Teams that finished 1st and 2nd in their respective groups advanced to the Men’s World League Super Final semifinals in Tbilisi.
Tomorrow, Greece will face Montenegro in the semifinals, while Italy will play against the USA.
The United States defeated France after a hard-fought battle (12:11) in the most thrilling game of the quarterfinals.
Matches Greece – Georgia and Montenegro – Kazakhstan were one-sided contests. Italy’s defense wasn’t on a high level today, but the World champions recorded a solid 15:12 victory over Japan.
Due to the thunderstorm that hit the pool in Tbilisi, the game Italy-Japan started with a one-hour delay, while the match Montenegro-Kazakhstan began 30 minutes later than scheduled.
Quarterfinals: France – USA 11:12, Greece – Georgia 20:8, Italy – Japan 15:12, Kazakhstan – Montenegro 6:18.
Day 5 – semifinals 1st-4th place: Greece – Montenegro (18:15), USA –Italy (20:00), semifinals 5th – 8th place: Georgia -Kazakhstan, France – Japan.
France – USA 11:12 (5:2, 0:5, 4:4, 2:1)
France:Crousillat 4, Bouet 3, Marion Vernoux 2, Canonne 2.
USA: Daube 3, Vavic 2, Woodhead 2, Bowen 2, Stevenson 1, Obert 1, Hallock 1
Extra player shots:France 4/9, USA 6/13. Penalty shots: France 1/1, USA 2/2.
As expected, the encounter between France and Team USA was the most exciting duel of the quarterfinal day. The USA prevailed after a lot of thrills
France’s captain Ugo Crousillat scored the first goal in the match, after just 20 seconds of play. But, the USA had a 2:1 lead in the 6th minute. Then France took control. The Europeans scored four straight goals in the last 130 seconds of the quarter and went into the second period with a 5:2 advantage. Interestingly, the first six goals came from 6 on 6 actions. The first goal with a power-play advantage was scored four seconds before the first break when Crousillat converted a man-up for 5:2.
The second quarter offered something completely different. The USA converted each of their four man-ups in this period, produced a 4:0 rush, and earned a 6:5 lead with 02:15 remaining on the clock in the first half. But that wasn’t the end of the USA’s series. Daube scored from a penalty to give the Americans a 7:5 lead (15th minute).
The French recovered from a shocking second quarter during the middle break and started coming back, step-by-step. In the 22nd minute, Canonne found the net from a 6 on 5 to level the score at 9:9. But, the finish of the quarter belonged to the Americans. Daube and Stevenson scored a goal each (both with an extra player), and The USA re-earned a two-goal lead before the final eight minutes (11:9).
Ugo Crousillat opened the fourth period with his fourth goal to reduce the gap (10:11). In the middle of the quarter, Alex Bowen responded. He scored from a penalty line and made 12:10. The French put a lot of effort into a comeback and came close (11:12) with 32 seconds to go. However, the Americans earned a power-play advantage 15 seconds from the end. Their coach Udovicic called a time-out. After a one-minute break, Team USA kept the ball and the victory.
Greece – Georgia 20:8 (5:1, 5:2, 6:1, 4:4)
Greece: Fountoulis 6, Genidounias 3, Dervisis 2, Argyropoulos 2, Gkiouvetsis 2, Mourikis 2, Skoumpakis 1, Kapotsis 1, Papanastasiou 1.
Georgia: Jelaca 2, Shushiashvili 2, Vapenski 2, Dadvani 1, Bitadze 1.
Extra player shots: Greece 10/15, Georgia 2/6. Penalty shots: Greece 2/2, Georgia 1/1.
Georgia dreamed of a surprise, but Greece, led by Ioannis Fountoulis (6 goals – 2 from a penalty) and Konstantinos Genidounias, left no chance to the hosts.
Greece opened the match with five straight goals for 5:0. Georgia got on the scoreboard in the 7th minute after Shushiashvilli converted a penalty shot.
But, the Greeks continued to dominate after the first break. By halftime, they built a 10:3 lead. They had a great percentage of extra player shots (5/8 in the first half). Greece didn’t slow down after the middle break. In the third period, the winners of the European qualifications increased the margin to 12 (16:4) and kept the distance until the final buzzer.
Italy – Japan 15:12 (4:1, 5:4, 3:2, 3:5)
Italy: Echenique 3, Alesiani 3, Figlioli 2, Presciutti 2, Bodegas 2, Aicardi 2, Di Fulvio 1.
Japan: Shiga 2, Takata 2, Arai 2, Inaba 2, Adachi 1, Yoshida 1, Okawa 1, Araki 1.
Extra player shots: Italy 5/8, Japan 7/8. Penalty shots: Italy 3/3, Japan 2/3.
Japan didn’t surrender easily, as usual, but the World champions controlled the match.
Italy earned a 3-goal lead in the first quarter (4:1). Japan’s Shiga converted a man-up in the 10th minute for 2:4. But, a left-handed Gonzalo Echenique answered with three action goals within 124 seconds to give Italy a 7:2 lead. Four goals separated the rivals at halftime (9:5).
Midway through the third quarter, the Europeans stretched the margin to six (12:6). Still, the Japanese, who were outstanding in the 6 on 5 actions, didn’t want to give up and battled until the end. Early in the fourth period, Japan trailed by four goals (8:12). Italy went 14:8 up with two quick goals. Japan answered with two and reduced the gap to four again (10:14).
Italy’s center-forward Michael Bodegas converted a man-up for 15:10 with 03:07 minutes left, and everything was decided.
Kazakhstan – Montenegro 6:18 (2:6, 0:6, 3:3, 1:3)
Kazakhstan: Medvedev 1, Shmider 1, Shakenov 1, Ukumanov 1, Altayev 1, Shvedov 1.
Montenegro: Ivovic 4, Banicevic 3, Brguljan 3, Vidovic 2, Spaic 2, Matkovic 2, Petkovic 1, Obradovic 1.
Extra player shots: Kazakhstan 0/4, Montenegro 7/9. Penalty shots: Montenegro 2/2.
Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world by area. Montenegro is in 156th place on that list. However, the situation in the water polo world is very different from that list. Montenegro is one of the best teams in the world. Kazakhstan is among the best in Asia, but it is still far away from Montenegro’s level.
That difference in experience and quality was evident from the first whistle. Montenegro needed two quarters to secure a win and a spot in the semifinals. They played disciplined in defense and stopped Kazakhstan’s best scorer Srdjan Vuksanovic. After the Montenegrins gained a 12:2 advantage, they saved energy for the semifinal duel with Greece.
Tomorrow, Montenegro and Greece will face off for the third time this year. The previous two duels were gold-medal matches. Early in January, the Greeks convincingly beat the Montenegrins in the final of the European qualifications for the World League Super Final (12:7). Montenegro defeated Greece in the final of the Olympic Qualifications (10:9) in February.