Montenegro wins OGQT with powerful finish over Spain

London 2012 Water Polo

Edmonton (April 8) - Montenegro swam away with the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament for men in Edmonton, beating Spain 12-9 in the final. It was the manner in which Montenegro won the match that belied the fact the last two days were dead rubbers. Spain also played to the higher level and stayed in touch at the first two breaks but could not contain the bigger and rocket-shooting opposition. Montenegro only led by a goal at the first two breaks but managed to gain a three-goal margin heading into the final quarter. Montenegro shared around the goal-scoring befitting a team of high achievers and excellent shooters. Alexander IVOVIC and Mladan JANOVIC both top-scored their team with 17 goals for the tournament.

Felipe PERRONE scored three goals in the final and finished with 18 goals in second-equal position with Greece’s Ioannis FOUNTOULIS, who missed the third-placed play-off with an injured right foot.

The winning team of Montenegro - credit: Russell McKinnon

Greece finished third, as expected, fending off a determined Romania 14-10. Captain Cosmin RADU led his team from the front with five goals to finish as the tournament’s highest scorer with 21 goals. Greece made the four-goal break in the second quarter and, despite a Romanian comeback to 11-9 at the start of the fourth, soon re-established supremacy.

Canada scored an exciting 11-10 victory over the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, having led 4-0 in the first quarter and then squandering the lead in the dying minutes. It was left to “King” Con KUDABA to fire in two unexpected goals in the last 65 seconds to rob the Macedonians of what became the first-reserve position for the Olympics with fifth place.

Turkey claimed seventh place with a 16-12 victory over Brazil, with captain Oytun OKMAN scoring three goals to lift his tally to 12 for the tournament.

Match Reports:

Game 39: 13:00, Classification 7-8, TURKEY 16 BRAZIL 12
Quarters: 5-2, 3-4, 3-2, 5-4
Referees: Nikolaos VASILEIOU (GRE), Risto DAMCEVSKI (MKD)
Extra Man: TUR: 3/8. BRA: 5/15
TURKEY: Atilla SEZER, Ali Can YILMAZ, Berk BIYIK (3), Oytun OKMAN (3), Berk GUNCUT (1), Emre COSKUN (2), Osman GULENG, Ali Can GAGATAY (1), Nadir SUNMEZ (1), Anil SUNMEZ, Halil BESKARDESLER (2), Can GUVEN (3), Ali Ozcan KILIG. Head Coach: Halil AVCIOGLU.
BRAZIL: Vinicius ANTONELLI, Bernardo GOMES, Henrique MIRANDA (1), Gustavo COUTINHO (2), Marcelo FRANCO (1), Gabriel ROCHA (3), Jonas CRIVELLA (1), Felipe SILVA (1), Bernardo ROCHA (1), Ruda FRANCO (1), Gustavo GUIMARAES (1), Danilo CORREA, Marcelo CHAGAS. Head Coach: Goran SABLIC.

It was the second time these two teams met in the tournament with it being an 11-11 result in the rounds. Today, Turkey seemed to be the team that arrived for action, slowly building to a 7-3 lead before Brazil recovered to score three of the next four goals. Gabriel ROCHA (BRA) had three to lift his tally for the tournament to 13. Turkey shifted to an 11-6 lead but MIRANDA and Marcelo FRANCO brought it back to 11-8 by the final break. Turkey slipped out to 13-9 but CRIVELLA and GUIMARAES closed the game to 13-11 at 5:25. COSKUN scored from centre forward but Bernardo ROCHA brought the game to two again at 4:00. GUVEN pushed in a rebound and OKMAN scored his third on a huge counter to close the scoring at 2:59. He finished with 12 goals for the tournament, the same as team-mate GAGATAY. Turkey deserved seventh place.

Turkey vs Brazil - credit: Russell McKinnon

Oytun OKMAN (TUR) — Captain — Three goals, on the seventh-place finish: “The result that we get is the result that we expected in the beginning… seventh place in this kind of tournament is good and it shows that we are improving our sport.”

Can GUVAN (TUR) — Three goals, on Turkey’s performance: “It’s good for us, it’s OK, because we had missing players. We had some other problems. But, overall it feels good at the end.”

Gustavo COUTINHO (BRA) — Two goals, on hosting the Olympic tournament in Rio de Janeiro  in 2016: “We have to organise ourselves better. That’s where we have to start. Then, it’s an evolution. You can’t win the gold medal your first time at the Olympics so we have to take it step by step.” On the impact of hosting the next Olympic Games: “It’s more pressure, more motivation, it’s both of them because you have to represent your country. That makes you do better, to play better, and practise better for the (Olympic) championship.”

Game 40: 14:20, Classification 5-6, CANADA 11 FYR of MACEDONIA 10

Quarters: 4-0, 2-3, 2-3, 3-4
Referees:  Adrian ALEXANDRESCU (ROU), Jose WERNER (BRA)
Extra Man: CAN: 3/6. MKD: 1/9.
Pens: CAN: 1/1. MKD: 1/1
CANADA: Robin RANDALL, Constantin KUDABA (2), Oliver VIKALO (1), Nicolas CONSTANTIN-BICARI, Justin BOYD (2), Scott ROBINSON, Luka GASIC (2), John CONWAY (1), Devon DIGGLE (1), Jared McELROY (2), Dusan ALEKSIC. Head Coach: Dragan JOVANOVIC.

Canada’s KUDABA scored twice in seven matches before the play-off match but he doubled his score with the two most important goals of the match in the last 65 seconds. In an intriguing match where Canada led 4-1 only to have that whittled, equalled and then trailing, KUDABA was the man for the moment. When RANDIJKJ scored his fourth for 10-9 at 1:45, it was only the second lead of the game for the Macedonians. Then KUDABA stood up and when deep right he sent the ball into the top right corner of the goal for 120-10. The Macedonians lost the ball on the next attack and the ball came to KUDABA, who wasted no time with a shot from nine metres for the winning goal. MKD went on to attack and AKSENTIJEVIC took the shot to hopefully force the game to extra time but it was saved by Canadian keeper ALEKSIC, sending the large crowd into raptures. Canada had secured the first reserve spot for the Olympic Games. Not bad, considering Canada played without captain Aaron FELTHAM, who was sitting out with an upper-body injury, and fellow star Kevin GRAHAM, who had been called back to his Hungarian club team in preparation for semifinals starting on April 10.

FYR of Macedonia vs Canada - credit: Russell McKinnon

Constantine KUDABA (CAN) – Scored Canada’s last two goals, on his tying and winning goals: “It’s been a long tournament and I’ve missed a lot of shots, so it was nice to get two at the end.” On the progress that Canada is making in international water polo: “We’re just more excited for the next tournament. Each game is closer and closer against these teams that used to beat us pretty handily. It’s going to be an exciting summer regardless of not going to London.”

Dusan ALEKSIC (CAN) — Goalkeeper, on making the final save to preserve the win for Canada: “It feels awesome, I mean, it feels great. I don’t get the chance to play these matches very often since I’m the back-up goalie. It was really exciting for me.”

Sasho POPOVSKI (MKD) — Head coach, on the match: “We managed to come back from 4-0 down and we had the game to win. Two stupid mistakes with goals from a distance. Both teams played very well but not 100 percent. It was out eighth game and we were tired and there was no pressure.” On the tournament: “Our best game was against Spain, We stuck it well. Spain had a 4-1 advantage but we missed several chances.”

Igor MILANOVIKS, on why MKD lost: “The first half was very bad. We had a bad attack. The difference was we let in their outside shooting. The second half we came back and had a good position but we lost it in the last few minutes. We got back to 10-10 but after that we did nothing and let in that easy goal at the end.”

Game 41: 15:40, Classification 3-4, GREECE 14 ROMANIA 10
Quarters: 4-3, 6-2, 1-2, 3-2
Referees: Nenad PERIS (CRO), Steven ROTSART (USA)
Extra Man: GRE: 6/12. ROU: 3/7
Pen: GRE: 1/1
GREECE: Emmanouil MYLONAKIS, Andreas MIRALIS (3), Konstantinos KOKKINAKIS (2), Theodoros CHATZITHEODOROU, Argyris THEODOROPOULOS (2), Christos AFROUDAKIS (1), Evangelos DELAKAS (3), Georgios AFROUDAKIS (1), Ioannis FOUNTOULIS, Konstantinos MOURIKIS (1), Matthaios VOULGARAKIS (1), Filippos KARAMPETSOS. Head Coach: Dragan ANDRIC.
ROMANIA: Dragos STOENESCU, Cosmin RADU (5), Tiberiu NEGREAN, Nicolae DIACONU, Andrei IOSEP (1), Andrei BUSILA, Alexandru MATEI GUIMAN (1), Mihnea CHIOVEANU, Dimitri GOANTA, Ramiro GEORGESCU (1), Alexandru GHIBAN (2), Kalman KADAR, Mihai DRAGUSIN. Head Coach: Istvan KOVACS.

Greece played a high-pressure game as it has throughout the tournament, securing third place, which is a good pointer ahead of the Olympic Games. Romania proved an opponent equal to the task and stuck close, coming back from 2-0 to 4-3 and 11-9 at the start of the fourth period. This became 12-10 but THEODOROPOULOS with his second of the quarter and MIRALIS with his third of the match. The big pressure came from Romanian captain RADU with five goals, one a gift from in front when he collected a rebound out of the air at two metres, baulked and scored for what was his fifth, one of only three goals in the third period. It was a total team effort by the Greeks and a thoroughly deserved victory. Greece went 8-4 ahead in the second quarter and maintained the four-goal margin until the long break. The spirit of Romania was also evident but the accent was heavily on RADU to score the goals. Greece was playing without regular goalkeeper Nico DELIGIANNIS, who was suspended for one match by FINA for his indiscretions the day before. Also missing from the water but sitting on the bench with his right ankle strapped was Ioannis FOUNTOULIS, the leading scorer at the start of the day. He stayed dry throughout the match.

Greece vs Romania - credit: Russell McKinnon

Dragan ANDRIC (GRE) — Head coach, on his team’s performance at the Olympic Qualification Tournament: “Every day we are better and better. And I’m satisfied with our work here. The most important thing, of course, was to finish in the top four and earn a visit to London.” On the value of the experience: “This is the way how you build a team. It’s very important to live an experience like this and to be stronger after this tournament. I believe that we are stronger… I know that others in water polo are starting to recognise our progress and they start to take us seriously.”

Alexandru GHIBAN (ROU) — Two goals, on the match: “We’re not happy because we lost the game but it was difficult to concentrate because we have already qualified for the Olympic Games. So, we tried to do our best, but this was the result.”

Cosmin RADU (ROU) — Captain — Five goals, on qualifying for the Olympics: “It’s a unique feeling. That’s the best way to put it. For us as Romanians, the last time we were there was 16 years ago, so it’s pretty rough to get there. That’s why I think it’s pretty special.” On Romania’s chances in London: “First of all, it depends on the groups… (but) at some level, we’re all the same. So, it depends on the form we’re in at the right moment.”

Game 42, 17:00, Classification 1-2, MONTENEGRO 12 SPAIN 9

Quarters: 3-2, 2-2, 4-2, 3-3
Referees: Filippo GOMEZ (ITA), Daniel FLAHIVE (AUS)
Extra Man: MNE: 6/11. ESP: 2/10
Pens: MNE: 1/1
MONTENEGRO: Zdravko RADIC, Drasko BRGULJAN, Vjekoslav PASKOVIC (3), Antonio PETROVIC, Filip KLIKOVAC, Aleksandar RADOVIC (2), Mladan JANOVIC (3), Nikola JANOVIC, Aleksandar IVOVIC (1), Boris ZLOKOVIC (1), Vladimir GOJKOVIC (1), Predrag JOKIC (1), Mikos SCEPANOVIC. Head Coach: Vido LOMPAR.
SPAIN: Inaki AGUILAR, Mario GARCIA, Oscar CARRILLO, Balazs SZIRANYI, Guillermo MOLINA (1), Marc MINGUELL, Ivan GALLEGO, Albert ESPANOL (1), Blai MALLARACH (1), Felipe PERRONE (3), Ivan PEREZ, Javier GARCIA (3), Daniel LOPEZ. Head Coach: Rafael AGUILAR.

There was never any doubt that Montenegro would win this tournament and the chances are that the second-ranked European nation could take home an Olympic medal in London. The way in which Montenegro played was testament to their abilities and the fine coaching of Vido LOMPAR. Montenegro was calm, incisive and packed an explosive charge that exploded in the final. Spain was stunned at times but picked up and battled head to head to the end. While Saturday’s Montenegro-Greece was probably the game of the tournament, this was the second best by far. Montenegro struggled to get away from Spain, leading by one goal after the first and second quarters. While Montenegro slipped out to 7-4 up early in the third, PERRONE and MALLARACH brought the game back to one. However, IVOVIC, Mladan JANOVIC and JOKIC scored the next three covering the final break for 10-6. Goals were traded and PERRONE scored the tournament’s final goal just over two minutes from time. Defence finished the final minutes and a fine tournament came to a close.

Montenegro vs Spain - credit: Russell McKinnon

Nikola JANOVIC (MNE) — Team captain, on the match: “We’re very happy because we played well in this match and through the whole championship and, of course, because we are going to the Olympic Games.” On his expectations for London: “We can play even better than this… We expect a medal (in London). We are one of the best teams in the world.”

Boris ZLOKOVIC (MNE) — One goal, on the match: “For us it was important to win and take the gold medal because… we are from a very small country of only 600,000 people so it’s a very big success to go to the Olympic Games.” On his expectations for the Olympics: “We are not going only to see how it is, we want to go and play good water polo. And I think we have big possibilities to take one of the medals.”

Felipe PERRONE (ESP) — Three goals, on preparations for London: “We have to work a lot. The Olympic Games is the most important moment in the four years to every sport and to every athlete so we will be working a lot…. I think we need to go step by step.”

Cosmin RADU (ROU), 21
Ioannis FOUNTOULIS (GRE), 18
Felipe PERRONE (ESP), 18
Aleksandar IVOVIC (MNE), 17
Mladan JANOVIC (MNE), 17
Christos AFROUDAKIS (GRE), 16
Guillermo MOLINA (ESP), 15
Gabriel ROCHA (BRA), 13
Miroslav RANDJIKJ (MKD), 12
Georgios AFROUDAKIS (GRE), 12
Ali Can GAGATAY (TUR), 12
Oytun OKMAN (TUR), 12