Montenegro and Spain rise to the top of Olympic qualifier

London 2012 Water Polo

Edmonton (April 7) - Montenegro will play Spain in the final of the men’s Olympic Games Qualification Tournament at the Kinsmen Sports Centre here today. Following an incredible 13-12 overtime victory against Greece in their semifinal, Montenegro will be out for an unbeaten streak against Spain on Sunday. The Montenegrins had to over a 6-1 deficit midway through the second quarter to trail by just two goals at halftime. It became 8-8 at the final break and it was left to Greek captain Georgios AFROUDAKIS to score a breakaway goal to level the game at 1:24 to see the game into overtime.

Greece took control with a 2-1 first period but the wily Vladimir GOJKOVIC and power centre forward Boris ZLOKOVIC made sure of victory with a 2-0 period. The key to the victory was Mladan JANOVIC, who scored five goals, including two in the fourth quarter. Greece lost some of its defensive power when regular goalkeeper and three-time Olympian Nikolaos DELIGIANNIS, who gave up a penalty foul for messing with the goal at the stroke of halftime, was red-carded for misconduct.

Spain took a 6-2 halftime lead and converted it to 9-5 by the final break en route to a 10-6 victory. Tiberiu NEGREAN scored three goals for Romania in the third period but Felipe PERRONE scored two of his three goals in the dying stages.

In the round of 5-8, Canada beat Turkey 12-7 after leading just 8-6 at three-quarter time and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia downed Brazil 15-12 in what was a tight encounter throughout.

Match Reports:

Game 35: 13:00, 5-8 Semifinal, TURKEY 7 CANADA 12

Quarters: 3-4, 1-3, 2-1, 1-4
Referees: Risto DAMCEVSKI (MKD) Henk SMIT (NED)
Extra Man: TUR: 1/7.  CAN: 4/11
Pens: TUR: 1/1
TURKEY: Atilla SEZER, Ali Can YILMAZ, Berk BIYIK (1), Oytun OKMAN (2), Berk GUNCUT (1), Emre COSKUN (1), Osman GULENG, Ali Can GAGATAY (1), Nadir SUNMEZ, Anil SUNMEZ (1), Halil BESKARDESLER, Can GUVEN, Ali Ozcan KILIG. Head Coach: Halil AVCIOGLU.
CANADA: Robin RANDALL, Constantin KUDABA, Oliver VIKALO (2), Nicolas CONSTANTIN-BICARI (3), Justin BOYD (1), Scott ROBINSON, Luka GASIC (1), Kevin GRAHAM (1), Aaron FELTHAM, John CONWAY (2), Devon DIGGLE (1), Jared McELROY (1), Dusan ALEKSIC. Head Coach: Dragan JOVANOVIC.

This game did not reach the heights of the previous encounter when Canada won 14-5. Turkey looked better but Canada did not play with the same intensity as the previous night’s loss to Greece in the quarter-finals. Mistakes crept in but a win is a win and it puts Canada into the important play-off for fifth, a result that could have ramifications should a team withdraw from the Olympic Games. Turkish captain OKMAN key his team close with two goals in the first quarter, including one 11 seconds from time. Canada gained the edge with three counter-attack goals in the second stanza but Turkey won the third with GUNKUT sending in a “donut” on counter for Turkey. Canada won the game with the first three goals of the final quarter. The Turkish players were in near revolt in the final quarter, venting their rage by leaving their bench constantly and gesturing to the referees.

Turkey vs Canada - credit: Russell McKinnon

Halil AVCIOGLU (TUR) — Head Coach, on the game: “We had a Macedonian referee when we are playing a game where we hope to play Macedonia for fifth place. It is not possible.” On the Macedonian team: “I have to congratulate my players for a tough game. We had the ambition to win but the referees kept destroying the game with some funny whistles. They didn’t whistle a penalty for OKMAN but gave an exclusion instead yet called us for a penalty when the player had his back to the goal. It’s not a good advertisement for water polo.”

Oytun OKMAN (TUR) — Captain, on the match: “We would like to have got fifth place (in Edmonton) as the fifth team, should any team withdraw for any reason has a chance to go to the Olympic Games.”
On the Canadians: “Unfortunately, they were a little better than us. I hope they get fifth and have a chance to get to the Olympics.” On why Turkey was not good enough: “We didn’t practice enough. After the Europeans we had 15 days off. We didn’t prepare enough and we are not as good as the Canadians.”

Kevin GRAHAM (CAN) — Two goals, on having to play the day after losing an opportunity to qualify for the Olympics: “We just wanted to come out today and respect ourselves and the hard work we’ve put in, and respect our fans that come out and cheer for us, and just get a win.” On the physical nature of the match: “We knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. These games rarely are. They’re usually kind of ‘bruiser-fests’ like it was today.”

Dusan ALEKSIC (CAN) — Goalkeeper, on starting his first match of the tournament: “It was really exciting for me because I haven’t played a lot this was something that I had been waiting for. It was awesome.” On rebounding after Friday’s quarter-final loss to Greece: “It’s definitely a step forward. We had to win this game, no matter what. So, it’s definitely a step up from yesterday.”

Game 36: 14:20, 5-8 Semifinal, BRAZIL 12 FYR of MACEDONIA 15
Quarters: 2-3, 2-4, 4-3, 4-5
Referees: Cem FILIKSAC (TUR), Aleksandar ADZIC (MNE)
Extra Man: BRA: 5/8. MKD: 6/8
BRAZIL: Vinicius ANTONELLI, Bernardo GOMES, Henrique MIRANDA (1), Gustavo COUTINHO, Marcelo FRANCO, Gabriel ROCHA (2), Jonas CRIVELLA (1), Felipe SILVA (4), Bernardo ROCHA, Ruda FRANCO (2), Gustavo GUIMARAES (2), Danilo CORREA, Marcelo CHAGAS. Head Coach: Goran SABLIC.

A game that delivers 27 goals must be exciting and this was the case between two even teams, although it looked like the Macedonians would always come out on top.  The edge was there at the first quarter but it could have been two if SILVA hadn’t sent in his buzzer-beater. The lead stretched to 6-3 but Ruda FRANCO pulled it back to 6-4 and SILVA scored his second for 7-5 soon after halftime. By now CUK and AKSENTIJEVIC had scored consecutive goals, the former in the first quarter and the latter in the second. Twice Brazil drew within one goal in the third period with SILVA claiming his third at 9-8. MIRANDA brought it back to one at the top of the fourth after LETICA’s goal in the last second of the third period, GUIMARAES did the same after another LETICA goal. The die was cast when the Macedonians scored four straight in five minutes for 15-10 before Brazil scored two in the final minute.

Brazil vs FYR of Macedonia - credit: Russell McKinnon

Felipe SILVA (BRA) — Top scorer with four goals, on the match: “We knew in the beginning it would be a hard game. They are really strong and big and tall… they are very experienced players… but we tried right to the end and I think that’s important.” On Brazil’s level of preparation: “We didn’t prepare very good for the championship, so this is a good result for us.”

Boris LETICA (MKD) — Two goals, on rebounding after the quarter-final loss on Friday: “The match was very difficult because we needed to motivate ourselves for another game after yesterday. This is not as important a match, so that’s the difficulty.” On the challenge of playing tired: “We talked about it before the game that we would have a lot of problems with the defence because we are tired. It’s the sixth game in a row. We tried to play as best we can but, in the end, I think we could have won by more goals.”

Game 37: 15:40, 1-4 Semifinal, MONTENEGRO 13 GREECE 12 in extra time (FT: 10-10)

Quarters: 0-2, 5-5, 3-1, 2-2, 1-2, 2-0
Referees: Doriel TERPENKA (CAN), Filippo GOMEZ (ITA)
Extra Man: MNE: 3/11. GRE: 5/14
Penalties: MNE: 3/3. GRE: 1/1
MONTENEGRO: Zdravko RADIC, Drasko BRGULJAN, Vjekoslav PASKOVIC (1), Antonio PETROVIC, Filip KLIKOVAC, Aleksandar RADOVIC (2), Mladan JANOVIC (5), Nikola JANOVIC (2), Aleksandar IVOVIC (1), Boris ZLOKOVIC (1), Vladimir GOJKOVIC (1), Predrag JOKIC, Mikos SCEPANOVIC. Head Coach: Vido LOMPAR.
GREECE: Nikolaos DELIGIANNIS, Emmanouil MYLONAKIS (1), Andreas MIRALIS (1), Konstantinos KOKKINAKIS, Theodoros CHATZITHEODOROU, Argyris THEODOROPOULOS (1), Christos AFROUDAKIS, (1) Evangelos DELAKAS (1), Georgios AFROUDAKIS, (1) Iannis FOUNTOULIS (4), Konstantinos MOURIKIS (2), Matthaios VOULGARAKIS, Filippos KARAMPETSOS. Head Coach: Dragan ANDRIC.

This thrilling match, easily the best of the tournament, was a testament to Greece’s resurgence in the sport internationally but equally to Montenegro’s ability to come back from a seemingly impossible 6-1 disadvantage to win. With Olympic participation assured, it was time for pride and a top-two finish the prize. It took until the start of the second quarter for Montenegro to score its first goal via Mladan JANOVIC, who went on to score so many and bring Montenegro back into the game. But everyone was stunned when Greece went 6-1 ahead with MOURIKIS scoring twice. Montenegro went to a timeout and it worked, with three successive goals bringing the score back to 6-4. Goals were traded with Mladan JANOVIC taking his second on penalty four seconds from halftime when Greek goalkeeper DELIGIANNIS was called for moving the goal on the shot (pictured). DELIGIANNIS protested too much and was red-carded from the game. RADOVIC brought it back to one goal at the start of the third after Greece missed an open goal with a wayward lob but FOUNTOULIS responded with a goal from deep left. Mladan and older brother and captain Nikola JANOVIC netted the next two to level the game at 8-8 midway through the third and the last goals of the period. DELAKAS broke the deadlock on extra off a near-post post but Mladan JANOVIC turned the tide with  a goal on extra from the deep left and then with a missile from the top for 10-9. Georgios AFROUDAKIS broke free and goalkeeper KARAMPETSOS fired a perfect pass 25 metres upfield for his captain to score at 1:24. Greece and Montenegro took timeouts inside the final 40 seconds to no avail, forcing the game into overtime. FOUNTOULIS screamed one in from the top; IVOVIC responded and converted extra after IVOVIC left the game. Greece had the advantage going into the second half of extra time. GOJKOVIC scored on extra, electing not to pass to a half chance in front of goal but instead score from deep right on an acute angle. Greece missed an opportunity on extra but with 40 seconds remaining, ZLOKOVIC scored a textbook goal from centre forward to win the game.

Montenegro vs Greece - credit: Russell McKinnon

Mladan JANOVIC (MNE) — Five goals, on the match: “Look, it’s semifinals, so we knew it would be a difficult game.” On his desire to see Montenegro win the tournament: “We’re reached our target to make the final. Now there’s one more step to win the tournament… I hope we win because it’s good for our atmosphere and good for our team.”

Ioannis FOUNTOULIS (GRE) — Four goals, on the match: “We started very well with a 6-1 lead. After, I think, in my opinion, some referee decisions turned the game against us.” On being ready for tomorrow’s bronze-medal match: “Now it’s time to have a little bit of fun. All of the previous games had a lot of stress. But now that we’ve reached our target, it’s really fun to play against good teams with no stress.”

Game 38, 17:00, 1-4 Semifinal, ROMANIA 6 SPAIN 10

Quarters: 1-3, 1-3, 3-3, 1-1
Referees: Axel BENDER (GER), Steven ROTSART (USA)
Extra Man: ROU: 2/11. ESP: 4/12
Pens: ESP: 0/1
ROMANIA: Dragos STOENESCU, Cosmin RADU, Tiberiu NEGREAN (3), Nicolae DIACONU, Andrei IOSEP (1), Andrei BUSILA, Alexandru MATEI GUIMAN, Mihnea CHIOVEANU (1), Dimitri GOANTA, Ramiro GEORGESCU (1), Alexandru GHIBAN, Kalman KADAR, Mihai DRAGUSIN. Head Coach: Istvan KOVACS.
SPAIN: Inaki AGUILAR, Mario GARCIA (1), Oscar CARRILLO, Balazs SZIRANYI, (1) Guillermo MOLINA (1), Marc MINGUELL (1), Ivan GALLEGO, Albert ESPANOL, Blai MALLARACH (1), Felipe PERRONE (3), Ivan PEREZ, Javier GARCIA (2), Daniel LOPEZ. Head Coach: Rafael AGUILAR.

This match was a far cry of the previous semifinal with a quieter crowd as the Spanish went about their duty of winning the game and setting up a cracker of a final against Montenegro. By early in the second quarter it was 5-1 to Spain, reminiscent of the previous match but no fairy tale ending for the Romanians. NEGREAN, who scored three goals in the third period, gave some life to the Romanian attack but the margin was 8-5 and PERRONE snared a second to close the third period at 9-5. CHIOVEANU was left wide open at centre forward to score at 3:07 to lift the Romanian spectators to their feet and their vocal chords to a higher decibel. PERRONE made that short-lived when he scored on extra on the next attack. CARILLO should have closed the scoring with 40 seconds remaining but he had the shot blocked by STOENESCU.

Romania vs Spain - credit: Russell McKinnon

Tiberiu NEGREAN (ROU) — Three goals, on the team’s sluggish performance: “We are very tired because we have already qualified for the Olympic Games and we had a big party last night. So, today we didn’t play so good. But, we are happy that we’re going to London.”

Nicolae DIACONU (ROU), on the match: “It was a little bit hard because our most important game was yesterday and we gave everything to win that one. After, we celebrated a little bit, so it was difficult this game today.”

Javier GARCIA (ESP) — Two goals, on achieving Spain’s main objective: “All the teams came here to qualify for the Olympic Games as the main objective. So, we’re very happy to have done that.”