Super Final 2013 (Men): Japan almost caught the US, second shootout loss for Montenegro

World League

MNE vs HUN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav ShishkozdovCHELYABINSK, Russia (June 12) - Group A cannot provide one-sided battles! After Day One’s two great clashes – both ended in shootouts – we have two more thrillers in Chelyabinsk at the FINA Water Polo World League Super Final. The U.S. team scored the winner in the last minute against Japan and later Hungary staged another comeback and beat Montenegro in a penalty shootout.

The matches in Group B offered less excitement as China thrashed Brazil and Serbia upended Russia in a 25-goal encounter and already clinched the first place of the group.

Match reports:

Game 5, 14.00, Group A: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vs JAPAN 13-12
Quarters: (3-4, 3-3, 3-3, 4-2)
Referees: Andre Dester (BRA), Mihajlo Ciric (SRB)
Extraman: USA: 6/11. CHN 3/8
Penalties: USA: 1 for 1. China: 1 for 1

USA: Andrew Stevens – Bret Bonnani, Collin Smith, Thomas Corcovan 1, Janson Wigo 3, Matthew De Trane 1, Alexander Obert, Alexander Bowen 1, Shea Buckner 3, Timothy Hutten, Michael Rosenthal 3, John Mann 1.
JAPAN: Tanamura Katsusuyuki – Ichikawa Masahiro, Arai Atsushi 1, Shiga Mitsuaki 5, Ezaki Daichi, Hemmi Yuta, Shimizu Yusuke 1, Kadovo Yuki, Takei Koji 3, Yasuda Kenya, Okawa Keigo 1, Hazui Shota 1.

It was a brilliant match of two teams playing with open minds, taking risks sometimes and not fearing what might come next. Though defence is usually the key in today’s water polo, but this clash saw the two sides going for the attacks above all and they scored great goals, most of them from action, offering a real entertainment.

Japan got the better start, they scored three straight goals after being 2-1 down for 4-2, but by the beginning of the second USA were on equal terms (4-4). Not for long: the next three were netted by the Japanese again, with 1:29 to go in the first half they rushed ahead (4-7). However, in 35 seconds Corcovan and Wigo both converted a 6 on 5 for 6-7. And again, the first attack of the following period put the sides level as Buckner scored an action goal for 7-7. Still, the roller-coaster didn’t stop here, the Japanese retook the lead twice, held a 10-8 advantage later, but the U.S. team kept coming back, what’s more they were in the lead two minutes into the fourth period (11-10). It was Japan’s turn, they equalised twice – Mitsuaki hit his fourth goal for 12-12 –, and with a minute to go they had a golden chance, earned a man-up in the back, got a clear chance from the counter, but the shot hit the bar and the re-counter saw Janson Wigo sending the ball home. It was a one ball game and this time it went to team USA, but it could have happened the other way round.

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


“I keep telling my players: we should catch the time. We are behind the others, we have a new team and I could work with them for only two weeks. It means we have to skip some phases, and have to work on several things simultaneously, so we will commit mistakes at this stage. But we are thinking on the long term. While I try to build a new team, we are about to launch a new system which will ensure that we can find quality players for the positions in the national team. Our target is the Olympics – though I can be happy what the team showed in the first two games.”

YOJI OMOTO – Head coach, JPN
“We gave all what we could offer, but the U.S. team was a little bit more prepared for us, they could learn our play from the yesterday game. We are here to play great games, we are not under pressure and probably that makes our matches enjoyable. Today we could have won, of course, and we could have set up our last extraman in a more conservative way but that wouldn’t be our game. Our player had the ball, he could go all the way, so he tried it. He missed, but we don’t mind that.”

“We started to win this game and to play our game. It happened that I took the last shot, but all were a team effort. We are a new team, we have a new coach, we are together for the third week, we are not near our best level of play. But wins are wins, everyone played to give their best effort. This tournament is for building, as I said, it’s a new team, plenty of Olympians retired, a lot of guys had a fresh start, now everything is about learning.”

Game 6, 15.45, Group A: MONTENEGRO vs HUNGARY 17-18 after penalties
Quarters: (3-1, 3-2, 2-3, 2-4) – penalties: 7-8
Referees: Adrian Alexandrescu (ROU), Irfan Sadekov (RUS)
Extraman: MNE: 4/7 – double extra: 1 for 1. HUN: 3/11
Penalties: MNE: Nil. HUN: 2 for 2

MONTENEGRO: Milos Scepanovic – Drasko Brguljan 4, Vjekoslav Paskovic, Antonio Petrovic 1, Miljan Popovic, Nikola Markovic, Dragan Draskovic 1, Luka Sekulic 2, Radovan Latinovic, Darko Brguljan 2, Filip Klikovac, Uros Cuckovic.
HUNGARY: Viktor Nagy – Miklos Gor-Nagy, Norbert Madaras 1, Bence Batori 1, Marton Vamos 1, Nortbert Hosnyanszky 1, Adam Decker, Marton Szivos 1, Daniel Varga 2, Denes Varga 1, Krisztian Bedo 1, Balazs Harai 1, Attila Decker (GK).

Hungary well could be crowned the come-back kings after the first two days: they were 4-7 down in the third period against USA but earned a draw (though lost the shootout) – and now they trailed by four goals against Montenegro, but saved the game to another shootout, and this time they won.

Montenegro had a grand opening, hit three spectacular goals and later they went 5-1 and 6-2 up, and still held a 6-3 advantage at half-time. It was another team compared to the one we had seen a day before: they were on fire, they were aggressive, they were composed. However, the Hungarians didn’t give in and they started to climb back again. They were patient, changed their goalie, switched their defending system and tried to use the very best of their chances. First they came back to 7-6 and they didn’t break down though the Montenegrins went 9-6 up again, early in the fourth. A nice counter and Denes Varga’s fine action goal brought them close again. Drasko Brguljan converted a 6 on 4 for 10-8 – it was his fourth goal –, but a penalty halved Hungary’s deficit and with three minutes to go it was equal again: Marton Szivos’s blast from 10 metres (with 1 second remaining on the shotclock) found its way to the net for 10-10.

It turned into a 3-minute overtime-like period, but neither side managed to set up any serious chance, so both could prepare for another penalty shootout on the second consecutive day. And it was Montenegro who lost again: seven rounds gone without a miss, the 8th saw players No. 5 here and there, Marton Vamos scored, Miljan Popovic sent it wide and the Hungarians started to celebrate.

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


“We can gain strength from this as we were able to come back again, just as yesterday, but we should take care, this is not the way we should play water polo. We have to be sharper from the beginning, though I know, we are at the very beginning of a long process. Today we’ve changed our defending tactics in order to have a chance at last, it was a bit risky, and I’m happy that it worked. Winning the shootout is a kind of reward for fighting so hard after being three-four goals down on two consecutive days.”

“I should be satisfied with today’s game though we could have got more out of this match. The players’ approach was visibly better, much better, than yesterday (against Japan). They played well in most of the game, but Hungary is a good and tough team, they had a small luck while scoring their last goal from the distance in the last second of their attack. But what was important for me is the approach of the team. And that was fine today, we can go on.”

“We played a game similar to yesterday’s one. We started a bit sleepy but then started to climb back. And finally we had a draw again – as it would have been the preferred result here... Yesterday we lost in the shootout, today we won but that doesn’t matter. It’s gambling, nothing else, it’s not about who is a good player or a good goalie. It’s all about whether you guess the right direction or not. We should take one big positive thing out this game: we could come back from 1-5 and 2-6 against such a great team like Montenegro.”

Game 7, 17.30, Group B: BRAZIL vs CHINA 3-18
Quarters: (1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 0-3)
Referees: Alexandar Adzic (MNE), Gyorgy Kun (HUN)
Extraman: CHN: 5/8. BRA: 1/9
Penalties: CHN: 4 for 4. BRA: Nil.

CHINA: Ge Weiqing – Tan Fehiu 1, Liang Zhongxing 3, Jiang Bin, Guo Junliang 1, Pan Ning 3, Li Bin 3, Wang Yang 3, Xie Junmin, Zhang Jian 3, Zhang Chufeng, Liang Nianxiang 1, Wu Honghui (GK).
BRAZIL: Vinicius Antonelli – Bernando Gomes, Henrique Miranda, Gustavo Coutinho 1, Emilio Viera, Gabriel Rocha, Adrian Delgado Baches, Felipe Silva 1, Bernardo Rocha, Ruda Franco, Gustavo Guimaraes, Antonio Neto Inserra 1, Thye Bezerra (GK).

Brazil took the lead, but the happy moments were over pretty soon. In four minutes the Chinese scored four goals, and they demolished their rivals in the second: by half-time it was over, China led 9-2. They were too superior to the Brazilians, two or even three gears were the difference between the teams’ speed. The Chinese easily scored their goals, most of them from counter attacks, while the Brazilians couldn’t do anything to stop them.

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


RICK AZEVEDO – Head coach, China
“Yesterday, as I said, I was really disappointed with the way we started the game. We were down 8-1 and the rest of the game was 5-4. So today we started as we ended against Serbia, we played physical, we played with a lot of control on the ball, had a lot of counter-attacks, good five-men defence. That was the Chinese style that I like. We had counters, I feel we are one of the fastest teams in the world so we have to use that tool as much as we can.”

Game 8, 19.15, Group B: SERBIA vs RUSSIA 14-11
Quarters (3-1, 3-2, 3-2, 5-6)
Referees: Keiichi Orikasa (JPN), Chen Zialang (CHN)
Extraman: SRB: 9/14. RUS: 7/15
Penalties: SRB: 1 for 1. RUS: Nil.

SERBIA: Branislav Mitrovic – Aleksa Saponjic 1, Zivko Gocic, Vanja Udovicic 2, Milos Cuk 1, Nemanja Ubovic, Slobodan Nikic 1, Milan Aleksic 3, Nikola Radjen 1, Filip Filipovic 2, Dusan Mandic 2, Stefan Mitrovic 1, Gojko Pijetlovic (GK).
RUSSIA: Viktor Ivanov – Nikolay Lazarev 2, Artem Odintsev 1, Alexey Ryzhov-Alenichev 2, Albert Zinnatulin, Artem Ashaev 1, Vladislav Timakov 2, Ivan Nagaev 1, Dmitry Kholod, Roman Shepelev, Sergey Lisunov 1, Stepan Andryukov.

Serbia’s win was never in danger: they gave what was required to keep the Russians at bay for the entire match. It was clear which was the better side, the Serbs – though missing a couple of key-players from their line-up – played their usual tough and strict defensive game, and their great shooters converted most of the chances created. The gap was widened minute-by-minute, they led 3-1 after eight minutes, doubled that lead by the middle of the second (6-2) and maintained this four-goal difference till the end of the third period. Probably, the members of the young Russian team knew that it wasn’t possible to turn the cards (beating Serbia by four-five goals in the last period is equal to a mission impossible), but they did their utmost, fought, rushed and produced a thrilling last period which brought 11 goals (after the first three produced 14). It was like a not-charging-just-shooting approach from both sides, and most of the shots hit the target. Russia came back to 13-11 from 13-9, but that happened with 0:27 seconds before the end, and the Serbs even had the last laugh when Slobodan Nikic scored from an extra. The win means that Serbia has already clinched the top spot of the group.

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


DEJAN SAVIC – Head coach, SRB
“Most of the game went as we expected, our play was fine despite having a heavy training in the morning. At this stage it’s normal that our performance is a bit similar to a rollercoaster, we have ups, we have downs, but we have time to lift the level of our play.”

“Had we used our chances with a better percentage, it would have been a more even game. Serbia is a good team and they could capitalise on our mistakes, we had some in defence, we had some poor passes in front and each time they penalised us. Still, we had a handful of moments when I loved the way we played, especially in the last period. We should work to have more moments like these.”

“Honestly, I didn’t expect such a tough game since I think there is a big difference between the quality of the Russian and the Serbian teams. I think, the whole atmosphere was on Russia’s side... Though, I’m quite satisfied to win this game after a hard training session in the morning. We prepare for the FINA World Championships which is the most important event of the season for us.”