Super Final 2013 (Men): Hungary, Montenegro, Serbia and USA in the semis

World League

USA vs CHN - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav ShishkozdovCHELYABINSK, Russia (June 14) – The thrilling penalty shootouts have become essential part of this World League Super Final: we’ve already have seen five, the last two now in the quarter finals. Both quarter final games featuring the second and third placed teams ended in a shootout with the United States and Montenegro prevailing. Though it’s worth mentioning that China was never so close to reach the semis and the host team Russia was also five metres from the door of the best four. In the other two games the respective group-winners – Serbia and Hungary – reached the semis easily, so Saturday will see a rematch of the prelims (USA vs. Hungary) and a clash of the former allies (Serbia vs. Montenegro).

Match reports:

Game 13, 14:00, Quarter Final 1: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vs CHINA 8-8 (2-2, 3-2, 3-1, 0-2) – penalties: 5-3

Referees: Adrian Alexandrescu (ROU), Keiichi Orikasa (JPN)
Extraman: USA: 1/9. CHN: 3/10
Penalties: USA: 2 for 3. CHN: 3 for 3

USA: Andrew Stevens – Bret Bonnani 1, Collin Smith 1, Thomas Corcovan, Janson Wigo 1, Matthew De Trane 1, Alexander Obert, Alexander Bowen, Shea Buckner 2, Timothy Hutten, Michael Rosenthal 2, John Mann.
CHINA: Ge Weiqing – Tan Fehiu 1, Liang Zhongxing 2, Jiang Bin, Guo Junliang 1, Pan Ning, Li Bin 1, Wang Yang, Xie Junmin 1, Zhang Jian, Zhang Chufeng 2, Liang Nianxiang.

We might risk saying: it was a crazy match with huge twists and turns. China was really close to upset the US team and reach the semi final of a big international men’s tournament for the first time. After the even first period the second brought the first series of extraordinary happenings. China had three man-ups, missed all and the US team scored immediately in the other end after each occasion, jumping to a 5-2 lead. Though China seemed to dig themselves to a really deep hole, the last 70 seconds brought them back to the match. A 8m blast from Tan Feihu found its way to the net, next came a penalty for 5-4 with 32 seconds to go, and China’s moral was further boosted when Ge Weiqing managed to save Shea Buckner’s penalty 22 seconds later. And they didn’t need too much time to equalise in the third (5-5). This didn’t harm the US guys: instead they answered immediately, Rosenthal netted a 6 on 5 for 6-5. The next couple of minutes brought a huge fight with a series of extras but both sides struggled to put away any of them. Then, just as the Chinese in the second quarter, the US players scored two in quick succession, they needed 38 seconds to build a massive three-goal lead before the final period (8-5). But the Chinese weren’t done, what’s more, they battled fearlessly and got their reward. Ge came up with some superb saves, he shut out the US players, while his team mates got closer and closer. At 6:26 Li Bin converted a penalty, at 3:03 Zhang Chufeng buried a 6 on 5 and a minute later Liang Zhongxing sent another penalty home – this was the story of a 3-0 last period.

Next came the penalties and the US won its second shootout in Chelyabinsk (on the opening day they beat the Hungarians), Andrew Stevens managed to stop one again, putting his team through to the semi finals.

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


“It’s good to win, but as I told you, we are on the road to Rio. And we’ll not even prepare for the World Championships as for obvious reasons we were the last ones to start working together. We are not in top shape, we just want to do our best, and I should be satisfied as for a handful of guys this tournament is the very first international experience at senior level. Ups and downs are usual for us, and this is going to happen in the near future, for one and a half year at least. We are at the beginning of a long process. We have to focus on building a good team on the long term and I’m sure we will have success.”

RICK AZEVEDO – Head coach, CHN
“The biggest difference was that we didn’t execute our 6 on 5s. We rushed it a little bit, but you know, this is the first time that these guys are in this kind of situation. I think our defence was fine, we played well, and they were more tired than we were that’s why we came back in the last quarter – a kind of our trademark. I’m satisfied with the result, not happy, but satisfied. Every game we grow a little bit better, play a bit better.”

“A win feels good, but at the end of the day, we’re working for the future, to get better for each day, so this is a good training for us. Before the competition we thought to do the best we could. Obviously, whenever you enter a tournament, you want to win, that’s sport, that’s the name of the game – to win. Now we are in the final four and see what happens. We get better every day.”

Game 14, 15.45, Quarter Final 2: HUNGARY vs BRAZIL 8-4
Quarters: (3-2, 2-1, 1-0, 2-1)
Referees: Alexandar Adzic (MNE), Mihajlo Ciric (SRB)
Extraman: HUN: 4/9. BRA: 2/6

HUNGARY: Viktor Nagy – Miklos Gor-Nagy 2, Norbert Madaras 1, Bence Batori, Marton Vamos 1, Norbert Hosnyanszky 1, Adam Decker, Marton Szivos, Daniel Varga 1, Denes Varga 2, Krisztian Bedo, Balazs Harai.
BRAZIL: Vinicius Antonelli – Bernando Gomes, Henrique Miranda, Gustavo Coutinho, Emilio Viera 1, Gabriel Rocha, Adrian Delgado Baches 1, Felipe Silva, Bernardo Rocha, Ruda Franco, Gustavo Guimaraes 1, Antonio Neto Inserra 1.

It was clear for both sides well before the encounter that Hungary would win this game, in case – as one of their players put it – water still fills the pool at the start and they don’t have to play football instead. Brazil’s main target was to kill Hungary’s fast counter attacks, so they forced the Magyars to play six on six for almost all the time, by leading attacks with defensive thoughts in mind. The Hungarians also applied rock solid defending, switching hard pressure with composed zone defending, so four out of five Brazilian attacks ended either in a hopeless distance shot or they gave up the ball at the buzzer. Some might even feel that it was a computer-directed scenario as the same happened from time to time. Luckily, we saw humans in the water, after all, who could commit mistakes and can also provide unique moves. The Hungarians’ skills dominated in the second half, and they earned a well-deserved win but no one wondered that this match brought the lowest score of the tournament with only 12 goals.

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


“Brazil couldn’t do anything in attack, actually, their attack didn’t exist today – partly because we defended like hell. They just held the ball and shortly before the shotclock expired they threw it away, while the back players rushed back. So it was impossible to go for counterattacks, we had to look for positional plays. We earned exclusions in the centre, though we could have received more, but today this was case. We missed some extras in the first half, had we scored from them, the game would have been decided earlier. But for me the most important point is our defensive work: probably the best I’ve seen from my team since my appointment.”

“We knew how strong Hungary was, so we had only one thing in mind: to stay in the match for a longer period. We achieved that. Since I’ve taken over this team I tried to improve the discipline, and I think something came back today. We played really disciplined in defence, this was the key to hold a narrow gap until the end. Still, I know that Hungary will be much better, it’s not their top shape, they will reserve that for the FINA World Championships.”

“We did our job, though we have to improve in several fields. This was our fourth match in the Super Final and I can tell you that our play is not that spectacular – at least for those ones watching us from the stands – but I know that we are able to execute more and more elements better and better which we failed to make in the previous day. We are developing so no one should be disappointed that we beat Brazil by only four goals. There are a handful of good signs in our performance, now this is what really matters.”

Game 15, 17:30, Quarter Final 3: JAPAN vs SERBIA 8-14
Quarters: (3-3, 2-4, 1-2, 2-5)
Referees: Irfan Sadekov (RUS), German Moller (ARG)
Extraman: JPN: 2/9. SRB: 2/6
Penalties: JPN: 1 for 1. SRB: 1 for 1

JAPAN: Tanamura Katsusuyuki – Ichikawa Masahiro 1, Arai Atsushi 1, Shiga Mitsuaki 1, Ezaki Daichi, Hemmi Yuta, Shimizu Yusuke, Kadovo Yuki, Takei Koji 4, Yasuda Kenya, Okawa Keigo, Hazui Shota 1.
SERBIA: Gojko Pijetlovic – Aleksa Saponjic, Zivko Gocic 1, Vanja Udovicic 2, Milos Cuk 1, Nemanja Ubovic, Slobodan Nikic 6, Milan Aleksic, Nikola Radjen, Filip Filipovic 1, Dusan Mandic 3, Stefan Mitrovic, Branislav Mitrovic (GK).

Though Japan was the surprise team of the preliminaries by beating Montenegro with penalties and almost upsetting the United States, finally they had to settle for the 4th place in their group which set up a clash with the mighty Serbians. That didn’t promise too many bright moments for the Japanese as more and more experts tend to say that today Serbia is the team to beat. While Japan improved significantly, answering this challenge (to beat Serbia) is still not their task.

However, the Serbs got a strong appetiser why Montenegro, USA and Hungary went through some really tough moments in the prelims while playing against Japan. Sometimes they didn’t believe their eyes as the Japanese kept scoring. Japan took the lead five times until the middle of the second period and it was the Serbs who had to chase them for a while. The first blow came after 5-5, when Slobodan Nikic gave Serbia the lead for the first time, then Japan missed a 6 on 5, and Dusan Mandic later doubled their lead (5-7). That was the turning point: the Japanese fought desperately but they seemed to get a bit tired after a series of hard, physical matches. In fact, facing Hungary and Serbia on consecutive days are far from a dream schedule for anyone in the water polo world. Thus the Serbs’ huge centre-forward, Nikic could easily capitalise on his physical superiority as he scored a tournament-high 6 goals in the game. After a 7-5 first half the favourites produced a 7-3 margin in the second, reaching the semis safely.

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


DEJAN SAVIC – Head coach, SRB
“Japan proved their quality, while we are at the very beginning of our preparation. This is why it was an equal game for the first two periods, the we raised our game and things got back to normal.”

YOJI OMOTO – Head coach, JPN
“Today Serbia, yesterday Hungary – I wouldn’t wonder if our players can’t get out of the bed next morning as they should be quite tired… Serbia is a great team, so it was really good that we could earn exclusions for the most part of the game – now we should work on our conversion as we missed too many. However, I am satisfied with the team’s performance. Some years ago our players wanted to pose with the Serbs for common photos and asked for autographs – it’s no longer the case as they are much closer to them in the pool and to the other big teams as well.

Game 16, 19.15, Quarter Final 4: MONTENEGRO vs RUSSIA 7-7 (1-3, 2-1, 2-1, 2-2) – penalties: 5-4
Referees: Gyorgy Kun (HUN), Nikolaos Vasilieou (GRE)
Extraman: MNE: 3/11. RUS: 2/10 – double extra: 0 for 1
Penalties: MNE: 1 for 1. RUS: Nil

MONTENEGRO: Milos Scepanovic – Drasko Brguljan 4, Vjekoslav Paskovic 1, Antonio Petrovic 1, Miljan Popovic, Nikola Markovic, Dragan Draskovic, Luka Sekulic, Radovan Latinovic, Darko Brguljan 1, Filip Klikovac, Uros Cuckovic.
RUSSIA: Viktor Ivanov – Nikolay Lazarev, Artem Odintsev 1, Alexey Ryzhov-Alenichev, Albert Zinnatulin, Artem Ashaev 1, Vladislav Timakov 1, Ivan Nagaev 3, Dmitry Kholod 1, Roman Shepelev, Sergey Lisunov, Stepan Andryukov.

After losing to China on the previous day, Russia faced a mountain to climb in the quarters. A really high mountain, as Montenegro is also regarded as favourites in the Super Final (don’t forget they ousted the Olympic champion Croatian team in the qualification). All said – but the hosts stunned the Montenegrins at the beginning, with some nice plays and two blasts from outside they built a 3-1 lead. Had they been less nervous they could have caused even more trouble but they missed four man-ups in the second, so instead of leading by two or three goals they were only 4-3 up at half-time after Drasko Brguljan scored with 0.01 remaining on the clock. The third brought the same pattern: really bad conversions – also true for the Montenegrins –, the Russians even missed a 6 on 4, so it was 5-5 before the final period. After another Russian miss Montenegro took the lead (6-5), but finally the hosts managed to bury an extra. Luck was not on their side when they gave away the ball seconds after they gained possession and from the ensuing man-up Drasko Brguljan scored his fourth goal for 7-6. However, luck returned when Artem Odintsov’s shot got a wicked deflection and flew to the net with 2:45 to go. That remaining time wasn’t enough to decide the outcome – so this was left to the penalties.

Montenegro lost two shootouts in the prelims, so their head coach, Ranko Perovic decided to send his reserve goalie to the big show and that was a winning thought: Dejan Lazovic stopped Stepan Andryukov’s shot in the fourth round and the Brguljan-cousins, Drasko and Darko finished the business by netting the remaining two shots.

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


“We played bad in the first two periods. The second half was alright all in all, our defence was a bit better. Russia had some luck towards the end, especially with their equaliser. Since Scepanovic was part of two lost shootouts I thought I should give the chance to the other goalkeeper (Dejan Lazovic). It worked, though it’s all about luck.”

“We were close but we lacked what would be needed for winning such a game: concentrating for each of the four periods. Also, our players couldn’t remain cool enough. They wanted to score so badly that sometimes they pushed more than it was needed. Now we have to win the remaining two matches, to clinch the fifth place at home at least.”

“It was very hard match, it’s always difficult to play against the host team. We played with a lot of mistakes against a very good young Russian side. Five of our older players will join us later, we miss them now. Also, our play is a bit shaky as we have been together only for seven days and the team members came from all over Europe, I’m from Hungary, others from Serbia, other from home clubs, so it’s difficult to do everything right. It’s good that we won finally, as we came here to win a medal and we reserved the chance to achieve that.”