). In the next possession, Bodegas scored his 3rd goal to level at 5:5.
Gonzalo Echenique opened the third period with an action goal and gave the Italians a 6:5 advantage. But, the biggest turn in the match was yet to come. Greece produced a 4:0 rush and went to 9:6.
In the 27th minute, Bodegas found the net for the fourth time today for 7:9. After that, there were no goals for a while. Ioannis Fountoulis scored for 10:7 with 99 seconds remaining on the clock, and it was clear that Italy couldn’t come back.
Theodoros Vlachos, the head coach of the Greek team, said:
“It was a strange tournament for us, just before the Olympic Games. I believe no team is totally prepared for that. We played much better than yesterday against Montenegro and our first game against Italy (lost 11-8). We have to learn how to play and win and why not against a team like Italy? I’m not entirely satisfied with the way we played at this tournament.” (Source: FINA)
Kazakhstan – Japan 10:17 (2:3, 5:5, 2:2, 1:7)
Kazakhstan: Ruday 4, Vuksanovic 3, Aubakirov 1, Markovic 1, Ukumanov 1.
Japan: Koppu 3, Arai 3, Adachi 2, Suzuki 2, Inaba 2, Date 2, Shiga 1, Yoshida 1, Araki 1.
Extra player shots: Kazakhstan 6/9, Japan 8/14. Penalty shots: Kazakhstan 2/6, Japan 1/2.
Japan achieved its second-best result in the World League, by winning 5th place (three years ago, they finished 4th). The Asian derby was very similar to yesterday’s encounter between Japan and France. On day 5, Japan beat France 16:10 thanks to a fantastic 7:0 fourth quarter. Today, the Japanese controlled the game most of the time, but they couldn’t make a big difference in the first three periods. Before the final quarter, Japan led 10:9. Shortly after the last break, the hosts of the Olympic Games stretched the margin to three (12:9). In the 28th minute, Kazakhstan came close (10:12). But Japan scored five unanswered goals in the last three minutes and a half and recorded a big 17:10 victory.
Georgia – France 5:10 (1:3, 1:3, 1:2, 2:2)
Georgia: Imnaishvili 1, Bitadze 1, Jelaca 1, Tjeshelashvili 1, Shushiashvili 1.
France: Vernoux 3, Crousillat 2, Marion Vernoux 2, Saudadier 1, De Nardi 1, Canonne 1.
Extra player shots: Georgia 3/9, France 2/3. Penalty shots: Georgia 1/1
France displayed a very good defensive play, which brought them 7th place. By halftime, the French built a 6:2 lead. Deep into the third period, they jumped to an 8:2 lead and ruined all Georgia’s hopes.
2002: 1. Russia, 2. Spain, 3. Hungary
2003: 1. Hungary, 2. Italy, 3. USA
2004: 1. Hungary, 2. Serbia and Montenegro, 3. Greece
2005: 1. Serbia and Montenegro, 2. Hungary, 3. Germany
2006: 1. Serbia and Montenegro, 2. Spain, 3. Greece
2007: 1. Serbia, 2. Hungary, 3. Australia
2008: 1. Serbia, 2.USA, 3. Australia
2009: 1. Montenegro, 2. Croatia, 3. Serbia
2010: 1. Serbia, 2. Montenegro, 3. Croatia
2011: 1. Serbia, 2. Italy, 3. Croatia
2012: 1. Croatia, 2. Spain, 3. Italy
2013: 1. Serbia, 2. Hungary, 3. Montenegro
2014: 1. Serbia, 2. Hungary, 3.Montenegro
2015: 1. Serbia, 2. Croatia, 3. Brazil
2016: 1. Serbia, 2. USA, 3. Greece
2017: 1. Serbia, 2. Italy, 3. Croatia
2018: 1. Montenegro, 2. Hungary, 3. Spain
2019: 1. Serbia, 2. Croatia, 3. Australia
2021: 1. Montenegro, 2. USA, 3. Greece