Macedonians upset Germany and force way into Olympic contention

London 2012 Water Polo

Edmonton (April 5) - Montenegro and Spain won through to the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament for men by winning their respective groups undefeated at the Kinsmen Sports Centre here. But the real action on day five was in the second game of the day when Germany forgot to bring its A game against the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. After leading 4-2 early in the third period, Germany’s goals dried up, the extra-man advantage conversion rate was none from eight and the Macedonians smelled blood and went in for the kill.

MKD, thanks to three Miroslav RANDJIKJ goals, including the last two of the game — scored late in the third quarter — held out the hapless Germans and denied them a shot at the quarter-finals with a 6-4 victory. MKD had snuck into the quarters on the strength of that match, finishing with four points, equal to Germany, but finishing ahead on the first tiebreak, the result between the two. A stunned auditorium was left aghast at the result of the 10th-placed team from the Beijing Olympics not having a shot on day six of this competition. Not at London is one thing, but not even in the quarter-finals of the qualification tournament is another.

The reason for captain Marc POLITZE not seeing out the game even though he only had two major fouls is a big question that went unanswered as the distraught Germans went heads bowed to the changing rooms. Only star centre forward Andreas SCHLOTTERBECK stopped to talk, stating that his international playing days could be numbered with no Olympic Games to inspire him.

With Montenegro defeating Romania 14-8 in the final Group A match, the Montenegrins went through undefeated and Romania claimed second, finishing on six points with Greece, whom it beat 10-9 on day two.  Greece thumped the Netherlands 14-5 in the first game of the day and looked set for second until the Macedonians came up trumps, having to settle for third. Macedonia was thrilled with fourth place.

In Group B, Spain downed Canada 9-6 in a  match that Canada led 4-3 at halftime and lost head coach Dragan JOVANOVIC to a red card inside the final four minutes after he kicked a poolside marker into the pool.

Brazil and Turkey battled to an 11-11 draw after Brazil held sway early at 5-1. That left some tantalising clashes in Friday’s quarter-finals with Montenegro facing Turkey; Romania up against Brazil; Greece against Canada and Macedonia playing Spain.  The four winners settle the final placings for London.

Match Reports:

Game 25: 14:20, Group A, GREECE 14 NETHERLANDS 5

Quarters: 2-1, 3-0, 4-1, 5-3
Referees: Doriel TERPENKA (CAN), Nenad PERIS (CRO)
Extra Man: GRE: 3/10. NED: 3/7
Pens: GRE: 1/2
Teams: GREECE: Nikolaos DELIGIANNIS, Emmanouil MYLONAKIS, Andreas MIRALIS, Konstantinos KOKKINAKIS, Theodoros CHATZITHEODOROU (1), Argyris THEODOROPOULOS (1), Christos AFROUDAKIS (4), Evangelos DELAKAS (1), Georgios AFROUDAKIS (2), Iannis FOUNTOULIS (3), Konstantinos MOURIKIS (2), Matthaios VOULGARAKIS, Filippos KARAMPETSOS. Head Coach: Dragan ANDRIC.
NETHERLANDS: Jordy STIL, Thomas LUCAS, Tjerk KRAMER , Mike VAN DEN BRINK, Luuk GIELEN, Robin LINDHOUT (2), Lars GOTTEMAKER (1). Richard VAN ECK (1), Ruud VAN DER HORST, Roeland SPIJKER, Tim REUTEN, Matthijs LUCAS (1), Robert BESKERS. Head Coach: Johan AANTJES.

Greece made sure of its intentions stretch further than this tournament with another powerful performance that left the Netherlands wanting. Goals were hard to come by but the spirit in some of the Dutch players was evident in the dying seconds when the ever-present GOTTEMAKER, who played the first half of the northern summer with WP Turia in the Spanish League, based in Valencia, stole the ball, whipped it across field to LINDHOUT who scored from 10 metres on the final buzzer to keep the margin under 10. But it was the AFROUDAKIS brothers who did the early scoring with the younger Christos going on to make four while captain Georgios scored two. Then there was FOUNTOULIS, one of the finds of the tournament who likes to score. Ne netted three and gives Greece a lot of potency from the top or on the drive. Dutch captain KRAMER earned the ire of the referees when he disagreed with a decision and proceeded to laugh at the referee, who had the last laugh when he produced his red card. It came at a crucial time of the game when Greece was four up. MIRALIS was given the penalty shot for KRAMER’s indiscretion but, although he scored, he surged forward a metre and it was disallowed. No matter. Greece was 5-1 up at the half and 9-2 at the final break. Eight goals in the final quarter made for an interesting period. The Netherlands ends its campaign with no points.

Greece vs Netherlands - credit: Russell McKinnon

Georgios AFROUDAKIS (GRE) – Captain, two goals, on completing the round-robin portion of the competition: “From the beginning of the competition, we expected to play in the quarter-finals (Friday). We hope to win and celebrate qualification in the Olympic Games.”

Tjerk KRAMER (NED) – Captain, who was excluded for misconduct in second quarter, on the value of the experience for the young Dutch team: “It’s very valuable: the pressure, the ambience, everything that comes with a tournament like this. And I think we’re learning a lot. ” On the lasting effects for his team-mates: “Well, they’re sportsmen, you know, so it takes some time to cope with this kind of thing. But I think we’ll get out stronger in the end.”

Game 26: 15:40, Group A, FYR OF MACEDONIA 6 GERMANY 4
Quarters: 0-2, 2-3, 4-1, 0-0
Referees: Jose WERNER (NED), Henk SMIT (NED)
Extra Man: MKD: 2/8. GER: 0/8
Pens:  MKD: 2/2. GER: 1/1
GERMANY: Alexander TCHIGIR, Florian NAROSKA, Tim WOLLTHAN, Julian REAL, Marko STAMM (1), Marc POLITZE (1), Erik BUKOWSKI, Paul SCHUELER, Tobias KREUZMANN, Moritz OELER (1), Andreas SCHLOTTERBECK, Sven ROEBRING, Roger KONG. Head Coach: Hagen STAMM.

Germany is out of 2012 London Olympic contention following a major upset by the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. Germany was the team in the control in the first half and even went 4-2 ahead a minute into the third but then Germany went missing in action. The Macedonians played with heart while Germany took poor options and didn’t seem to set up the attack as well as in previous games. Some options weren’t exploited while the Macedonians were fighting for a life. Coach STAMM even left captain and major playmaker POLITZE on the bench following his second timeout at 3:36 when he only had two major fouls against his name and the last thread of German hopes dangling listlessly. It was a game of two halves, as the cliché goes. POLITZE and Marko STAMM scored the first-quarter goals and OELER converted on penalty early in the second quarter, giving Germany a handsome start. AKSENTIJEVIC scored on extra and IVOSEVIC from out top  to close the half. ROEBING, who has had little water time, screamed in a backhander from two metres for 4-2 at the top of the third and Germany was back in action. Immediately afterwards, RANDJIKJ converted a penalty and CUK drilled one from the top a minute later for 4-4. Germany was rattled and looked distressed so Germany had a timeout. A minute late MKD went to a timeout, but did not score from that play. However, a goal came soon after from RANDJIKJ on penalty at 3:25. With 22 seconds left on the clock, RANDJIKJ scored his third on extra, which proved to be the last goal of the game. The final quarter was far from exciting with MKD playing its normal style and Germany looking out of sorts. The defence was king at both ends. As the time ticked down the Germans looked less and less likely of putting a shot on target. A nil result on extra proved a critical factor in the game considering the Macedonians scored two from eight — the winning margin. After the game, most of the Germans shunned the media, although SCHLOTTERBECK questioned his future at the international level. The Macedonians were stunned that they had made the quarter-finals and in with a shot at an Olympic ticket.

Germany vs FYR of Macedonia - credit: Russell McKinnon

Sasho POPOVSKI (MKD) — Head coach, on the significance of beating Germany: “In words, it’s difficult to say. Until now, it is the biggest victory in Macedonian water polo.” On the importance of the quarter-final match on Friday: “Tomorrow, we can make Macedonian sports history. It’s the most important game of our lives.”

Dimitar DIMOVSKI (MKD), on the significance of the victory over Germany: “This is huge because we still can win tomorrow, as we did today, and qualify for the Olympics. We’ve never had this chance, so it’s an epic moment for Macedonia.”

Andreas SCHLOTTERBECK (GER) — Centre forward, on speculating about his future in water polo: “My disappointment? My disappointment is very big because maybe it was my last game. Maybe I don’t play any more water polo. My career, maybe it’s finished. I don’t know. I’m not sure.” On trying to explain the final result: “It’s difficult to explain. Of course, we played bad. Our counter-attack was bad… they scored six goals, it’s OK.  But we shoot only four goals? It’s the point why we lose.”

Game 27: 17:00, Group A, MONTENEGRO 14 ROMANIA 8
Quarters: 3-2, 5-2, 3-3, 3-1
Referees: Steven ROTSART (USA), Daniel FLAHIVE (AUS)
Extra Man: MNE: 5/12. ROU: 4/10
Pens: ROU: 0/1
MONTENEGRO: Zdravko RADIC, Drasko BRGULJAN (2), Vjekoslav PASKOVIC (1), Antonio PETROVIC (1), Filip KLIKOVAC, Aleksandar RADOVIC (1), Mladan JANOVIC, Nikola JANOVIC (1), Aleksandar IVOVIC (3), Boris ZLOKOVIC (3), Vladimir GOJKOVIC (2), Predrag JOKIC, Mikos SCEPANOVIC. Head Coach: Vido LOMPAR.
ROMANIA: Dragos STOENESCU, Cosmin RADU (1), Tiberiu NEGREAN, Nicolae DIACONU (1), Andrei IOSEP, Andrei BUSILA (1), Alexandru MATEI GUIMAN (2), Mihnea CHIOVEANU, Dimitri GOANTA, Ramiro GEORGESCU (2), Alexandru GHIBAN (1), Kalman KADAR, Mihai DRAGUSIN. Head Coach: Istvan KOVACS.

Montenegro was looking for a clean sheet and performed what was necessary while the happy Romanians knew that a loss would mean nothing in the rankings while a win could lift it to first. The previous win by the Macedonians over Germany had changed the group standings markedly. This was a solid match by both sides and they displayed good water polo skills. Romania stayed in the match at 5-3 early in the second quarter and at 6-4 halfway through the periods but IVOVIC and the veteran GOJKOVIC scored on counter and from the top for 8-4 — a decisive break. It didn’t help when SCEPANOVIC stopped IOSEP’s penalty attempt at the start of the third period. RADU and GHIBAN scored successive goals after ZLOKOVIC took Montenegro to 9-4. ZLOKOVIC scored again for 10-6 and his captain, Nikola JANOVIC, scored on counter. Romania took a timeout and GEORGESCU converted for 11-7 at the final break. The game slipped away from Romania when RADOVIC and GOJKOVIC scored inside the first 90 seconds of the fourth period to set the seal on the game.

Montenegro vs Romania - credit: Russell McKinnon

Vjekoslav PASKOVIC (MNE) — One goal, on his overall impressions of Montenegro’s performance so far: “After five games, we are satisfied. We arrived here as the favourites and wanted to win every game. We’ve been able to finish in first place in our group and now have an easier game in the quarter-final.”

Cosmin RADU (ROU) — Team captain, scored once, on Romania’s approach to the match: “We thought that today’s game was going to be a diehard game because we were in a very difficult position. But, fortunately for us, Macedonia beat Germany in the game before so, for us, today was a practice.” On feeling confident heading into the quarter-final: “Right now I do, but you never know. We lost four years ago against Canada when we were the favourite so I don’t want to play again a game like that.”

Game 29, 18:20, Group B, BRAZIL 11 TURKEY 11

Quarters: 5-2, 3-5, 1-2, 2-2
Referees: Axel BENDER (GER), Aleksandar ADZIC (MNE)
Extra Man: BRA: 3/11. TUR: 3/7
Pens: BRA: 2/2
BRAZIL: Vinicius ANTONELLI, Bernardo GOMES (2), Henrique MIRANDA (2), Gustavo COUTINHO (1), Marcelo FRANCO (1), Gabriel ROCHA, Jonas CRIVELLA (3), Felipe SILVA, Bernardo ROCHA, Ruda FRANCO (1), Gustavo GUIMARAES, Danilo CORREA (1), Marcelo CHAGAS. Head Coach: Goran SABLIC.
TURKEY: Atilla SEZER, Ali Can YILMAZ (1), Berk BIYIK (2), Oytun OKMAN, (1) Berk GUNCUT (1), Emre COSKUN (1), Osman GULENG, Ali Can GAGATAY (3), Nadir SUNMEZ, Anil SUNMEZ, Halil BESKARDESLER (1), Can GUVEN (1), Ali Ozcan KILIG. Head Coach: Halil AVCIOGLU.

Brazil and Turkey battled to an 11-11 draw with an exciting final quarter. Brazil looked well in charge for the first part of the game and you could have been forgiven for thinking a 5-1 start could turn into a big victory. Turkey was calm, slowly worked the ball and came up with the goals in the second quarter bringing the game back to 6-4, 7-6 and 8-7. CRIVELLA scored his third goal on extra-man advantage after a timeout and Turkey mimicked the move with a goal to GUVEN, going cross-cage from the deep right for 9-8 at 2:59. It didn’t end there with the experienced BESKARDESLER, twice the leading scorer at a FINA Junior World Championships (2001 and 2003) the big threat in the dying seconds. However, he popped the ball right to YILMAZ who sent the ball over the goalkeeper’s head from the same position GUVEN just scored from, levelling the game at 9-9 to close the third period. Gabriel ROCHA put Brazil in front early in the fourth and then proceeded a brace of yellow cards and a red card, when Brazil’s SILVA was sent from the bench. MIRANDA took Brazil 11-10 ahead in between the card waving. At 2:22, CRIVELLA, who had made a magnificent contribution with three goals, was shunted from the game on misconduct and Turkey took a timeout. The goal did not come on extra but went in soon after, thanks to BIYIK at 2:00. Both teams had chances at the end but the draw suited both teams with Brazil ending third and Turkey fourth, one point clear of Argentina, who could have qualified had Turkey lost.

Brazil vs Turkey - credit: Russell McKinnon

Gustavo GUIMARAES (BRA), on finishing third in Group B: “We came to this match knowing that if we could win or tie we would be in third place (in Group B)… so, it’s a good thing for us.” On a strategy against Romania (in the quarter-final match on  Friday): “We have to do something to stop their centre forward (RADU) who’s a very strong player. On the attack, we’ll need to try some different things because Romania’s defence is very strong.”

Oytun OKMAN (TUR) — Captain, one goal, on the strategy to deal with the Brazilians: “Our coach gave us some good tactics today, so we tried to keep them. If we’d had a bit more luck, we should have been the victorious team today.”

Halil AVCIOGLU (TUR) — Head coach, on the approach to playing the heavily favoured team from Montenegro: “This is reality, you know. This is a different kind of water polo… we have very little chance so I will ask my players to give their best.”

Game 28: 19:40, Group B, SPAIN 8 CANADA 6
Quarters: 2-2, 1-2, 3-0, 3-2
Referees: Filippo GOMEZ (ITA), Adrian ALEXANDRESCU (ROU).
Extra Man: ESP:  6/10 CAN: 3/9
SPAIN: Inaki AGUILAR, Mario GARCIA (1), Oscar CARRILLO, Balazs SZIRANYI, Guillermo MOLINA (3), Marc MINGUELL (2), Ivan GALLEGO, Albert ESPANOL (1), Blai MALLARACH, Felipe PERRONE (2), Ivan PEREZ, Xavier GARCIA, Daniel LOPEZ. Head Coach: Rafael AGUILAR.
CANADA: Robin RANDALL, Constantin KUDABA, Oliver VIKALO, Nicolas CONSTANTIN-BICARI (2), Justin BOYD, Scott ROBINSON (1), Luka GASIC, Kevin GRAHAM, Aaron FELTHAM, John CONWAY (2), Devon DIGGLE (1), Jared McELROY, Dusan ALEKSIC. Head Coach: Dragan JOVANOVIC.

On a day of pressure matches the last of the preliminary rounds proved to be another stunner. It wasn’t the success story that the Macedonians produced over Germany earlier in the day but it did see the hugely supported home team lead twice in the third quarter and turn into the third period one goal up. While Canada was working hard all over the pool and coming up with excellent results, it was Spain who produced the statistic that proved the killer — six from 10 on extra man compared to Canada’s three from nine — which was the difference in the final score. The third quarter was the one that gave Spain victory with PERRONE shooting through two defenders from the top and captain MOLINA spearing in another. MOLINA then converted the first of four successive extra-man plays. CONSTANTIN-BICARI opened with the first after a timeout ploy at the top of the fourth period, followed by Mario GARCIA with a fumbled shot and ESPANOL tearing one in off the right upright. It was 8-5 for Spain and Canadian head coach JOVANOVIC was upset, kicking a poolside marker into the water for which he was red-carded, meaning he will miss the crucial quarter-final clash with Greece on Good Friday. Without the coach CONWAY scored for 8-6 at 2:33. Spain went to a timeout and MINGUELL converted the play off a swift pass from his left for the last score of the game.

Spain vs Canada - credit: Russell McKinnon

Rafael AQUILAR (ESP) — Head coach, on being down 4-3 at halftime: “With teams of similar quality it is normal. As the time passes we have the time to get back in front.” On the intensity of the game: “It was very hard, the last game in the group and the most difficult. Canada is very interesting, different. We had intensity all through the game.” On excellent extra-man play: “It is good but we must perform in other parts. Tomorrow (against the Macedonians) we have to play very good defence, extra-man and counter-attack.”

Ivan PEREZ — Centre forward, on favouring his right leg after the match: “It was a cramp to my muscle but it’s nothing the physio can’t sort out before tomorrow.” On Canada taking the lead twice: “We knew it was going to be a hard game. We expected that. But it was a long game and we knew at some point we would take the lead.”

Dragan JOVANOVIC (CAN) – Head coach, on his players’ performance: “I can’t be unsatisfied with this – intensity, energy in the pool, desire, focus that we are looking for since the beginning of this tournament.” On receiving a red card: “Emotions kicked in and I did what I did. You know, I deserved the red card…pretty stupid but, you know, that’s the game when your emotions are on the top.” On the impact of his suspension from the quarter final: “There will be no difference at all, absolutely no difference… They’re (the players) the ones who have to do it, not me. That’s the bottom line.”

Aaron FELTHAM (CAN) – Captain, on proving that Canada can compete with the top teams: “Any question that anybody had about us being able to play with them or being able to do well after playing a couple of weaker games, I think we answered that.” On playing Greece in the quarter-final: “I think we stack up pretty well. They’re not as big as Spain, but they’re a pretty controlled team. But I think if we play our defence on them we can baffle them a little bit.”