Greece piles the pressure on Montenegro

London 2012 Water Polo

Edmonton (April 3) - Greece nearly threw a spanner into the works when it came amazingly close to upsetting Montenegro on day three of the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament for men at the Kinsmen Sports Centre here today. Montenegro, playing in Group A, is the raging favourite and expected to dominate the event. Greece disagreed, levelled the game twice in the final and had the final shot of the match on extra-man advantage and sent the ball wide of the post.

It was an amazing game in which the potent firepower of Montenegro was kept in the bunker, mainly through Greece’s stoic defence. Twice in the dying minutes Greece repelled the Montenegro assault, showing that it is a chance come Friday’s all-important quarterfinals, which will decide the final four in London. Montenegro led 2-1, 4-2 and 6-4 at the breaks in a game where Mladan JANOVIC (MNE) and Christos AFROUDAKIS (GRE) excelled with three goals each. Montenegro has won three times and for Greece it was a second one-goal loss in three outings.

The second most dramatic game of the day was that between Brazil and Argentina in Group B. Argentina just 10 days earlier beat Brazil 9-6 for the South American championship but Brazil promised revenge and delivered with a 16-7 romp.

The steamroller just didn’t seem to want to stop after Canada got past the 4-2 margin early in the second quarter. It was a foul-filled match and a player from each side was suspended for alleged punches. Canada won its second game with a runaway 14-5 win over Turkey.

In other Group A matches, Germany beat the Netherlands 11-6 and Romania had to work for a 9-6 win over the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia.

The major match on Wednesday’s programme is the Group clash between Germany and Greece with Greece desperate for a win to go level on points and have the tiebreaker advantage.

Match Reports:

Game 13: 14:20, Group A, FYR OF MACEDONIA 6 ROMANIA 9
Quarters: 2-1, 1-2, 2-4, 1-2
Referees: Nenad PERIS  (CRO), Cem FILIKSAC (TUR)
Extra Man: MKD: 3/9. ROU: 3/12
Pens: ROU: 2/2
ROMANIA: Dragos STOENESCU, Cosmin RADU (2), Tiberiu NEGREAN (2), Nicolae DIACONU, Andrei IOSEP (1), Andrei BUSILA (1), Alexandru MATEI GUIMAN, Mihnea CHIOVEANU, Dimitri GOANTA, Ramiro GEORGESCU, Alexandru GHIBAN (2), Kalman KADAR (1), Mihai DRAGUSIN. Head Coach: Istvan KOVACS.

Hot blood boiled as the two countries fought hard for any advantage. For the Macedonians it was the second game where suspensions were ordered by the referees. Two Macedonians were rolled for the game with captain BENIKJ going midway through the second quarter when he appeared to strike an opponent while being held at centre forward. RANDIKJ was the second when he illegally returned to the game after exclusion to steal a loose ball near the corner while Romania was still in possession. This gave KADAR a successful penalty shot and gave Romania its first lead at 6-5 midway through the third quarter. MKD opened through AKSENTIJEVIC and LETICA while Romania responded through BUSILA at 1:28. LETICA was suspended in Monday’s match but it is only the brutality foul that gains a minimum of a game suspension. AKSENTIJEVIC scored on extra at the top of the second quarter. RANDIKJ broke the 3-3 halftime deadlock early in the third. RADU scored twice for Romania for 5-5 and the illegal entry triggered Romania’s rise in the game. Starting with RADU’s second goal, Romania had a sweet five-goal burst from halfway through the third until halfway through the fourth. The final goal came from AKSENTIJEVIC inside the last 20 seconds. Romania had the team to win but left the charge late while MKD was unlucky with the two exclusions, correctly called.

Sasho POPOVSKI (MKD) — Head coach, on the match: “I don’t know what to say about the referee, about this game, about this sport. It has to be changed. Definitely, some things have to change... from the beginning, I think they know which teams have to go to the Olympics.” On the exclusion with substitution: “We can watch the tape 100 times and we want to see, to find, why he got the exclusion with substitute.”

Andrei IOSEP (ROU) — Scored on penalty, on facing a tough opponent after a disappointing first match: “We expected it to be a tight game for two quarters and, after that, our experience and our better preparation would give us the victory.”

Game 14: 15:40, Group A, GERMANY 11 NETHERLANDS 6
Quarters: 5-3, 3-1, 1-1, 2-1
Referees: Sergio BORRELL (ESP), Jose WERNER (BRA).
Extra Man:  GER: 3/5. NED: 0/2
Pens: GER: 1/1. NED: 2/3
GERMANY: Alexander TCHIGIR, Florian NAROSKA (1), Tim WOLLTHAN (1), Julian REAL (2), Marko STAMM (1), Marc POLITZE (2), Erik BUKOWSKI, Paul SCHUELER (1), Tobias KREUZMANN, Moritz OELER (1), Andreas SCHLOTTERBECK (2), Sven ROESSING, Roger KONG. Head Coach: Hagen STAMM.
NETHERLANDS: Jordy STIL, Thomas LUCAS (1), Tjerk KRAMER, Mike VAN DEN BRINK, Luuk GIELEN (2), Robin LINDHOUT (2), Lars GOTTEMAKER. Richard VAN ECK (1), Ruud VAN DER HORST, Roeland SPIJKER, Tim REUTEN, Matthijs LUCAS, Robert BESKERS. Head Coach: Johan AANTJES.

Germany collected a second victory with a well-rounded effort against a Dutch team set on being well prepared for this tournament in four years time. Germany found stiff resistance in the first quarter when a 2-0 lead became 3-2 and 4-3 before REAL slotted his second goal from eight metres to close at 5-3. OELER and POLITZE bracketed LINDHOUT’s penalty goal and STAMM scored off a cross pass on counter for 8-4 at halftime. SCHLOTTERBECK scored the first of his two goals of the second half before GOTTEMAKER went to the penalty line to face the veteran TCHIGIR. GOTTEMAKER should have known better than to try firing the ball above TCHIGIR’s head. The ball smashed hard into the goalkeeper’s face and bounced back into play. GIELEN scored the next for the Dutch five minutes later for 9-5 at the last break. TCHIGIR gave up his position to KONG for the last quarter. Germany won the period 2-1 and two timeouts by the Dutch failed to earn any goals.

Germany vs Netherlands - credit: Russell McKinnon

Erik BUKOWSKI (GER), on the Dutch opponents: “They were better than I expected. Very tough and very strong players. It was a very tough game.” On what makes Germany a good team: “If we have a good day, we can win against every team on the planet... but, on very bad days we can also play very close to all other teams in the world. If we play as a team, and everybody’s fighting for the other one, I think we are a very good team.”

Luuk GIELEN (NED) — Two goals against Germany, on the experience of playing in an Olympic Qualification Tournament: “It’s really nice for us to play so many matches in such a short period... especially for young guys like us, it’s nice to play these matches... it’s good experience for us.”

Game 15: 17:00, Group A, GREECE 7 MONTENEGRO 8
Quarters: 1-2, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2
Referees:  Daniel FLAHIVE (AUS), Steven ROTSART (USA).
Extra Man: GRE: 4/12. MNE: 3/11
Pens: GRE: 2/3
GREECE: Nikolaos DELIGIANNIS, Emmanouil MYLONAKIS, Andreas MIRALIS, Konstantinos KOKKINAKIS (1), Theodoros CHATZITHEODOROU, Argyris THEODOROPOULOS, Christos AFROUDAKIS (3), Evangelos DELAKAS, Georgios AFROUDAKIS, Iannis FOUNTOULIS (1), Konstantinos MOURIKIS (1), Matthaios VOULGARAKIS, Filippos KARAMPETSOS. Head Coach: Dragan ANDRIC.
MONTENEGRO: Zdravko RADIC, Drasko BRGULJAN, Vjekoslav PASKOVIC (1), Antonio PETROVIC, Filip KLIKOVAC, Aleksandar RADOVIC, Mladan JANOVIC (3), Nikola JANOVIC, Aleksandar IVOVIC (1), Boris ZLOKOVIC (2), Vladimir GOJKOVIC (1), Predrag JOKIC, Mikos SCEPANOVIC. Head Coach: Vido LOMPAR.

No one doubted Montenegro’s superior class except Greece, who worked tirelessly all game and came within a whisker of securing a draw. In one of the best games of the tournament, Montenegro was made to look less than the high-class team it is and its shooting power, on display for the first two days to gasps of awe, was seemingly absent today. The final quarter was a cracker, action-packed; edge-of-your-seat stuff; brilliant at times and just such a wonderful match until the last 11 seconds when Montenegro hugged the ball like a child’s stuffed toy and wound down the clock. Greece opened the scoring but never again held the lead. However, it did level the game at 6-6 and 7-7 in the final quarter. For two and a half quarters the game was made up of penalty goals and extra-man goals. At 4-3 to Montenegro, Mladan JANOVIC broke the game open with two goals, the first off a short pass deep down the left and the second from a metre further out on extra when he elected to lob instead of pile-drive the goal. Christos AFROUDAKIS scored his third on extra for 6-4 at the final break. IVOVIC left the game on three fouls and then Greece was back in the game when a ball was slipped through the eye of needle into MOURIKIS at centre forward and he snapped in the backhand across the face of the goalkeeper. Greece went to a timeout at 4:44 when not on extra but the exclusion came soon after and CHATZITHEODOROU converted from the top for 6-6. GOJKOVIC found himself on the two-metre line when an outside shot from BRGULJAN barred to the water in front of him, which he shoved in for 7-6. Greece gained an extra-man play and the ball was sent one pass to the left for FOUNTOULIS to fire in across cage for the second equaliser of the period at 3:25. ZLOKOVIC then produced a piece of brilliance, turning his player with the ball and surged one metre closer to goal to score at 2:48 for the 8-7 margin. Greece had no success up front but had to turn on the defence to stop Montenegro going further ahead. THEODOROPOULOS was twice excluded and twice Montenegro was repelled. Greece took a timeout at 0:40 and, with the time running out and the chance of a draw diminishing, the ball went to the left post and MOURIKIS pulled the ball left of the upright, leaving Montenegro with the slim victory and a third for the week while Greece has now suffered two losses, both by a goal.

Greece vs Montenegro - credit: Russell McKinnon

Dragan ANDRIC (CRO) — Head coach, on taking on the tournament favourite, Montenegro: “I am satisfied with our performance... after yesterday, a very tough loss to Romania, it was necessary to find concentration if we wished to play with a team that is the favourite.” On the difference between this match and the quarter-final of the 2012 European Championships when Greece lost to Montenegro by two goals: “This time our defence was better. We didn’t allow any easy goals.”

Antonio PETROVIC (MNE), on expectations of playing Greece: “We knew at the beginning that it would be a very difficult game. We know Greece. They’re a good team. So we’re really happy with the result.” On the significance of a win on Wednesday against FYR of Macedonia: “Now, if we win tomorrow, I think that should give us first place in our group and we hope to go into the quarter-final to play Brazil or Turkey.”

Game 16: 18:20, Group B, BRAZIL 16 ARGENTINA 7
Quarters: 4-1, 6-2, 3-1, 3-3
Extra Man: BRA: 7/18. ARG: 1/15
Pens: BRA: 1/1. ARG: 1/1
BRAZIL: Vinicius ANTONELLI, Bernardo GOMES (1), Henrique MIRANDA (2), Gustavo COUTINHO (1), Marcelo FRANCO (1), Gabriel ROCHA (5), Jonas CRIVELLA, Felipe SILVA, Bernardo ROCHA, Ruda FRANCO, Gustavo GUIMARAES (5), Danilo CORREA (1), Marcelo CHAGAS. Head Coach: Goran SABLIC.
ARGENTINA: Hernan MAZZINI, Ramiro VEICH, Juan MONTANE, Brian CARABANTES, Emanuel LOPEZ, Ignacio ECHENIQUE, Fernando ARREGUI (3), Gonzalo ECHENIQUE (2), Ivan CARABANTES, Ramiro GIL (1), Franco DEMARCHI, German YANEZ (1), Franco TESTA. Head Coach: Nahuel ALFONSO.

Losing 9-6 to Argentina in the recent South American Championships in Belem, Brazil, grated for Brazil and head coach Goran SABLIC was adamant the night before that Brazil would make amends. He delivered on his promise with a crushing 12-goal turnaround. At 4-2 early in the second quarter it looked like Argentina could arrest the early surge by Brazil but amidst a flurry of whistle-blowing, ejections and goals that kept statisticians busy. There were 21 major fouls by halftime and 13 goals. Argentinian German YANEZ was suspended after he gained his third major foul for allegedly hitting and Brazilian Marcelo FRANCO went on the same charge at three-quarter time. It was all about Brazil and how big the margin could be — that and the large number of fouls in the first half (21). GUIMARAES enjoyed the romp with his five-goal haul while ARREGUI (ARG) scored three. Brazil was rampant but Argentina must take blame for some poor defence as several goals were scored by inattention on the part of the defence. The extra-man statistics speak for themselves. It was Brazil’s first win and Argentina remains with one point from a draw with Turkey.

Brazil vs Argentina - credit: Russell McKinnon

Gustavo GUIMARAES (BRA) — scored five goals, on the motivation to beat Argentina: “We came to this one and knew we had to beat them after losing in the final of the South American Games. We’re better and we had to show it. And that’s what we did today.”

Goran SABLIC (CRO) — Head Coach, on believing that Brazil can qualify for the Olympic Games: “This victory helps us dream that maybe we can reach the Olympic Games.” On hoping to surprise its opponent in the quarter-final on Friday: “Clearly, the teams in the other group are better that we’ll play in the quarter-final, but we’ll try to do our best and to make a surprise.”

Fernando ARREGUI (ARG) — three goals, on expectations of playing Greece: “The recent South American Championships were more important for us because it was a final. Here, we still have an opportunity to try to qualify for the Olympics.”

Game 17: 19:40, Group B, TURKEY 5 CANADA 14
Quarters: 2-4, 1-3, 0-3, 2-4
Referees: Nikolaos VASILEIOU (GRE), Henk SMIT (NED).
Extra Man: TUR: 1/6. CAN: 2/7
Pens: TUR: 1/1. CAN: 2/2
TURKEY: Atilla SEZER, Ali Can YILMAZ, Berk BIYIK, Oytun OKMAN (2), Berk GUNCUT, Emre COSKUN, Osman GULENG, Ali Can GAGATAY (1), Nadir SUNMEZ, Anil SUNMEZ, Halil BESKARDESLER (2), Can GUVEN, Ali Ozcan KILIG. Head Coach: Halil AVCIOGLU.
CANADA: Robin RANDALL, Constantin KUDABA (1), Oliver VIKALO, Nicolas CONSTANTIN-BICARI (1), Justin BOYD (3), Scott ROBINSON (1), Luka GASIC, Kevin GRAHAM (4), Aaron FELTHAM, John CONWAY (1), Devon DIGGLE (2), Jared McELROY (1), Dusan ALEKSIC. Head Coach: Dragan JOVANOVIC.

Kevin GRAHAM, Justin BOYD and goalkeeper Robin RANDALL helped steer Canada to its second win. GRAHAM netted four goals while BOYD, the former Budvar club member from Montenegro who required six stitches to his head after the game, slotted three in a row straddling the final break. BOYD’s second shot came after he was hammered by two players. He appealed to the referee but then demoralised his opponents with a superb shot. The game had the local fans at fever pitch as the 4-2 quarter-time margin stretched to 7-3 at halftime. The die was set and from there Canada controlled the match, drove hard, passed beautifully and generally just scared Turkey with power shots from close inside. Turkey was not allowed to take shots freely. That, and the fact that RANDALL was in awesome form with six big saves, especially early in the game. He deserved his rest in the final quarter. The impetus was all on fast break and Canada used this like a hot knife through butter, piercing open the defence. Turkey played without Osman GULENC, who slipped and fell down the stairs entering the pool, injuring his left ankle. The level of game was not what Canada wanted in its march towards a group showdown with Spain on Thursday and will faced a demoralised Argentina tomorrow night.

Turkey vs Canada - credit: Russell McKinnon

Kevin GRAHAM (CAN) — Scored four goals, on the value of the round-robin matches: “It’s good to have these different styles of games, to play these different teams, the South American style, the European style so that we’re prepared for whoever we face in the quarter final on Friday.” On the fact that Canada didn’t improve its performance: “The result was all right (but) we said we wanted to be a step better every day at this tournament. I think today it wasn’t a step down, but it sure wasn’t a step forward either.”

Dragan JOVANOVIC (CAN) — Head coach, on falling short of a top performance by his team: “I want to see more. We need more. I know we can do more. We didn’t come here to give 50 percent. We came here to give it all.”

Halil AVCIOGLU (TUR) — Head coach, on whether he expected the aggression of Canada: “No. I was expecting some but not too much. We didn’t play from one to four (quarters). We didn’t defend the fast breaks.” On focusing the team for the remaining matches: “We have to focus on the Brazil game (Thursday). If we play equal, we have an opportunity to finish fourth in our group. I have to calm the team down mentally. I have to keep them on level ground. We are not so strong as Spain (Wednesday opponent) like them.”

Oytun OKMAN (TUR) — Captain, on the match: “Canada had the home advantage, the referees and the crowd. We had to fight, punch and kick. They weren’t provoked and found the position to score and beat us by 10 goals (sic). Congratulations to them.”

Can GUVEN (TUR), on how the match unfolded: “The first target was to stop their fast break but we couldn’t as we had hoped. It was good at 4-2 but then it became 6-2. We couldn’t take the chances we got. And didn’t score our man up (situations).”