Montenegro, Greece, and Italy joined Spain in the semifinals of the European Qualifications for the World League Super Final.
After a long break that lasted 303 days, the World League was resumed today, with the quarterfinal matches at the European Qualification Tournament in Debrecen.
The most exciting match of the day was an encounter between Montenegro and Croatia. The Montenegrins beat the big rival after the penalty shootout (15:14). The second derby of the day Italy – Hungary, also offered a lot of excitement. Italy recorded a 9:8 win, thanks to a stunning fourth quarter. Greece defeated France easily.
Tomorrow, Montenegro will play against Italy, while Spain and Greece will face off in the semifinals. The top three teams will qualify for the Super Final in Tbilisi.
Results of the quarterfinals: France – Greece 3:12, Montenegro – Croatia 15:14 (PSO), Italy – Hungary 9:8, Played in March: Serbia – Spain 11:13
Spain and Serbia met in a friendly match today. Spain won after the penalties (18:17)
World League, Men’s European Final Qualification Tournament (Debrecen, January 8-10)
France – Greece 3:12 (1:3, 2:4, 0:3, 0:2)
France: Vernoux 1, Marzouki 1, Vanpeperstraet 1.
Greece: Fountoulis 3, Argyropoulos 3, Mourikis 3, Kolomvos 2, Papanastasiou 1.
Greece left no chance to France. The Greeks had a 5-goal advantage (6:1) already in the 12th minute. The French managed to reduce the deficit before the middle break (3:7), but they couldn’t score in the second half. Greece dominated and cruised to a big 12:3 win. The statistics mirror the difference between the sides. Greece had 21 shots, and France just 11. Greece’s goalkeepers had an excellent percentage of saves (72,7%).
Montenegro – Croatia 15:14 (1:2, 1:1, 3:4, 5:3, PSO 5:4)
Montenegro: Ivovic 3, Dr. Brguljan 2, Ukropina 2, Dj. Radovic 1, Petkovic 1, Matkovic 1.
Croatia: Fatovic 5, Buslje 2, Dobud 1, Jokovic 1, Bukic 1.
Shotout: Fatovic 0:1, Ivovic 1:1, Jokovic 1:2, Dj. Radovic 2:2, Bukic 2:3, Vidovic 3:3, Vrlic 3:4, Matkovic 4:4, Garcia – Kandic saved, Dr. Brguljan 4:5.
The first derby of the day was a replay of the bronze-medal match at the 2020 European Championships; Montenegro and Croatia faced off. And the outcome was the same as in Budapest a year ago – Montenegro won.
After a low-scoring first half, Croatia had a slim 3:2 advantage. But Montenegro opened the third period with two action goals (Aleksandar Ivovic and Djuro Radovic) and earned a 4:3 lead. The Croats responded with three goals within 2:04 minutes. Loren Fatovic netted his 3rd goal (of five this evening) in the 21st minute to give Croatia a 6:4 lead, and the distance between the sides was two goals for the first time. From that point on, Croatia dictated the pace and maintained the 2-goal advantage until the last break (7:5). In the middle of the fourth period, Montenegro leveled the score (7:7). However, Croatia rebuilt a 2-goal advantage – 9:7, and 10:8. Aleksandar Ivovic cut the deficit with 01:52 remaining on the clock (9:10). Montenegro coach Vladimir Gojkovic called a time-out 25 seconds from the end to set up a 7 on 6 attack with goalkeeper Dejan Lazovic on the 2m line. Aleksa Ukropina converted that man-up into 10:10 and the thriller was continued.
In the penalty shootout, only Xavi Garcia didn’t score. Slaven Kandic, who replaced Lazovic after the 4th round, saved a shot from Garcia. On the other side, Brguljan found the net for 15:14 and sent the Montenegrins into the semifinals.
Croatia goalkeeper Marko Bijac didn’t block a single shot in the shootout, but he was outstanding today, with 18 saves in the regular time (Dejan Lazovic collected nine saves). Loren Fatovic, who scored five goals was voted the MVP of the game.
Sandro Sukno, Croatia assistant coach and the 2018 Total Player, said:
“Congratulations to Montenegro, they did a good job as they came back in the last minutes. We knew we should play against a great team, I think our defense did not work that well today but we played our last big game at the Europeans last January so we need some more time. Here of course we wanted to do better but the focus is on building and improving the team, so it’s more about practice. We wanted to have more shots, more counter-attacks as our goalkeeper made a lot of saves but we couldn’t create enough chances. Our top priority is the Olympic qualification so we have to do our best in Rotterdam.”
Vladimir Gojkovic, Montenegro head coach:
“It was a great game against a great team, I am happy that we could beat such a world-class rival as Croatia. We were a bit lucky, we should admit, but our players didn’t stop believing and that gave us the opportunity to score two goals in the last two minutes. The penalty shootout is always about luck, we had some today so we can prepare now for the semi-finals. It’s important for our team as we wish to finish in the top three and qualify for the Super Final.”
Quotes source: FINA Press Release
Italy – Hungary 9:8 (1:2, 2:1, 1:2, 5:3)
Italy: Di Fulvio 2, Echenique 2, Figari 2, Napolitano 1, Dolce 1, Di Somma 1.
Hungary: Manhercz 3, Angyal 2, Hosnyanszky 1, Jansik 1, Kovacs 1.
The clash of Italy and Hungary was a hard battle. Hungary led for most of the time in the first three quarters. But, the hosts’ advantage was never bigger than a goal. Italy responded with an equalizer after each Hungary’s goal.
The Italians shocked Hungary with a 3:0 run in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, and that proved vital for their win. The world champions scored three goals in a span of two and a half minutes and earned a 7:5 lead five minutes and 58 seconds before the end.
After that, Hungary couldn’t level the score. The hosts cut the deficit two times (6:7, 7:8), but Italy doubled an advantage both times (8:6, and 9:7). Italian goalkeeper Marco del Lungo was excluded because of a foul on Krisztian Manhercz 90 seconds before the final buzzer. Danial Angyal converted this easy man-up for 8:9. After Angyal sent the ball into the net, 45 seconds were remaining on the clock. Italy managed to keep the win in that period.
Both teams arrived in Debrecen without a few of the key players, as we already reported. Hungary plays without Denes Varga, Marton Vamos, Gergo Zalanki. Michael Bodegas, Matteo Aicardi, Pietro Figlioli, Andrea Velotto are missing from the team of Italy. A 20-year-old Vendel Vigvari debuted for Hungary today.
Serbia – Spain 17:18 (1:1, 4:3, 2:3, 1:1 – PSO 9:10)
Serbia: Randjelovic 3, Gogov 1,Filipovic 1, Dedovic 1, Mandic 1, Prlainovic 1
Spain: Munarizz 2, Sanahuja 2, Granados 1, Perrone 1, Famera 1, Mallarach 1
Penalty shootout – Serbia: Filipovic 2, Dedovic 2, Gogov 2, Jaksic 2, Prlainovic 1 (Aguirre saved Prlainovic’s shot in 2nd series, Lopez saved Filipovic’s shot in 11th series)
The tournament was opened by a friendly game between Serbia and Spain, and the winner was decided after a very long penalty shootout. Serbia had a 2-goal lead in the 2nd quarter (4:2, 5:3), but the Spaniards produced 3:0 series and went in front in the 21st minute (6:5). That was Spain’s first lead in the match. The European and World vice-champions had a 7:6 and 8:7 advantage, but the Serbs equalized on both occasions, so the game entered the penalty shootout. The winner was decided in the 11th series when a 41-year-old Dani Lopez saved a Filip Filipovic’s shot. Spain’s second goalkeeper Aguirre was in front of the goal in the first ten series of the shootout. Lopez replaced him before Filipovic’s shot.
In the last year and a half, Spain has defeated Serbia six times in a row. It happened four times in the quarterfinals of the major competitions: 2019 Europa Cup, 2019 World Championships, 2020 European Championships and 2020 World League, and two times in friendly matches – in Barcelona in January 2020, and in Debrecen today.
European Qualifications – scores and schedule
Quarterfinals (January 8)
France – Greece 3:12
Montenegro – Croatia 15:14 (PSO)
Italy – Hungary 9:8
Played in March: Serbia – Spain 11:13
Semifinals (January 9)
For places 1st – 4th
Montenegro – Italy (18.15)
Spain – Greece (20.00)
For places 5th – 8th
Croatia – Hungary (14.45)
Serbia – France (16.30)
Matches for the final rankings 1st – 8th places (January 10)
For 7th place (14.45)
For 5th place (16.30)
For 3rd place (18.15)