Super Final 2013 (Men): Hungary and Serbia top respective groups

World League

SRB vs BRA - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav ShishkozdovCHELYABINSK, Russia (June 13) – Hungary and Serbia earned the respective top spots at the end of the preliminaries. After two days of extreme excitement, Group A ties became rather one-sided battles as both Montenegro and Hungary came up with their best and that was unmatchable for the young U.S. and Japanese teams this time. The game between Montenegro and USA brought an outstanding individual performance, an absolute rarity in today’s elite water polo: Montenegrin Darko Brguljan scored three amazing goals within a span of 80 seconds, at the most crucial stage of the game.

In Group B the other European giant, Serbia enjoyed another easy cruise, this time against Brazil. And finally the day offered at least one thrilling encounter, between Russia and China. And it was not just a thrilling clash but turned into a historical one as China managed to beat the Russians for the first time ever.

Match reports:

Game 9, 14.00, Group B: SERBIA vs BRAZIL 16-7
Quarters: (5-1, 4-1, 5-3, 2-2)
Referees: Alexandar Adzic (MNE), Chen Zialang (CHN)
Extraman: SRB: 7/9. BRA: 2/9
Penalties: SRB: 2 for 2. BRA: Nil

SERBIA: Gojko Pijetlovic – Aleksa Saponjic, Zivko Gocic 3, Vanja Udovicic 2, Milos Cuk 2, Nemanja Ubovic, Slobodan Nikic 2, Milan Aleksic 1, Nikola Radjen, Filip Filipovic 3, Dusan Mandic 1, Stefan Mitrovic 2, Branislav Mitrovic (GK).
BRAZIL: Vinicius Antonelli – Bernando Gomes 1, Henrique Miranda, Gustavo Coutinho, Emilio Viera, Gabriel Rocha 1, Adrian Delgado Baches 1, Felipe Silva 1, Bernardo Rocha, Ruda Franco, Gustavo Guimaraes, Antonio Neto Inserra 2, Thye Bezerra (GK).

It was a rather good test opportunity for both teams: for Serbia to see some tactical moves and what the younger players are capable of; for Brazil to restore some pride after yesterday’s heavy defeat from China. The latter one seemed to be the tougher challenge as they Brazilians had to show something against the hot favourite of this tournament. Credit to the South Americans that they came up with a much better performance, perhaps they managed to recover from the symptoms of their exhausting travel to Russia. Serbia dominated the first half, though, they scored with ease and built a 9-2 lead by half-time. Brazil arrived at the game for the third and fourth periods, it was a much even encounter at this stage: they lost the second half 7-5, a kind of reward for their efforts. Meanwhile, the Serbians showed a fine teamwork, no one wanted to over-shine the others, none of their players finished this easy game with more than three goals.

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


DEJAN SAVIC – Head coach, SRB
“We expected to win this game and we did it in a professional way. Now we have a free afternoon, a good opportunity for recovery after the heavy trainings, so the guys can ready for the quarter final.”

“Serbia is too strong for us, we didn’t even think of winning this game. Instead, I wanted to see a good of approach from the players, as we want to apply a new playing system in the games and they have to be disciplined to have this clicking. Today, at some stages, it was OK, but we are working for the long term.”

Quarters:(2-2, 2-1, 3-1, 2-0)
Referees: Gyorgy Kun (HUN), German Moller (ARG)
Extraman: MNE: 5/6. USA: 1/9

MONTENEGRO: Milos Scepanovic – Drasko Brguljan, Vjekoslav Paskovic 1, Antonio Petrovic, Miljan Popovic, Nikola Markovic, Dragan Draskovic 4, Luka Sekulic, Radovan Latinovic, Darko Brguljan 4, Filip Klikovac, Uros Cuckovic.
USA: Andrew Stevens – Bret Bonnani, Collin Smith, Thomas Corcovan, Janson Wigo 1, Matthew De Trane, Alexander Obert 1, Alexander Bowen, Shea Buckner, Timothy Hutten, Michael Rosenthal, John Mann 2.

Members of the young US team gained some experience how it felt playing under heavy pressing. In fact, they couldn’t cope with it and remained scoreless for the last 13:41 minutes of the game, for almost the entire second half. Until the beginning of the third period they managed to keep up with the Montenegrins though the difference between the two sides was visible from the beginning. However, the Europeans were too nervous and missed a handful of great chances, sometimes it was embarrassing how badly they missed the target. At this stage the U.S. boys could convert their best chances, one of their remaining Olympians, John Mann netted two fine goals, but finally the Montenegrins took control. Janson Wigo levelled the score in the third for 4-4, but that was the last time they could get the ball passed the goalkeeper. But that was only one half of their problems. At the other end Darko Brguljan was simply unstoppable. According to former tennis great Pete Sampras, sometimes a player gets “into the zone” which means he is capable of anything for a while. And Brguljan “was in the zone”, indeed: three superb shots, three fantastic goals in a span of 80 seconds! And that did the damage: team USA could not recover from being 7-4 down. Dragan Draskovic added two more goals in the fourth – he also finished with 4 goals as Brguljan –, sealing Montenegro’s first win in the tournament.

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


“Today the defence was the key of our success. We put it together and the result tells the story. It was a good performance from our side, the team moral is getting better and better.”

“It was a great team effort, our defensive play worked on a really high level and that made our job easy. Well, the three goals in the third were important, but those were also the result of our fantastic teamwork, I gave only the finishing hand.”

Game 11, 17.30, Group A: JAPAN vs HUNGARY 5-11
Quarters: (0-3, 4-3, 1-2, 0-3)
Referees: Andre Dester (BRA), Nikolaos Vasilieou (GRE)
Extraman: JPN: 2/8. HUN: 2/5
Penalties: JPN: 1 for 1. HUN: 2 for 2

JAPAN: Tanamura Katsusuyuki – Ichikawa Masahiro, Arai Atsushi, Shiga Mitsuaki 2, Ezaki Daichi, Hemmi Yuta, Shimizu Yusuke, Kadovo Yuki, Takei Koji 1, Yasuda Kenya, Okawa Keigo 1, Hazui Shota 1.
HUNGARY: Attila Decker – Miklos Gor-Nagy, Norbert Madaras, Bence Batori 2, Marton Vamos, Nortbert Hosnyanszky 1, Adam Decker 1, Marton Szivos 3, Daniel Varga, Denes Varga 3, Krisztian Bedo, Balazs Harai 1.

Though the first two days saw quite even matches in this group – three of them were decided by penalties, the fourth was one in the last minute –, the third was a day of making order. Just as Montenegro upended the U.S. team with a quite convincing performance, Hungary didn’t let Japan into the game for a single moment. The Hungarians learnt a lot from the first two days, they knew the best way to stop Japan is to force a battle where body fights with body. Since the difference in weight and height favoured the Hungarians heavily – not to talk about the skills –, the outcome was inevitable from the very beginning. Hungary rushed to a 3-0 lead in the first period: while they played a really tough pressing game in the back, their physics also dominated in attack. Most of their goals came after their huge centre-forward, Balazs Harai – holding a 30+ advantage over the defenders both in centimetres and in kilos – earned extras or penalties, or fed the other with fine passes. Credit to Japan that they still had a great spell while coming back from 6-2 to 6-4 and had an extra in the third, but they were denied and Denes Varga’s brilliant solo action put Hungary back on the right track. Japan pulled one back at 7-5, but another action goal, this time from Bence Batori, killed their momentum. In the fourth the Hungarians offered an appetiser from their unique playing skills, their last two goals well could be included to the season’s best hits.

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


TIBOR BENEDEK – Head coach, Hungary
“Though it was a ‘must-win’ game for us, but it was not easy. We saw their previous two matches and that helped a lot. And we needed that aid as Japan got into a different category, a higher one, you can no longer take a win against them for granted as it was the case a decade ago. We had to apply a different kind of game plan since they play a different style, not similar to any we’ve got used to in Europe. But our guys did their job, they played a strong pressure game in the back and set up the scoring chances mostly by feeding the centre-forwards who can built on their huge physical dominance over the Japanese defenders.”

YOJI OMOTO – Head coach, JPN
“The Hungarians played really tough in defence it was hard to move in attack. They knew what they should do, while we tried to find a way to go forward but you it’s really difficult to make a move again and again if you are stopped all the time. Still, it’s a great honour for us that the Hungarians visibly gave their maximum today as this shows that they respect us and we have a team which should be considered seriously by our opponents.”

“It was a great game, and credit to the Japanese, they usually make good choices, have the tools, they play exciting water polo, the only shortfall is their physics: these guys are mostly 160-170cm high which is a huge disadvantage in this sport. Still, there is no surprise that they played even games with Montenegro and the U.S. We learnt from those matches so we could beat them with a quite straightforward performance. The other reason for our win is that we are improving day by day, a rather bad news for Japan, since this was the third day of the tournament.”

Game 12, 19.15, Group B: CHINA vs RUSSIA 12-11
Quarters: (1-3, 5-2, 4-4, 2-2)
Referees: Joe Piela (USA), Cory Williams (NZL)

CHINA: Ge Weiqing – Tan Fehiu 3, Liang Zhongxing, Jiang Bin, Guo Junliang 1, Pan Ning 4, Li Bin, Wang Yang, Xie Junmin 1, Zhang Jian, Zhang Chufeng 1, Liang Nianxiang 2.
RUSSIA: Viktor Ivanov – Nikolay Lazarev 1, Artem Odintsev 1, Alexey Ryzhov-Alenichev 4, Albert Zinnatulin 1, Artem Ashaev 1, Vladislav Timakov, Ivan Nagaev 1, Dmitry Kholod 1, Roman Shepelev, Sergey Lisunov 1, Stepan Andryukov.

Extraman: CHN: 8/14. RUS: 4/9
Penalties: CHN: 1 for 1. RUS: 0 for 1.

After three one-sided battles a real thriller concluded the daily programme – and a historic win for China. After the women’s side beat Russia in the final of Super Final held in Beijing a week ago (thus clinching the nation’s very first international gold in water polo), this time the men’s team did a splendid job and they managed to overcome Russia, for the first time ever.

U.S. coach Rick Azevedo’s work starts to bring their fruits in China as his team fought quite bravely against the hosts, they managed to keep their nerves in the hottest moments in a match which provided a series of crucial points.

Russia had the better start, they led 3-1 after the first period and after China levelled the score for 3-3, they went ahead again (3-5). But the Chinese changed gears and in less than two minutes they turned the score and were 6-5 up by halftime.

The third quarter was a truly amazing part of the performance with full of twists and turns. Following the changes on the scoreboard tells the story: 6-6, 6-7, 7-7, 8-7, 8-8, 8-9, 9-9, 10-9. At 7-7 the Russians missed a penalty, a possible turning point, since the next goal went to China, so it was 8-7 instead of 7-8. Early in the fourth Pan Ning netted his fourth goal of the evening for 11-9, and afterwards the Russians tried to climb back in vain. In fact their defence seemed to be weak a bit, and they were too nervous to save the game into a shootout though they closed the gap to 12-11 with 3:50 remaining on the clock. But Ge Weiqing came up with a big save in Russia’s last 6 on 5, securing the win and the second place for China.

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


RICK AZEVEDO – Head coach, CHN
“We knew coming here that Serbia was clearly better now than anybody else in the field, we thought we would be OK against Brazil and knew that this would be an important game against Russia. We know they play a tough physical game, they play hard, swim hard, but our swimming skills are as good or even better than anybody’s in the world. Then, we could play the physical game as well, as we showed today. So I’m happy with how the boys played today and I think they grew up for this challenge. We told the players that for the first two and three periods it was going to be a battle. It was great that our veterans could put the important balls away and at the end of the game they played great defence as this is the way to win games.”

“I am really happy that my team won. Before, China was regarded as a low-ranked team, now I think we have a chance against almost every team. I think Russia also played well today, they were a bit unlucky, hitting the bar sometimes. But our team also played great and we are really happy to finish second in the group.”

“We lost this game in the back. Our defence didn’t work well this time, and we have to double our efforts to correct the mistakes we made. We are in a good condition so I don’t think we’ll have any problems in the next days, we should be ready for the quarter finals and show that we can do better, much better.”