Serbia needs extra time to beat Hungary for gold-medal clash with Italy
World champion Serbia needed extra time to beat Olympic champion Hungary 15-14 in the first semifinal of the men's water polo competition at the FINA World Championships.
But for head coach Dejan UDOVICIC, it is not a case of defending "but winning again".
"We are not here to defend anything. The final is the final. We cannot compare Rome to Shanghai. Now we have to prepare for the final. It is the most important game."
UDOVICIC coached his team to what must be one of the finest moments in a long stream of top performances by the water polo-made nation.
"It was the spirit of Serbia on show today. We never give up. We can play at the highest level but we must peak again (for the gold)."
On the game, UDOVICIC said Hungary was very physical and a fast swimming team. He also said that having his players involved in so many high-level competitions in such a short period was telling.
"I had 11 players involved in the Euro League and then we had to play in Florence (at the FINA World League Super Final).
That's three peaks in 45 days. It can't be."
But it was and it needs to be another on Saturday if it wishes to take home gold.
"Hungary had a preparation of 45 days alone," alluding to the fact that Hungary does not participate in the FINA World League."
At 5-1 down nearly three minutes into the second quarter, Serbia looked a spent force. after comfortable wins over Germany, Australia, Romania and China. However, that Serbian spirit kicked in and Serbia trailed by three at halftime and three at three-quarter time, winning the last quarter 4-1 to force extra time.
Serbia was the only scorer in the first period of extra time while HUngary levelled in the second and Stefan MITROVIC scored the winner on extra-man attack at 0:44.
Credit: Russell McKinnon
A 4-1 closing quarter by Croatia was not enough to stop Italy chasing its dream of a second championship. Italy took an 8-4 advantage into the final quarter and nearly squandered the lead as thoughts of gold started floating around the players' minds but emerged 9-8 victors.
Alex GIORGETTI scored three goals, including one from penalty to press his side into the forefront of the competition.
Superior defence also kept the Croatians on edge.
In the semifinal round 5-8, the United States of America held off a late-charging Germany 9-8 after leading 9-6 with less than six minutes remaining. The USA was always in command of the match but a late turnover foul called against Germany saved the game for the USA.
Spain dominated Montenegro to win the other semifinal, gifting Montenegro a goal in the final quarter before winning 10-9.
In the ninth-10th classification match, Australia defeated Canada, coming back from 4-2 down early in the third quarter to win 8-6. Canada had chance to narrow the gap on penalty in the last second but the shot was blocked.
In the play-off for 11th and 12th, Japan led most of the way to defeat Romania 18-15 in probably the highest-fouling and scoring games in the tournament.
On Friday's programme is the last eight women's teams in action with Greece and China battling out the gold medal at 21:00.
Russia and Italy will play for bronze at 16:00. Outgoing world champion USA plays Australia for fifth at 10:55 and the Canada-Netherlands match for seventh is at 09:30.