Super Final 2013 (Men): Japan makes history by upsetting Montenegro

World League

MNE vs JPN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav ShishkozdovCHELYABINSK, Russia (June 11) - What a day to start the World League Super Final in Chelyabinsk! Japan’s win over Montenegro is one of the biggest upsets ever in the history of the FINA World League Super Finals. It was a historic win for Japan – in the shootout –, the first great triumph in a big tournament against a top-ranked European team (Montenegro was 4th in London and came runner-up at the European Championships).

There was another penalty shootout which saw the USA beating Hungary, also a bit surprisingly. Group A had much calmer matches, Serbia easily overcame China while the host Russians made their fans happy by scoring an easy win against Brazil.

Match reports:

Match 1, 14:00 hrs, Group B: SERBIA vs CHINA 13-5
Quarters: (5-1, 4-1, 3-0, 1-3)
Referees: Jon Piela (USA), German Moller (ARG)
Extraman: SRB: 3/6. CHN: 1/4 – double extras: 1 for 2

SERBIA: Gojko Pijetlovic – Aleksa Saponjic 1, Zivko Gocic 2, Vanja Udovicic 1, Milos Cuk 2, Nemanja Ubovic, Slobodan Nikic, Milan Aleksic 1, Nikola Radjen 1, Filip Filipovic 2, Dusan Mandic 1, Stefan Mitrovic 2, Branislav Mitrovic (GK).
CHINA: Ge Weiqing – Tan Fehiu, Liang Zhongxing 1, Jiang Bin, Guo Junliang, Pan Ning, Li Bin 1, Wang Yang, Xie Junmin 1, Zhang Jian, Zhang Chufeng 1, Liang Nianxiang 1, Wu Honghui (GK).

Serbia put the opening game on the right track immediately after the start. They scored three goals on their first three attacks – the opening goal of the Super Final went to Vanja Udovicic – and that was a rather strong message for the Chinese who seemed to be caught by this demonstration. By half time the Serbs were 9-2 up, they enjoyed the game but kept their discipline at both ends. It was a good team effort all in all, all but two field players netted one or two goals and their defence worked really well for most of the match, they denied a handful of extras, even a double man-down. In the final period the Serbs slowed down a bit while the Chinese fought bravely to restore some pride: probably the most beautiful goal of the afternoon was scored by Liang Nianxiang, it was a fine back-handed shot from the centre under heavy pressure. The Chinese managed to win the final period so we might say both teams were satisfied while leaving the pool.

SRB vs CHN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov
SRB vs CHN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov


DEJAN SAVIC – Head coach, Serbia
“We came here mainly for practice but if we have a chance to win we will take it, for sure. We didn’t know anything on China so it’s good to win an easy game like this. Tomorrow we’ll play with Russia but that will be tougher as we will have a strong training in the morning.”

RICK AZEVEDO – Head coach, China
“We started out very flat, very slow, but you know, we haven’t played a team of this caliber for a year. The last time we played hard was in the Super Final last year. In the first half our team was not clicking, but in the second we did a very good job, we were almost even, so it’s coming around and that’s good since our preparation is for the long term.”

“Hard to discuss a game like this. It was also hard to make a good start for this tournament, as many of our players took part in the Champions League Final Four tournament and this event is coming just two weeks after that one. It’s not easy to compose a team, to prepare a team and to be inside, to feel this tournament under such a short term. We opened this game very strongly, I think those first three attacks decided the outcome. The group is a bit easy so we have to be ready for the semi final and for the final. This game offered a good opportunity to practice some new schemes in attack and in defence to check how they work. So it’s great to earn an 8-goal win in this kind of match.”

Match 2, 15:45 – Group A: MONTENEGRO vs JAPAN 10-10 (2-5, 3-0, 4-2, 1-3) – penalties: 5-6
Referees: Irfan Sadekov (RUS), Vasilieou Nikolaos (GRE)
Extraman: MNE: 4/7. JPN: 3/7
Penalties: MNE: Nil. JPN: 2 for 3

MONTENEGRO: Milos Scepanovic – Drasko Brguljan 1, Vjekoslav Paskovic 1, Antonio Petrovic, Miljan Popovic, Nikola Markovic 1, Dragan Draskovic 1, Luka Sekulic, Radovan Latinovic 1, Darko Brguljan 2, Filip Klikovac 2, Uros Cuckovic 1.
JAPAN: Tanamura Katsusuyuki – Ichikawa Masahiro 2, Arai Atsushi, Shiga Mitsuaki, Ezaki Daichi, Hemmi Yuta, Shimizu Yusuki1, Kanodo Yuki 1, Takei Koji 4, Yasuda Kenya, Okawa Keigo 2, Hazui Shota.

It started similarly as the first game which saw Serbia scoring three fast goals. Three attacks – three goals and a 3-0 lead. Well, guess who had this advantage. No, not Montenegro – it was Japan. For the shock of many, mostly the Montenegrin players, the Asians netted three really brilliant goals. And the show went on in the first period, as the Japanese led 5-2. In the next two periods the Montenegrins seemed to make order. They tightened up their defence and started to finish their attacks with the usual way: huge blasts from extras and free-throws so in the middle of the third they led 8-5 (scored six unanswered goals, the Japanese missed a penalty in the meantime). But all of a sudden, the Japanese were back. Okawa and Takei scored in a span of 32 second for 8-7. It was a sign for the Montenegrins: it was not over at all. Though they seemed to take the job done after Paskovic scored for 10-8. Their level of play dropped significantly, the Japanese smelled blood, Ichikawa converted an extra, then with 1:51 to go Takei netted the equaliser (it was his 4th goal of the game). And the Japanese even had an extra in the last 17 seconds but missed it, so we saw the first penalty shootout of the tournament. And the justice of sport prevailed: after five penalties were converted at both ends, the second round brought a miss from Montenegro and the Japanese could celebrate what might be regarded the biggest win in their history.

MNE vs JPN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov
MNE vs JPN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov


RANKO PEROVIC - Head coach of Montenegro
“We played really badly… Our concentration was on a really low level, perhaps my players thought that they had won the game before it started. This a big blow for us. I hope it also wakes us up.”

OMOTO YOJI - Head coach of Japan
“We didn’t think of beating Montenegro. It did not even appear in our dreams. But we asked one thing before the match: now, we are representing our country so we have to fight until the very last second. After being 8-5 down, we didn’t give it up. We saw that they got a bit tired during their comeback so we told the players, keep swimming, keep moving, do not stop. This brought the result. Well, the next two games against the USA and Hungary won’t easy, Montenegro perhaps could not analyse our play beforehand but the other two rivals could.”

“We thought if we could do everything what we had in our plans it can be a good game. And this is what happened. Even after they took the lead we saw that they are getting tired so we kept swimming all the time and this brought its result.”

Match 3, 17.15, Group A: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vs HUNGARY 9-9
(3-1, 1-2, 2-4, 3-2) – penalties: 6-5
Referees: Cory Williams (NZL), Adrian Alexandrescu (ROU)
Extraman: USA: 6/12. HUN: 2/8 – double extra: 0 for 1

USA: Andrew Stevens – Bret Bonnani 1, Collin Smith 1, Thomas Corcovan, Janson Wigo 1, Matthew De Trane 1, Alexander Obert, Alexander Bowen 2, Shea Buckner 1, Timothy Hutten, Michael Rosenthal 2, John Mann.
HUNGARY: Viktor Nagy – Miklos Gor-Nagy, Norbert Madaras 1, Bence Batori 1, Marton Vamos 1, Nortbert Hosnyanszky, Adam Decker, Marton Szivos 2, Daniel Varga, Denes Varga 3, Krisztian Bedo, Balazs Harai 1, Attila Decker (GK)

The first half brought was all might have expected: a neck-by-neck fight of the two newly shaped teams – both led by new head coaches –, with the Hungarians being in front with a tiny margin. In fact, Hungary led 3-1 after eight minutes and they had an extra for a 5-2 lead in the second, but their 6 on 5 was a bit sluggish this afternoon, and also, Andrew Stevens did a great job in the US goal. By half time it stood 4-3, and something similar was in sight… Instead the US started to roll in the third. They scored four straight goals in three and a half minutes and had an extra for going 8-4 up. After conceding a couple of miserable goals, Viktor Nagy came up with a save and that was the sign for the Hungarians to stage a comeback. They geared up, pulled two back by the end of the third and levelled the score in the beginning of the fourth (7-7). A new match started with tremendous excitements. The US retook the lead twice but the Hungarians had the answers. In the dying minutes they even had a 6 on 4, but the US defence withstood the pressure. Both teams had one more attack to grab the win in the regular time, but the blocking hands saved the goals at both ends so another penalty shootout came.

Just as in the previous games, the first pair of five shooters didn’t make any mistake – interestingly, the Hungarians had their reserve goalie in front of the net during the shootout –, in the second round Buckner scored again, but the oldest member of the Hungarian team, Norbert Madaras missed his shot, it was denied by Stevens so the US sailed away with the win.

USA vs HUN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov
USA vs HUN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov


DEJAN UDOVICIC – Head coach of USA
“I think it was a good performance for us, since this is a young team, we have eight or nine young players who can first gain some international experience here. I can be satisfied with this start, though the most important thing is to catch the time. We have been together for two weeks and we need more trainings to be really competitive with the other teams. The players didn’t surprise me today, though. It is my job to convince them that they can be competitive with any other team in the world. This was a step, but there are a lot of tough periods are ahead of us.”

TIBOR BENEDEK – Head coach of Hungary
“We did not start the game in a good rhythm. We let them to slow down us a bit. In the third period our moves in defence were not as fast as expected and we found ourselves in a hole. However, it was really satisfying how we rebounded from this, without panicking. In that period we speeded up, we had counterattacks that brought us back. It’s not a big deal that we lost the shootout. The basic point is that this new team needs these kinds of games, these kinds of experiences to be ready for the really big challenges of the future.”

“It’s good that we could recover in the third and in the fourth period after being three goals down and we could have even finished off the game in the regular time. Sadly, we couldn’t, but that is not the end of the world. We should have offered more, played much better than this. We’ve conceded four goals in less than four minutes – while you must not get so many goals in an entire period. We have a lot work to do, but we don’t have to make any fuss because of this loss, it happened in the first round of the prelims, that’s something we should worry about.

Match 4, 20.00, Group B: BRAZIL vs RUSSIA 7-13
Quarters: (1-3, 1-4, 2-4, 3-2)
Referees: Gyorgy Kun (HUN), Mihajlo Ciric (SRB)
Extraman: BRA: 6/11. RUS: 4/9
Penalties: BRA: Nil. RUS: 1 for 1

BRAZIL: Vinicius Antonelli – Bernando Gomes 1, Henrique Miranda 1, Gustavo Coutinho, Emilio Viera, Gabriel Rocha, Adrian Delgado Baches 2, Felipe Silva, Bernardo Rocha 2, Ruda Franco, Gustavo Guimaraes, Antonio Neto Inserra, Thye Bezerra (GK)
RUSSIA: Viktor Ivanov – Nikolay Lazarev, Artem Odintsev, Alexey Ryzhov-Alenichev 2, Albert Zinnatulin, Artem Ashaev 2, Vladislav Timakov 1, Ivan Nagaev 1, Dmitry Kholod 2, Roman Shepelev, Sergey Lisunov 1, Stepan Andryukov 3.

Brazil was the last team to arrive to Chelyabinsk and they travelled a lot – the long journey took the toll on the team. They managed to score for 1-1 in the early stages but after that they virtually disappeared from the pool. The young Russian team set up the chances easily and by producing a 6-0 rush they decided the game by half-time (2-7). They started to climb back and Adrian Baches Delgade netted one of his three goals for 4-8, but another whirlwind from Russia with three goals in the last two minutes of the third period killed Brazil’s momentum. Stepan Andryukov scored another one for 4-12, but after that the Russians’ concentration started to break down and the Brazilians made good use of it. They scored three consecutive goals for 7-12, however Russia had the last laugh, to the joy of the capacity crowd.

BRA vs RUS - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov
BRA vs RUS - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav Shishkozdov


MIRKO BLAZEVIC - Head coach of Brazil
“We travelled for almost two days and arrived late night – the tiredness could be easily seen in the first half. We started to do better in the second half – I hope we can improve further on.”

VLADIMIR KARABUTOV - Head coach of Russia
“We recognised shortly after the start that we have an advantage physically and technically so our win would not be endangered. Still, we have to work harder in defence, conceding seven goals is was a bit much, but all in all I could be satisfied with our performance, especially in man-ups.”