Spain became the first semifinalist of the men’s water polo tournament at the 18th FINA World Championships in Gwangju.
The Spaniards defeated Olympic and European champion Serbia in the first quarterfinal game 12:9.
Serbia – Spain 9:12 (1:2, 2:5, 4:3, 2:2)
Serbia: Risticevic (8 saves), Mandic, V. Rasovic, Randjelovic, Mi. Cuk, Lazic, Vico 1, Dedovic, Jaksic, Drasovic 1, Stojanovic 1, S. Rasovic 4, Dobozanov. Head coach: Savic.
Spain: Lopez Pinedo (12 saves), Munarriz 2, Granados 1, De Toro 1, S. Cabanas 1, Larumbe 1, Barroso 1, F. Fernandez 2, Tahull 2, Perrone 1, Mallarach, Bustos, Lorrio. Head coach: Martin.
Extra player: Serbia 12 (6), Spain 9 (3). Penalties: Spain 1 (1).
Serbia arrived in Gwangju without seven superstars (Filipovic, Prlainovic, Pijetlovic…). A young team played pretty well in the Group Stage of the World Championships and showed that it could be a strong opponent to each team. But, they opened the game against Spain very bad. The Spaniards took control from the beginning and earned a 2:0 lead. Serbia its first goal scored in the 7th minute (Strahinja Rasovic 1:2).
Spain netted four straight goals in the second quarter and jumped to a 6:1 lead (2:21 from halftime) and that proved vital in their win. The Serbs couldn’t come back in the match, despite they played well in the second half.
Serbia reduced the gap to 3 early in the third period (5:8). Mallarach responded immediately with a goal for 9:5. In the remaining time, it was a balanced match. The Spaniards maintained a 3-goa or 4-goal lead.
Serbia’s last effort was Strahinja Rasovic’s fourth goal (8:11) in the second minute of the last period. Two of Serbia’s players were already out of the game. Drasovic was red-carded in the middle of the third, Randjelovic ended the match because of the 3rd personal fault early in the fourth. So, in the last period, the Serbs had just one center-back in the team (Nikola Jaksic).
Spain controlled the game, and when Cabanas netted for 12:8 in the 31st minute it was clear that Spain goes to the semifinals.
The top scorer was Strahinja Rasovic with 4 goals. Spain managed to stop Serbia’s best scorer Dusan Mandic, who ended the match with no goals. On the other side, nine Spaniards found the net. The biggest star of the team Felipe Perrone wasn’t among them.
Spain will play in the semifinals for the first time since 2009. Ten years ago, the Spaniards won a silver medal. They were defeated by Serbia in a thrilling final match, after a penalty shootout.
Since its independence (in 2006), Serbia has been eliminated in the quarterfinals of the World Championships twice (7th place in Barcelona 2013 and now in Gwangju). They were 4th in Melbourne 2007 and clinched three medals (golds in Rome 2009 and in Kazan 2015, silver in Shanghai 2011 and bronze in Budapest 2017).
Quarterfinals (July 23)
Serbia – Spain 9:12
Croatia – Germany
Hungary – Australia
Italy – Greece
Morning sesion USA and Montenegro to play for the 9th place