Super Final 2012 (Men): Croatia clinches top spot, Kazakhs lose to Italy in shootout

World League

KAZ vs ITA - credit: Saken NigmashevKAZAKHSTAN, Almaty (June 13) – Kazakhstan came back and forced the game against Italy to a penalty-shootout despite trailing 9-4 early in the third period. The heroic efforts of the hosts were wildly celebrated by the home crowd. This was the real highlight on Day 2 which saw Croatia clinching the top spot after two rounds in Group A and China causing some head-ache for the U.S. team.

Match reports

Game 5: 14:10, Group A, USA 6 - CHINA 4
(2-1, 1-0, 1-2, 2-1)
Referees: Daniel Flahive (AUS), Roberto Cabral (BRA)
FINA Delegate: Boukezouha Badreddine
USA: Merryl Moses – Peter Valleras 1, Peter Hudnut, Jeff Powers, Adam Wright, Shea Buckner, Layne Beaubien, Tony Azevedo 1, Ryan Bailey 3, Tim Hutten 1, Jesse Smith, JW Krumpholz, John Mann. Head coach: Terry Schroeder.
CHINA: Ge Weiqing – Tan Feihu, Liang Zhongsing 1, Yu Lijun, Guo Jungliang, Zhang Jian 1, Li Bin 1, Wang Yang, Xie Junmin, Dong Tianyi, Zhang Chufeng 1, Liang Nianxiang 1, Gu Liang. Head coach: Rick Azevedo.

USA: 3 for 8
China: 2 for 4


USA vs CHN - credit: Saken Nigmashev

It was a tough defending game, both sides put special emphasis to kill the strengths of the other side: actually, the Chinese enjoyed some advantage in this area since their head coach, Rick Azevedo is from the USA. Further interesting fact that his son, Tony is the key-figure of the American team. And as it was expected, the younger Azevedo was double-guarded for most of the time, he was on target only once but that was a sensational pin-point shot to the upper-left corner. This gave the USA a well-deserved 3-1 lead by half-time as the defence worked pretty well at both ends. Considering the difference in the skills, the Chinese had to put into much more effort to deny the American attacks and they seemed to be lost a bit in front of their rivals‘ cage: their single goal in the first half came from a 6 on 5, and they couldn’t create clearer chances. When Ryan Bailey managed to send home an extra for 4-1 early in the third period, the Americans might start to think of an easy cruise – but all of a sudden the Chinese hit back. Liang Zhongsing’s perfect shot found the back of the net and not much later Zhang Jian buried an extra (4-3) – while the Americans missed another powerplay. They stood 1 for 5 after three periods, but they managed to regroup themselves and netted two back-to-back extras in the beginning of the fourth quarter, credit to Peter Vallares and Ryan Bailey (it was his third goal of the game). Despite trailing 3-6, the Chinese fought on and a Zhang Chufeng’s goal from a counter brought them closer again. But that was all they had: they missed a 6 on 5 for 6-5, and the Americans collected their second win. Still, Rick Azevedo could be satisfied with his boys‘ performance and he was, indeed: "I took over this job three months ago. We worked very hard during this time, we started to educate the players and they have learned a lot. The federation is doing a great job, they back my plans. We have plenty of players to pick for the team, they are open to learn more, they have great physical abilities, so we can be ready for Rio 2016. And if we reach a good level, it’s good for the world of water polo!"

Game 6: 15:30, Group B, CROATIA 7 - SPAIN 6
(4-2, 1-0, 1-2, 1-2)
Referees: Mark Koganov (AZE), Steven Rotstart (USA)
FINA Delegate: Haluk Toygarli
CROATIA: Frano Vican – Damir Buric 1, Miho Boskovic 1, Niksa Dobud, Maro Jokovic 1, Andelo Setka, Petar Muslim 1, Andro Buslje 1, Ivan Krapic, Samir Barac, Igor Hinic 1, Ivan Buljubasic 1. Head coach: Ratko Rudic.
SPAIN: Inaki Aguilar – Mario Garcia, Blai Mallarach 1, Balazs Sziranyi, Guillermo Molina, Marc Minguell, David Martin, Albert Espanol 1, Xavi Valles, Felipe Perrone 2, Ivan Perez 1, Javier Garcia 1, Daniel Lopez. Head coach: Rafael Aguilar.

Croatia: 1 for 5
Spain: 4 for 11


CRO vs ESP - credit: Saken Nigmashev

Croatia came up with a pretty strong start, scoring three great goals: Damir Buric pushed the ball under the bar from the opening 6 on 5, this was followed by two sensational blasts from the distance, by Petar Muslim and Andro Buslje. In the meantime, Spain missed two extras so just four minutes gone and it was 3-0. An early time-out and substituting the starting goalie wakened up the Spaniards who climbed back to 4-2 by the end of the first period. The second saw a handful of man-ups missed here and there, Frano Vican and Daniel Lopez did a great job in the red caps, and the period seemed to go scoreless but Ivan Buljubasic found the way to the net with 2.2 seconds to go (5-2). Though the Spanish struggled to bury their 6 on 5s, finally they managed to score twice (on four attempts in the third period), so they could close the gap as the Croatians could produce a lonely goal again (6-4). Miho Boskovic’s fine bouncing shot opened the last quarter which put the Croatians to a winning position at 7-4, but they slowed down again and this gave the field for the Spaniards who sent home another extra, and Felipe Perrone’s nice action goal set up a rather exciting final 93 seconds. The Croats couldn’t create any chance while the huge centre-forward of Spain, Ivan Perez, managed to grab the ball at the other end. However, his shot was well saved by Vican which virtually ended the contest: Croatia earned its second win and the top spot in this group.

Game 7: 16:50, Group B, BRAZIL 6 - AUSTRALIA 13
(2-2, 1-4, 2-4, 1-3)
Referees: Filippo Gomez (ITA), Irfan Sadekov (RUS)
FINA Delegate: Gyorgy Martin
BRAZIL: Thye Bezerra – Caio Lima, Henrique Miranda 1, Gustavo Coutinho, Cesar Queiroz Junior, Bernardo Gomes, Jonas Crivella 2, Felipe Silva 1, Bernardo Rocha 1, Ruda Franco, Gustavo Guimaraes, Danilo Correa 1. Head coach: Carlos Carvalho.
AUSTRALIA: Joel Dennerley – Richard Campbell, Timothy Cleland 1, John Cotterill 1, Robert Maitland 1, Anthony Martin 3, Aidan Roach 3, Samuel McGregor 2, Thomas Whalan 1, Aaron Younger 1, Jamie Beadsworth, William Miller. Head coach: John Fox.

Brazil: 2 for 7
Australia: 4 for 8

Brazil: none
Australia: 1 for 1

BRA vs AUS - credit: Saken Nigmashev

It was the same old story for Brazil: a great opening period, followed by some miserable moments in the next three. They stood 3-3 against Spain on day 1, but lost the remaining of the game 0-5. This time, against Australia it was 2-2 after eight minutes but the rest of the game well also could be regarded as s a nightmare – from Brazil’s point of view. The Aussies played a great match, they have created chances in the position-game but led a handful of counter attacks and also played rather efficiently in man-ups. The Brazilians tried to stage a come-back after being 3-7 down at the beginning of the third but they ran out of gas after 5-7: the Aussies netted three goals in a span of 63 seconds late in the quarter for 10-5, so the fourth served as a cool-down period while the weather got a bit warmer after some rainy spells in the afternoon.

Game 8: 18:15, Group A, ITALY 13 - KAZAKHSTAN 10
(3-1, 5-3, 1-3, 1-3; penalties: 3-0)
Referees: German Moller (ARG), Nenad Peris (CRO)
FINA Delegate: Evgeny Sharonov
ITALY: Stefano Tempesti – Amaurys Perez 1, Valerio Rizzo 1, Pietro Figlioli 1 (1), Alex Giorgetti 2, Maurizio Felugo 1 (1), Niccolo Figari 1, Valentino Gallo (1), Christian Presciutti, Deni Fiorentini 1, Daniel Premus 1, Arnaldo Deserti 1, Tamas Marcz. Head coach: Alessandro Campagna.
KAZAKHSTAN: Nikolay Maximov – Sergey Gubarev, Nikita Kokorin, Murat Shakenov, Alexey Panfili, Alexey Shmider 1, Vladimir Ushakov 3, Rustam Ukumanov 1, Evgeniy Zhilyayev 2, Mikhail Ruday 1, Ravil Manafov 2, Sergey Gorovoy. Head coach: Sergey Drozdov.

Italy: 5 for 12
Kazakhstan: 6 for 7

Double extra:
Italy: 1 for 1
Kazakhstan: none

Italy: 1 for 1
Kazakhstan: none

ITA vs KAZ - credit: Saken Nigmashev

The hosts were up to the task to play the game of their life against the reigning World Champions and to much of the delight of the home crowd they managed to earn a draw and lost to Italy only in the penalty shootout. Though, for two and a half periods Italy sat comfortably in the driving seat, they were cool, common and collected, defended well with Stefano Tempesti making nice saves in the back and they were great in creating chances and scoring a wide range of goals from manups, shots from the distance and counters. Three minutes gone in the third when Italy was 9-4 up and probably not even the home fans dreamed of such a come-back what followed shortly after. In fact, the Italians considered the job done, even after the Kazakhs scored two in 55 seconds. The world title-holders‘ concentration dropped, they started to miss their 6 on 5s (two in a row) and Alexey Shmider’s hit from an extra gave some hope for the last period (9-7). And the crowd went wild when the miracle came even closer with Rustam Ukumanov sending home another extra for 9-8, right from the first attack in the fourth. A missed man-up seemed to cost the hosts their momentum as from the very next attack Deni Fiorentini scored for 10-8. But Nikolay Maximov, the former Olympic medallist goalie with Russia, proved his class with a great stop on the next Italian extra and Vladimir Ushakov brought the Kazakh hopes back with 1:17 remaining on the clock. And that was enough to send the fans to the seventh heaven: 36 seconds later Ushakov sent a rocket under the bar from a free-throw to tie the game at 10-10.
However, the Kazakh fairytale ended here as the ensuing penalty shootout finished quite early: three home players tried to find the net but Stefano Tempesti saved each attempt while Pietro Figlioli, Valentino Gallo and Maurizio Felugo all scored from the penalties to save some pride for the Italians.