Game 44 (M): 21:00, CROATIA 8 ITALY 9

Shanghai 2011 - Water Polo Games Reports

SemifInal 1-4

Quarters: 0-1, 1-2, 3-5, 4-1

Referees: Mark KOGANOV (AZE), Sergio BORRELL (ESP)

Extra Man: CRO: 4/11. ITA: 3/10

Pens: CRO: 1/1. ITA: 1/1

CROATIA: Josip PAVIC, Damir BURIC (1), Miho BOSKOVIC (3), Niksa DOBUD (1), Maro JOKOVIC (1), Petar MUSLIM, Frano KARAC, Andro BUSLJE (1), Sandro SUKNO (1), Samir BARAC, Fran PASKVALIN, Paulo OBRADOVIC, Ivan BULJUBASIC. Coach:
Ratko RUDIC.
ITALY: Stefano TEMPESTI, Amaurys PEREZ, Niccolò GITTO, Pietro FIGLIOLI, Alex GIORGETTI (3), Maurizio FELUGO (1), Niccoloi FIGARI (1), Valentino GALLO (2), Christian PRESCIUTTI (1), Deni FIORENTINI (1), Matteo AICARDI, Arnaldo DESERTI, Giacomo PASTORINO. Coach: Alessandro CAMPAGNA.

CRO vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnon
CRO vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnon

Italy made the play, worked the options, took the shots, led by four goals into the final quarter and withstood a ferocious attack from the Croats as the final minutes ticked down. Croatia outscored Italy 4-1 in the final quarter but it needed to be by four to make any difference to retain any hopes it had of world domination. Italy nearly made it a clean sheet for the first half but it came down to a BURIC goal at 0:25 on the second quarter to ruin that perfect relationship with the game. The disgust that head coach CAMPAGNA showed for his player for not properly defending BURIC was evident for all to see. His intensity was carried across to the team during the game. In fact, on the action replay, it could be clearly seen that BURIC had pushed off before shooting from outside to gain a slender foothold in the match. Italy was super at the start and it was FIGARI who slipped through a ball on extra man from deep left, but only at 0:23. Such was the closeness of the guarding, that GALLO threw a hopeful left-hander soaring towards the high ceiling and watched the parabola send his ball into the top left, far from the stretching fingers of PAVIC. PRESCIUTTI went on counter and kept the huge crowd happy with his goal  at 6:11. The goals dried up as both sides worked heavily on defence and stifling shooting opportunities. Italy had an early timeout at 2:19 but no joy when it came to scoring. Then BURIC scored for the 1-3 halftime score. JOKOVIC and GIRGETTI converted penalties in quick succession. A minute after he scored from five metres, GIORGETTI sent in a shot from the top left. BUSILJE and FELUGO traded goals, followed by a BOSKOVIC conversion of extra at 3:27 for 4-6. FIORENTINI scored on extra when the cross pass went to the far post on the one-metre line for 4-7 at 1:32. GIORGETTI scored with three seconds left from eight metres as Croatian head coach RUDIC was advancing down the sideline, complaining about something. With three seconds left it closed the quarter. DOBUD resurrected some hope for Croatia with a score on extra from the near post and 5-8. However, on the next attack, GALLO netted his second on extra when BURIC was excluded. Italy had the luxury of shooting and gaining the rebound, wasting time on the next attack when only 200 seconds remained in the match. GITTO was excluded and Croatia converted via BOSKOVIC off a deflection from GALLO's extended arm. Italy was within three at 3:01.
Italy had consecutive attacks but the ball was stolen on the second and BOSKOVIC scored on the counter at 2:02. This was starting to the way of the previous semifinal where the lead dwindled quickly in the dying minutes. SUKNO blundered an excellent chance on counter and a subsequent shot went wide. Italy wasted the ball and Croatia called timeout at 0:24. The ball moved quickly and SUKNO moved forward and scored at 0:15. Italy controlled, lost and regained and the game was over.
Italy was through to a final for the first time since Barcelona in 2003, losing to Hungary. Italy claimed its only crown in 1994 at home in Rome. Croatia, champion in Melbourne four years ago and bronze medallist in 2009, has a tough task against Hungary in the bronze-medal game on Saturday.