Super Final 2013 (Men): Showdown again: Serbia to face Hungary in the final

World League

CHN vs BRA - credit: Anatoly Kolyushchenko/Vyacheslav ShishkozdovCHELYABINSK, Russia (June 15) – Six years after they clashed in Berlin, Serbia and Hungary will face off again in the final of the FINA World League. Both sides won their respective semi finals 8-6, but in quite different ways. Serbia’s battle with Montenegro was open until the very last minute while Hungary’s strong opening against the US determined the rest of the match.

In the “lower house” China was too strong for Brazil again and Russia overcame Japan thanks to an incredible 6-0 third period.


Match reports:


Game 17, 14.00, for places 5-8: CHINA vs BRAZIL 12-7
Quarters: (3-0, 4-2, 2-3, 3-2)
Referees: Aleksandar Adzic (MNE), Joe Piela (USA)
Extraman: CHN: 5/7. BRA: 3/12
Penalties: CHN: 1 for 1. BRA: Nil

Teams:
CHINA: Wu Honghui – Tan Fehiu 1, Liang Zhongxing 2, Jiang Bin 1, Guo Junliang, Pan Ning 2, Li Bin 1, Wang Yang, Xie Junmin 1, Zhang Jian 2, Zhang Chufeng 1, Liang Nianxiang 1.
BRAZIL: Vinicius Antonelli – Bernando Gomes, Henrique Miranda, Gustavo Coutinho, Emilio Viera, Gabriel Rocha 1, Adrian Delgado Baches 1, Felipe Silva 2, Bernardo Rocha 1, Ruda Franco, Gustavo Guimaraes, Antonio Neto Inserra 2.

The sides met for the second time in Chelyabinsk and it turned out that the first game didn’t mirror the real strength of the teams. Then China routed the Brazilians (18-3) since the South Americans hit the bottom both physically and mentally on the second day after they arrived to Russia after an extremely long trip.

This time they showed their charisma, though the first half of this match was a bit reminiscent of the earlier nightmare. China rushed to a 5-0 lead, later was 7-1 up as the Brazilians struggled to find their rhythm but perhaps were a bit tired after their really tough and surprisingly even quarter final against Hungary. But in the third they managed to reach a much higher level both in front and in rear, scored three straight goals for 7-5 and even had an extra for getting closer. They missed and that cost them the chance to go for the equaliser: China netted two fine action goals towards the end of the quarter and that was the end of Brazil’s comeback (9-5). Credit to Brazil that they battled on and at least recorded a draw in the second half (5-5) after a rather bad opening two periods (2-7). On the other end the Chinese proved again that they represent a different class now and by playing for the 5-6th places on Sunday they will surely tie their highest rank (6th) ever in a big FINA competition or better it with a win.


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

FLASH QUOTES:

RICK AZEVEDO – Head coach, CHN
Those kind of games are the games teams don’t want to play. Because we know that obviously Brazil will come to play for pride after we beat them pretty good for the first time around. We wanted to make sure that we prepare ourselves correctly, and we respect the other players and play hard – and we did that. We jumped to a 7-1 lead after we wanted to slow down the game to make sure no one got hurt or got a red card as we got the FINA World Championships coming up. For a couple of times we lost our concentration, but besides it was OK, I’m satisfied with our performance as this is our preparation for the Worlds.”

TAN FEHUI – Player, CHN
“We played well in attack and in defence. Brazil also played a lot better than in our first match. We are happy we can play for the 5th place on Sunday.”

GUSTAVO COUTINHO – Player, BRA
We came from a very long trip and that affected our first two games. It was hard to play as the time difference is nine hours, it’s to get used to it, I had the first good sleep last night when I didn’t wake up at 4 in the morning. In the quarter finals, against Hungary, we were able to play with a lot a more focus, to think about defence, defence, defence so we had a good game. But that was also really tiring so today we lacked something in the first two periods, the necessary energy to be a bit faster. The second half was much better. Our first game against China ended in a very odd score, but we learned from that game and we could play a much better defence, against Russia, Hungary and now, too. We are not a soccer team, we should consider that we have other targets, to be ready for the home Olympic Games (in Rio 2016). We have to make this sport grow bigger in Brazil, we have to set an example, we have to earn respect and we can do it only by showing that our team has discipline. That’s what Mirko (Blazevic - the head coach) is telling us, teaching us, that we must have discipline, defence, discipline, defence.”


Game 18, 15.45, for places 5-8: RUSSIA vs JAPAN 13-7
Quarters: (4-3, 2-1, 6-0, 1-3)
Referees: Andre Dester (BRA), Mihajlo Ciric (SRB)
Extraman: RUS: 3/8. JPN: 4/12
Penalties: RUS: 1 for 1. JPN: 1 for 2

Teams:
RUSSIA: Viktor Ivanov – Nikolay Lazarev, Artem Odintsev, Alexey Ryzhov-Alenichev 2, Albert Zinnatulin 1, Artem Ashaev, Vladislav Timakov 2, Ivan Nagaev 1, Dmitry Kholod, Roman Shepelev 2, Sergey Lisunov 4, Stepan Andryukov 1.
JAPAN: Tanamura Katsusuyuki – Ichikawa Masahiro, Arai Atsushi, Shiga Mitsuaki 1, Ezaki Daichi, Hemmi Yuta, Shimizu Yusuke 2, Kadovo Yuki, Takei Koji 3, Yasuda Kenya, Okawa Keigo, Hazui Shota 1.

For two periods it went as normal: a goal here, a goal there, though the Russians had a better finish in both the first and second quarters. They scored for 4-3 with 6 seconds to go in the opening period and netted one for 6-4 in the second with 46 seconds remaining on the clock. The Japanese missed a man-up late in this period – but that didn’t look like as something unusual.

What happened in the third period was absolutely unusual from the Japanese team. It was a real blackout when everything went wrong all of a sudden. Russia scored three on their first three attacks, then the Japanese missed two extras, a penalty and later a one-on-one counter. Three more Russian goals came still in this period which saw the Asians totally losing their focus. Perhaps playing two really tough matches with the eventual finalists (Hungary, then Serbia) in the previous two days took that kind of toll. They could not stop the hosts rolling – perhaps a time-out would have helped but wasn’t called. The interval eased the suffering of the Japanese, they came back a bit fresher and saved some pride by winning the last quarter.


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


FLASH QUOTES:

YOJI OMOTO – Head coach, JPN
“The players were too tired and for the third period they lost their concentration, mostly in defence, but almost everything went wrong. They didn’t have that experience before, to play five games in five days. Still, they could bring a fine level at the beginning, they kept scoring goals, they could swim back and forth, back and forth, but for the third period our level dropped. We have to learn how to handle this kind of tournaments. In the beginning we played much better than everybody expected but probably we lost too much energy in the first phase and the players got exhausted to the most important matches (in the knock-out phase). Now they have realised this and I hope this will push them to train much harder in the future.”

SERGEY LISUNOV – Player, RUS
“Yesterday’s loss had an influence on our performance today: there were no more pressure, we could play with ease, without being too nervous. Japan started strongly but we could keep up with them and then we scored a series of goals in the third which made our job really easy. We are not satisfied, though, we had a target to reach the best four and we couldn’t achieve that. We have to improve a lot of things, mostly our defence. Ironically, yesterday it was much better than today.”


Game 19, 17:30, Semi Final 1: MONTENEGRO vs SERBIA 6-8
Quarters: (2-2, 2-2, 1-2, 1-2)
Referees: Irfan Sadekov (RUS), Cory Williams (NZL)
Extraman: MNE: 4 for 9. SRB: 4 for 7

Teams:
MONTENEGRO: Milos Scepanovic – Drasko Brguljan 1, Vjekoslav Paskovic 1, Antonio Petrovic, Miljan Popovic, Nikola Markovic 1, Dragan Draskovic, Luka Sekulic 1, Radovan Latinovic, Darko Brguljan 1, Filip Klikovac 1, Uros Cuckovic.
SERBIA: Branislav Mitrovic – Aleksa Saponjic, Zivko Gocic 2, Vanja Udovicic 1, Milos Cuk 1, Nemanja Ubovic, Slobodan Nikic 1, Milan Aleksic, Nikola Radjen, Filip Filipovic 1, Dusan Mandic 1, Stefan Mitrovic 1, Gojko Pijetlovic (GK).

It was another good old-fashioned clash between the former allies (Serbians and Montenegrins competed under the same flag until 2006): a tough physical battle, extra-ordinary level of defending, looking for the centre-forward, heavy one-on-one marking, big shots, big goals, big saves, big blocks, big muscles… Though it was visible that neither sides were on the top of their games – both missed a couple of key players who had to take some rest after the long club season – still, it was a thrilling encounter which was decided in the very end.

As usual in water polo and more usual while they play against each other, converting the 6 on 5s was the primary tool for scoring. However, it was the action goals which finally separated the two giants. Quite surprisingly, the first period saw two goals apiece, all scored on equal strength. Great shots from the distance, a fine centre-goal from Slobodan Nikic – and they stood 2-2 after eight minutes.

The rest of the match brought the expected scenario: man-up here, man-up there, all goals but one were netter from 6 on 5s. That exceptional goal meant the turning point. Montenegro had a good chance to level the score at 4-5, but missed it and Vanja Udovicic scored a superb goal from the ensuing counter attack. It was a great goal from a classy player who struggled in most part of the match but when it was needed the most he showed what real greatness was about. This goal gave the Serbs a 6-4 lead and one might have felt that Montenegro could be unable to score two connecting goals today. They pulled one back in the third through Filip Klikovac, but the young leftie, Dusan Mandic scored for 7-5 in the middle of the fourth. A fine shot from Drasko Brguljan gave hope to Montenegro (7-6, with 3:11 to go) and they earned a 6 on 5 with 1:19 till the end but could not set up a real scoring chance after the time-out. That was the real end of the battle, though Zivko Gocic scored the 8th goal in the very last second. After skipping the 2012 edition Serbia can go for the title which they won in 2010 and in 2011.


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

FLASH QUOTES:

DEJAN SAVIC – Head coach, SRB
“It was a tough game and we could see that our players were a bit tired. I think we played really well in defence. The most important moment was when Udovicic scored that action goal. I would say that decided the game. OK, Montenegro had chances to come back, but that goal made the difference as it came from a counter.”

RANKO PEROVIC – Head coach, MNE
“We try to make some counter-attacks, our transition was good, but we lost with a small margin. I have to say that I’m a bit angry with the Russian referee I simply can’t understand most of his decisions. You know, this is the semi final, we should have better referees here, fitting to the standard of these games.”

VANJA UDOVICIC – Player, SRB
“It’s difficult to tell which and whose goal was the most important if you are member of a collective. Today we played bad, we had a lot of ups and downs, but it’s normal at this stage when we are in this kind of condition. We were tired, we were slow, so I’m satisfied that we are playing the final. Two of our best player are not here, we have a young team, I can say, and it’s great that our young players have proved that we can count on them. But to win that game we must play at our normal level as if we had arrived yesterday, hadn’t played any game.”

MILOS SCEPANOVIC – Goalie, MNE
“I think Serbia is the better team now with these players and I’m satisfied that we could play a good game. It was very tough, the two goal difference perhaps too big, one goal is real. We have six more players in Montenegro, so returning home we’re going to be complete and start the real preparations to play with a different team in Barcelona, at the World Championships.”


Game 20, 19.15, Semi Final 2: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vs HUNGARY 6-8
Quarters: (0-2, 2-2, 3-4, 1-0)
Referees: Adrian Alexandrescu (ROU), German Moller (ARG)
Extraman: USA: 3/12. HUN: 2/3
Penalties: USA: Nil. HUN: 2 for 2

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

On the opening day the young US team battled and played fearlessly and beat the Hungarians in the penalty shootout. This time it was a different story: the Hungarians learnt a lot from that game, and also improved their play day by day. They managed to return to the old scheme which brought them to Chelyabinsk: their tight defence was the key of their success in the qualification (when they managed to push aside the Olympic silver-medallists Italians). After conceding 9 goals from the US and 10 from Montenegro on the first two days, they reduced this number to 5 against Japan and 4 against Brazil and held the US also on 5 until the last minute this time.


In fact, they started devastatingly: in one and a half periods they earned a 4-0 lead by scoring spectacular goals and killing three man-downs. The US team began their comeback campaign a bit late but by the middle of the third they got unexpectedly close at 5-4. However, the Hungarians lifted their game rapidly and rebuilt the three-goal cushion by burying two penalties and with arguably the goal of the day from Denes Varga whose 10m pinpoint shot flew like a rocket to the top right corner.

Being 8-5 up, the Hungarians found it better not to risk anything, their focus was on their defence and that worked as they denied two more US extras before Tim Hutten scored from the third one but that happened 40 seconds before the end. Hungary will return to the World League final on Sunday after six years. In 2007 they lost it – to Serbia. The last time they won dates back to 2004, when they also played with the Serbs (that time Serbia and Montenegro), as it was usual in those days.


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

FLASH QUOTES:

TIBOR BENEDEK – Head coach, HUN
“I think we achieved what we promised our fans: to improve match by match. The team played with extreme discipline, even when we had a kind of feeling, that the gap between the two teams must not be too wide in order to have an exciting finish. We did our utmost in defence again, killing nine man-downs out of twelve shows some quality. Now up for Serbia: it was my wish to meet them here at any stage – to clash with them in the final is the best thing what can happen to my team in our learning process. Serbia is strong, stronger than any other sides today, so we are the challengers now, but at least we can test ourselves.”
 
DEJAN UDOVICIC – Head coach, USA
“The main or rather the only reason for losing this game was the poor conversion of our extramen. We couldn’t score in crucial moments. Since Hungary is a really good team they could capitalise on our misses and that was it.”

NORBERT MADARAS – Player, HUN
“We played with self-confidence. For me not the win was the most important but the way we achieved it. The way we played – I liked it very much! Perhaps today’s performance wasn’t that spectacular for the fans, but when the match requires it, you have to play the entire 30 seconds, try to go for a corner, or feed the centre in the very last moment, you have to do everything with the utmost discipline – this is today’s water polo. And we are improving day by day.”

COLLIN SMITH – Player, USA
“We didn’t quite play the defence we played in the beginning. If we had accomplished that we would have had a better chance. Every game we are working to get better and working on simple tasks and making progress.”